2016: The GOP’s Four Faces

Politics & Policy

Trump’s Non-Populist Tax Plan

Donald Trump’s tax plan is unremarkable. I don’t mean that in the sense that’s it’s unambitious: It would be a massive tax cut, one that is equal to or greater in scope than any of his rivals for the nomination. Rather, it is unremarkable precisely for that reason. Even Donald Trump is in line with party orthodoxy on tax policy.

Trump could have used his tax plan to continue to take aim at the GOP leadership and establishment. He had signaled that he might when he talked about raising taxes on the rich.  But in the end the only items of his plan that could be said to do that are his proposals to scrap many deductions for the well-to-do and tax carried interest at ordinary income tax rates rather than preferential capital gains rates. Not only did Jeb Bush propose to do exactly the same things in his tax plan, but all independent analysis shows that eliminating deductions for the top 1 percent raise nowhere near enough revenue to balance out the tax cuts these folk will see when their marginal rates are slashed.

I doubt Trump will get much of a boost from this. The very conservative secular Republican voter who cares most about tax cuts for the top, but who are not already behind Trump, are likely to be supporting other candidates at this stage anyway.  Nor do I think this will hurt him much. His support seems unattuned to his actual statements on policy. They are attracted to his persona, not his agenda.

But I think this would be a millstone for him in the general. A wealthy man who wants to dramatically cut taxes for his rich friends — Republicans saw that show last cycle with Romney. Trump has a background in TV: If that show got canceled, why would the remake do any better?

Henry OlsenMr. Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, an editor at UnHerd.com, and the author of The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism.

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