Donald Trump: Is His Tax Plan Viable?
Donald Trump: Is His Tax Plan Viable?
Donald Trump has released his tax plan, and he knows you’re going to love it.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 28, 2015
Oh my, will I! At first glance, his plan sounds fabulous.
Tax relief for middle class Americans: In order to achieve the American dream, let people keep more money in their pockets and increase after-tax wages.
Simplify the tax code to reduce the headaches Americans face in preparing their taxes and let everyone keep more of their money.
Tell me more!
Grow the American economy by discouraging corporate inversions, adding a huge number of new jobs, and making America globally competitive again.
Doesn’t add to our debt and deficit, which are already too large.
By golly, that sounds just fine.
But does it really? The Donald Trump plan is suspiciously vague and lacking detail. For example: “Reducing or eliminating deductions and loopholes available to the very rich.” What deductions? What loopholes, specifically, will his plan eliminate? I’m sure this is by design. When talking to Trump supporters you grow accustomed to hearing, “he’s speaking plainly, speaking the language of the people.” And normal people don’t want to sit around reading a small novel on deductions and loopholes, I’m sure, but we still need more detail. However, even with the detail he did give, the math isn’t adding up.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump touts his tax overhaul plan as a boon for middle-income Americans, but it would also be likely to help the wealthy — including people like himself.
As the Associated Press notes, the Trump plan would bring his taxes down from 39.6 percent to 25 percent. He says his plan would be painful for the elitists like himself, but in reality that’s just not true. In addition, the tax revenue would go down while he touts universal healthcare, producing the violent love child of conservative tax cuts and liberal entitlements. Who exactly is paying for what, Donald? As economics columnist for American Enterprise Institute James Pethokoukis notes, the math just isn’t there.
Now keep in mind that even as deficits, debt, and spending are projected to rise, discretionary spending — the usual target of “waste, fraud, and abuse” charges — is projected keep falling as a share of GDP. Also keep in mind that Trump wants to reduce deficits and debt, not just maintain the status quo or current trajectory. And he is going to do all that without touching the fastest growing part of the budget? While also increasing defense and infrastructure spending? Maybe this was the sort of thinking that put those Trump casinos into bankruptcy.
So cutting tax revenue, leaving entitlements (possibly increasing them), deporting millions of immigrants, etc. and all while balancing the budget? This plan better include a magic wand. People comparing Trump’s plan to Reagan’s have forgotten about Reagan’s reductions in government spending and regulations, among other major difference. Under our current tax plan, 45% of American households won’t owe any federal income taxes anyway, Trump’s plan would just bump that number to roughly 50%.
“Some of what Mr. Trump has done in his press conference is just sell us on one of the better features of what our income tax already does,” said Alan Cole, an economist at the Tax Foundation. “It will probably add to the number of people who don’t have to pay any income tax. That was already true of many people and he’s just expanding the number of people.”
Meanwhile, the proposal would also be a boon for the wealthiest Americans like Trump — the top bracket includes individuals making $150,001 and more and couples making $300,001 and more — who would pay an income tax rate of 25%. That’s a dramatic cut from the current top rate of close to 40%.
Trump’s plan would set a rate of zero on joint incomes under 50K (the crowd cheers!), but because of how the tax brackets are set up, that’s also a major reduction for those making over 50K. Under Trump, the first $50,000, quite simply, doesn’t exist and isn’t taxable.
National Review’s Kevin Williamson noted the following:
For an unmarried taxpayer with no dependents earning $22,000 a year, Trump’s proposal represents about a $700/year tax cut; for a married couple earning $200,000, that’s going to be a much bigger tax cut, more than $6,500 a year.
The median household income in the United States is only about $52,000 a year—it does not seem to me socially desirable (to say nothing of fiscally desirable) to have a tax system in which practically all those who pay the federal income tax are high-income households.
He also makes the following pertinent point in another article:
Every Republican tax-reform plan should be rooted in this reality: If you are going to have federal spending that is 21 percent of GDP, then you can have a.) taxes that are 21 percent of GDP; b.) deficits. There is no c.
The problem with the Growth Fairy model of balancing budgets is that while economic growth would certainly reduce federal spending as a share of GDP if spending were kept constant, there is zero evidence that the government of these United States has the will or the inclination to enact serious spending controls when times are good (Uncork the champagne!) or when times are bad (Wicked austerity! We must have stimulus!). So even if we buy Jeb Bush’s happy talk about growth, or Donald Trump’s, the idea that spending is just going to magically sit there, inert, while the economy zips forward and the tax coffers fill up, is delusional.
And that’s just scratching the surface, Trump also advertised a “one-time deemed repatriation of corporate cash held overseas at a significantly discounted 10% tax rate, followed by an end to the deferral of taxes on corporate income earned abroad.” But has that worked before?
Prior efforts to lure companies back to the U.S., such as President Bush’s 2004 repatriation holiday have not been successful (most companies did not use those funds for domestic investment) though, admittedly, domestic corporate tax rates were higher than Trump’s proposed 15%. Corporate income taxes would also become due when earned abroad and not deferred (the foreign tax credit would remain).
The point remains, Trump has once again released a policy that offers little answers. After listening to his policies, I can’t imagine what a normal conversation with him would entail…
“I’m making dinner.”
“What are you making?”
“Food. Delicious food.”
“How? What ingredients?”
“Uh, stuff, and bowls, pots, etc.”
“I’m going to hire the greatest chef around.”
“What will he make?”
“Food. Delicious food. You’ll be full for months.”
“What will he make it with?”
“But you don’t have any ingredients here…”
“We’re making food.”
Everyone is aware that the tax code is a disaster, and it wasn’t made that way because everyone wanted it difficult and impossible to work with. It needs to be simplified, but Trump’s plan doesn’t address the key issues in his own simplification. On top of that, Trump would still need to go through Congress, and when they see that he plans to continue spending like an indecisive trust fund kid at a Cadillac dealership, it’s not going to be taken seriously.
His deportation dreams alone are far fetched and unattainable. Because of due process, they estimate that it would take roughly 20 years (5020 working days) if we started today, and even that would be roughly 2,390 cases per day for 12 million (rough estimates here, people). They also estimate that it would cost roughly 26 billion per year. But once again he doesn’t address the facts, he simply says he’s going to do it, and then repeats the tagline off his hat. His tax plan is no different. Trump has an age old problem; he’s used to getting what he wants when he wants it, and he’s also grown accustomed to dodging accountability for the damage that comes as a result. However, that mentality won’t cut it if he’s running a country.