Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Donald Trump tax plan: Is the glass 60% full or 40% empty?

From having seen preliminary revenue estimates of the Donald Trump tax plan, a rough back-of-the-envelope summary might conclude that it would reduce federal individual plus corporate income tax revenues, over a 10-year period, by about 40 percent.

A hater or "loser," I suppose, would say that Trump is proposing to go 40% of the way towards zeroing out the main source of federal government revenue, while also apparently planning to spend a lot of money on various things.

Or I suppose one could instead say: He's 60 percent NOT wiping out these revenues. After all, to drain 40% out of the glass is to leave 60% of it still there.

Perhaps a few tall shots of bourbon, from a 100% full glass, would be all that one needed to reach the conclusions that (a) these two alternative perspectives are equally valid, and (b) the second one is more uplifting and positive and nice. Why not be a yea-sayer, rather than a nay-sayer, when it's just two ways of saying the same thing?

All kidding aside, I am actually disappointed by the Trump tax plan. I had been wondering if he might actually live up to the hints he had been dropping that he didn't accept the Republican tax orthodoxy about adopting massive unfinanced and regressive tax cuts. But instead he just amped it up a few magnitudes. It's the already feckless Jeb Bush tax plan, converted into performance art.

What makes this all the more disappointing relates to the sense I had been getting that Republican voters, unlike Republican donors and elites, actually don't uniformly thrill to endless replays of George W. Bush 2001. And this may indeed still be true. But the Trump tax plan appears to rebut the premise that his being self-financing might lead to his exploiting the gap between the conservative elites and the Republican base on these issues. This is a shame because, in the long run, he might have helped to push the Republicans back towards the sort of empirically-based policy-making that they were engaged in as recently as the George H.W. Bush Administration (which, come to think of it, does not, these days, exactly stand as "recent" any more).

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