Jay Bookman

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

Trump's tax-plan folly is typical of the man


So Donald Trump, the savior of the American working class, defender of the little man and someone who is supposed to upend the usual way of doing things in Washington -- that Donald Trump has a tax plan that he wants to peddle to the American people.

Stop me if you've heard this one before:

He wants to slash taxes on corporations that have already been enjoying some of the highest after-tax profits in the nation's history. And while there's something for almost everybody in his little magic tax-cut bag, the most dramatic cuts would go to the richest of Americans, people already reaping the benefits of an immense and ongoing shift of wealth away from lower and middle classes and toward the wealthy.

Last fall, when Trump initially announced this tax-reform plan, he tried to disguise its true nature by claiming that it would increase taxes on the wealthy, claiming that it “is going to cost me a fortune, which is actually true.”

It actually wasn't. It was the opposite of true, which means it is a lie.

If written into law, the Trump tax plan would save its own author tens of millions of dollars annually in taxes. It would slash taxes on the wealthy to such a degree that it would increase the national debt by $10 trillion in the next decade, on top of the debt increase that is already baked into the cake.

According to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, 35 percent of the tax savings would accrue to the top 1 percent of taxpayers. An estimated 17 percent of the savings would accrue to the top 0.1 percent, saving them an average of $1.3 million in taxes annually.

We all know that America has many problems. An underfunded, undercapitalized upper crust badly in need of tax cuts would not seem to be among them. Nonetheless, that's the "problem" that the Trump plan would attempt to fix.

In fact, the original Trump tax plan announced last fall was so downright Trumpian in its gaudy excess that even anti-tax conservatives got embarrassed by it. Politico quotes Ryan Ellis, former tax policy director for Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, as saying that the Trump plan “drags down the entire effort at conservative tax reform to a circus level.”

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the Trump plan would push our national debt from its current level of 74 percent of GDP to 129 percent by 2026. That's quite a different story from that told by Trump, who has promised voters that he would raise defense spending, protect entitlements from cuts AND eliminate the national debt within eight years. Yes, he would eliminate the DEBT -- not the annual deficit, but the country's $19 trillion debt -- in a mere eight years.

In a campaign reeking with ridiculous claims, that's probably the most ridiculous of all. The Trump economic package is so obviously absurd that apparently it even embarrassed Trump himself, which is a hard thing to do. A few weeks ago, Trump asked TV celebrity economist Larry Kudlow and tax-cut fetishist Stephen Moore to pencil-whip his plan into better shape and give it at least a patina of realism.

Both Kudlow and Moore are acolytes of Arthur Laffer, the man who has gotten rich and famous by telling the rich and famous that for the good of the country, they should be paying much less in taxes. Laffer's theories drove the tax cuts implemented under the Bush administration, and by the end of its term the nation had fewer private-sector jobs than when it took power. It also stuck President Obama with a $1.3 trillion deficit in 2009 before he even took the oath of office. At the state level, Laffer-nomics has been implemented in Kansas and Louisiana, and in both states budgets are in a meltdown because the economic boom that the Lafferites promised is nowhere in sight.

In short, these are highly ideological economists committed to faith in tax-cut magic, but even they understood that the Trump plan was grotesque. Together, they have produced a revised tax plan that would "only" raise the national debt by an additional $3.6 trillion, instead of the $10 trillion extravaganza originally proposed by Trump. It would also trim some of the tax cuts for the wealthy, reducing them from ridiculously massive to merely enormously huge.

And you know what? Trump has now rejected that plan. His spokesmen told the New York Times on Thursday that the campaign would not accept the Kudlow-Moore revision and was instead re-embracing its original plan.

Ladies and gentlemen -- and mainly, it's gentlemen -- he is playing you for fools.


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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.