Donald Trump portrayed himself on Monday as the presidential candidate who would bring prosperity to America. In a nearly hourlong speech on the economy, Trump said his proposals, including cuts to taxes and regulations, renegotiation of trade agreements, and creation of new energy policy, would spur economic growth and lead the United States to “amazing new heights.”
He painted a bright, optimistic picture in contrast to what has been his mostly dark, murky campaign. He presented little that was truly new, with a mix of Democratic and Republican ideas that lacked an ideological thread. Whether the plan is realistic or doable, and whether it would have congressional backing, is a different story. And who would benefit? Would it be those who are jobless or struggling? Owners of sagging small businesses? Or would Trump’s ideas favor big corporations, the wealthy and, well, people like Trump? That depends on the details of his policies and their impact.
Taxes: The Republican nominee said he would slash the number of tax brackets from seven to three, with the top one paying 33 percent, down from 39.6 percent now. Corporate taxes would be subject to a top tax rate of 15 percent, compared with 35 percent now. Depending on the brackets, that could mean lower taxes for everyone, but lower revenue, too. How Trump would pay for it is unclear, though he hopes economic growth would help the cuts pay for themselves. Like his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, Trump would get rid of the carried-interest deduction, which helps managers of hedge funds and private equity pay lower taxes on compensation. He would end incentives for corporate inversions, when companies merge with foreign firms to avoid U.S. taxes. Both are good ideas to eliminate detrimental loopholes, but he’s far from the first to suggest them. Much of Trump’s policy wouldn’t favor the faithful who pack his rallies. He would drop the estate tax, which applies only to those with very high wealth. (More than a third of it is paid by the top 0.1 percent.) And he would allow for a full deduction of child care expenses, which sounds good, but might replace existing tax credits. That could hurt low-income families.
Trade: Trump said he would get tough on trade by renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement and stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while instituting tariffs against countries that “cheat.” While Trump has rightly addressed the notion that too many jobs have moved overseas, his plans are too simplistic to take on complex issues.
Regulations and energy policy: Trump would “cut regulations massively.” That could include important environmental and energy regulations that seek to address climate change and protect waterways. He said he’d promote policies that favor coal mining, but overlooked any economic growth from the development of renewable energy.
“I want to jump-start America, and it can be done, and it won’t even be that hard,” Trump said. It wouldn’t be that simple, either. And it’s hard to rely on what Trump says when he includes small children and retirees in his unemployment figures. Trump has to go beyond what people want to hear. Right now, it’s a plan long on promises and fantasy and short on details and reality. — The editorial board