Donald Trump really does want to be president

How do I know?  Because after all sorts of populist rhetoric on taxes he’s come out with a tax plan, that dare I say, out-Trumps, other Republican tax plans.  That is, it is based even more on unicorns and rainbows than your typical Republican tax plan.  Poor hedge fund managers have to be the rich fall guys and pay some more tax, whereas pretty much all the other rich guys get a huge tax cut.  And the deficit?  Well, that explodes.  I really like Catherine Rampell’s take: Trump as Santa Claus:

The Two Santa Claus Theory was coined by Republican strategist Jude Wanniski in 1976. He argued that if Democrats were going to offer generous spending programs — that is, anoint themselves the “Santa Claus” of spending — Republicans needed to proffer their own gifts as well. Republican insistence on deficit-conscious spending reductions certainly seemed Scrooge-like, after all, and was turning off voters. Wanniski proposed that the GOP boost its popularity by becoming the “Santa Claus of Tax Reduction.”

Trump has taken the Two Santa Claus Theory a step further. For a man who so unabashedly celebrates his own greed, he is proving himself quite generous to the general public (with other people’s money, of course). Rather than choosing between spending and tax cuts, he’s giving voters pretty much everything they want, price tags and deficits be damned.

Take the tax plan he announced Monday. It’s gonna be the greatest, most un-loser-like tax giveaway, ever. Especially if you’re rich…

Trump’s giant tax cuts look a lot like Jeb Bush’s previously announced, wealthy-tilted plan, except with even lower rates. Trump promises to reduce personal income-tax rates across the board, cutting the top marginal rate to just 25 percent from the current 39.6 percent. Trump would cut the top capital gains rate to 20 percent, from today’s 23.8 percent.

He would also reduce corporate taxes to 15 percent from their top current statutory rate of 35 percent and eliminate the estate tax.

Trump’s oft-repeated (but false) claim that he’d raise taxes on the wealthy seems based solely on his willingness to close the carried interest loophole

While denigrating Obamacare’s largesse, he has also promised more generous health care, among other goodies.

“I am going to take care of everybody,” he said on “60 Minutes,” …

So how does Trump reconcile his giveaways on both sides of the fiscal ledger with his party’s alleged commitment to fiscal conservatism? Oddly, he’s not citing the usual supply-sider nonsense that tax cuts magically increase tax revenue. Instead, Trump just promises he’ll get us a really good deal — typically by getting someone else to pay for it. Maybe it’s Mexico, maybe China; either way, someone else. How he’ll strong-arm these sovereign nations into paying our bills, he doesn’t quite bother explaining.

But no matter. Merry Christmas, everyone!

And Danny Vinik.  After a nice run-through of the various numbers, the conclusion:

Add it all up and you have—approximately—$4-5 trillion in tax cuts with less than $2 trillion in new revenue. The total cost? $2-3 trillion. That’s an enormous gap.

Even if you use “dynamic scoring”—taking into account that lower taxes are likely to boost economic growth and thus bring in additional revenue—it’s impossible to see how this plan would break even.

Who would be the winners of the Trump tax plan? The rich. [emphasis mine]

And Jordan Weissman:

On Monday, a left-leaning think tank analyzed Donald Trump’s new tax plan and found it would cost roughly $10.8 trillion over a decade, more or less cratering the government’s finances into fiery rubble while largely benefiting the rich. That estimate, however, did not account for any salubrious effects the proposal might have on economic growth. What happens when you do?

Today, the conservative Tax Foundation offered an answer.Without factoring in growth, it found that Trump’s plan would actually add $11.98 trillion to the 10-year deficit. Once the boost to growth that would result from slashing taxes is factored in, it would only cost $10.14 trillion … more or less cratering the government’s finances into fiery rubble

Theoretically, this should be problematic for Trump, who claims his proposal wouldn’t add to the debt or deficit. But the funny thing is, I actually think he’ll run with this. Because his cuts are so, so huge, the Tax Foundation—which has great faith in the ability of tax reductions to spur the economy—says the plan will create 5.3 million extra jobs over 10 years. Jeb Bush’s own deficit-ballooning tax proposal—which Trump seems to have more or less grabbed, then doctored a bit by slashing rates further—would add a mere 2.7 million jobs, according to the think tank’s math. Marco Rubio’s preferred tax cuts, which once seemed completely laughable in their own right but appear almost quaint compared with the Donald’s, would add just 2.6 million. Thus, Trump can get on stage (or heck, run a TV ad) and brag that an established right-leaning think tank believes his tax policy proposals will create twice as many jobs as his competitors’.

So, there’s plenty of serious analyses showing that Trump’s plan is a fantasy and a joke.  The important question is how will the political journalists cover this?  As the joke embarrassment as it is or just one more Republican tax plan.  I fear the latter, but the reality is certainly the former.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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