Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

This Trump fellow has the tax-cut two-step down perfectly

In announcing his new tax-reform proposal, Donald Trump complained that "It’s going to cost me a fortune, which is actually true."

No, it actually isn't. In fact, having looked through his plan, I'm forced to conclude one of two things:

A. Multi-billionaire Donald Trump, a graduate of the Wharton School of Business as he often likes to remind us, has no grasp of finance, taxes, percentages and other basic economic concepts. He is in short economically illiterate; or

B. Trump is lying on a massive scale and he knows he's lying. He not only knows he's lying, he knows that you probably know that he's lying. He just doesn't care, because he suspects that you don't really care either. Too often, he is correct in that assumption.

Whichever explanation you care to choose, the bottom line is that Trump's plan would slash his personal tax burden by tens of millions of dollars annually on income estimated at somewhere between $250 million (Bloomberg's guess) to $400 million (Trump's public estimate.) The most obvious way in which his plan would cut his tax bill is by reducing the top income-tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent, but that's just one of many such provisions by which Trump would benefit.

In that sense, at least, his tax-reform proposal is yet another sign that Trump is morphing into a traditional Republican.  The tax-cut two-step adapted for modern conditions by Rubio, Bush and now Trump requires first a sober, heartfelt acknowledgement of the economic problems faced by middle-class and working Americans, the lack of income growth and opportunity, etc.. That expression of solidarity with the little people is then followed by a solution that amounts to major tax cuts for those already doing extremely well after taxes, which happens to be the exact same Republican plan they've been peddling for half a century. Trump merely played that same game more aggressively, repeatedly promising to raise taxes on the rich and Wall Street while in fact proposing a plan to do the exact opposite.

Here's another odd thing: When the topic under debate is entitlement spending, Medicare, Social Security, etc., Republicans often don the mask of fiscal responsibility and explain that the federal deficit is such a massive problem that we have no choice but to make significant cuts in benefits. (When Trump bewails the deficit, he says we're approaching "Greece on steroids.")

Yet when debate shifts to tax cuts, particularly tax cuts for the wealthy, that very same deficit becomes a problem that is too insignificant to even talk about,  which sure is convenient since those same tax cuts would typically add trillions to the national debt. In Trump's case, he asserts that "the Trump tax cuts are fully paid for," then lists revenue steps that are woefully inadequate to make that claim even arguable.

Oh, and while Jeb! promises that his tax-cut plan would produce annual economic growth of 4 percent, Trump promises 6 percent.

Because 6 is more than 4.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.