Politics & Policy

Donald Trump Is All Over the Place on Taxes

Yesterday morning, Donald Trump said the following about his tax plan:

“By the time it gets negotiated, it’s going to be a different plan,” Trump told George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’ “This Week.”

In Trump’s tax plan, the wealthiest individuals would get a tax break, with the top tax rate dropping from 39.6 percent to 25 percent. But when pressed if he wants taxes on the wealthy to go up or down, he predicted that the top rate would be higher than the plan says.

“On my plan they’re going down. But by the time it’s negotiated, they’ll go up,” Trump said. “Look, when I’m negotiating with the Democrats, I’m putting in a plan. I’m putting in my optimum plan. It’s going to be negotiated, George. It’s not going to stay there. They’re not going to say, ‘There’s your plan, let’s approve it.’ They’re going to say, ‘Let’s see what we can do.’”

The merits and demerits of Trump’s plan to one side, a question comes to mind: What the hell sort of negotiating tactic is this? Essentially, Trump was telegraphing not only that he expects to give ground, but that he expects to get the exact opposite of what he has asked for. It’s one thing for a neutral observer to predict that there will have to be some give and take in a negotiation between two parties; indeed, in the American system such predictions are invariably smart. But it is quite another for one of those parties to lead off by conceding that he’s going to lose. Trump conceded that he’s going to lose.

Today, Trump is claiming that he meant something else. Per CNN:

Donald Trump clarified Monday that he doesn’t plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans in the aggregate, despite seemingly saying so during interviews aired Sunday. 

“On my plan they’re going down. But by the time it’s negotiated, they’ll go up,” Trump said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

But Trump told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day” that he was referring to changes to “my tax proposal” — not the existing tax code — when he said rates could go up. He meant to communicate that he was open to top rates higher than those in his proposal as part of the negotiations to get tax reform passed, but also maintained they would remain lower than the current rate.

“Now, if I increase it on the wealthy, they’re still going to pay less than they pay now,” the presumptive Republican nominee said. “I’m not talking about increasing from this point. I’m talking about increasing from my tax proposal.”

That sounds feasible. And yet, if that’s what Trump meant, one has to wonder why he said this in the course of his initial flip: 

“I am willing to pay more. And you know what? Wealthy are willing to pay more. We’ve had a very good run.”

Which side of this debate is the man on?

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