Trump Plan Is Tax Cut for the Rich, Even Hedge Fund ManagersAt Politico, Danny Vinik writes an analysis titled "On Taxes? Not So Populist" ("Analysis: Trump's plan would benefit the rich, and cost $2-3 trillion"). The liberal-leaning Citizens for Tax Justice concludes that the top 1% get 34% of the tax breaks in the plan, while the bottom 20% get only 1% of the breaks. By contrast, Grover Norquist praises the plan.
Donald Trump’s tax plan, released Monday, does not live up to the populist language he has offered on taxes all summer.
When talking about taxes in this campaign, Donald Trump has often sounded like a different kind of Republican. He says he will take on “the hedge fund guys” and their carried interest loophole. He thinks it’s “outrageous” how little tax some multimillionaires pay. But his plan calls for major tax cuts not just for the middle class but also for the richest Americans -- even the hedge fund managers. And despite his campaign’s assurances that the plan is “fiscally responsible,” it would grow budget deficits by trillions of dollars over a decade.
You could call Mr. Trump’s plan a higher-energy version of the tax plan Jeb Bush announced earlier this month: similar in structure, but with lower rates and wider tax brackets, meaning individual taxpayers would pay even less than under Mr. Bush, and the government would lose even more tax revenue.
As it turns out, Norquist was given an early look at the plan:
Shortly after Donald Trump unveiled his tax plan on Monday anti-tax activist Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax reform group pushed out a statement backing the plan. To the casual observer, it might have looked like ATR was just getting on board.When Trump shot to the lead in polls this summer, many pundits and wonks were dismissive. They told us that a candidate like Trump can't really win, because party insiders are the ones who really choose the victors in nomination contests. The fact that Trump is still in first place in the fall has led some pundits and wonks, such as Ezra Klein, to conclude that the conventional wisdom might be wrong:
But Norquist's group -- a major arbiter of conservative tax orthodoxy -- had seen the details of the plan coming, and had actually been in touch with Trump's campaign for weeks.
ATR, which favors slashing tax rates, works privately with most campaigns on their tax plans, and Trump's operation is no exception -- the campaign had first reached out to the group in late August, according to tax policy director Ryan Ellis.
Trump's people, according to Ellis, told him, "Look, this campaign's real. We have to put some policy meat on the bones here. We're starting to staff that up. We're going to start thinking in the next couple of weeks here in a serious way of what we want our tax policy to look like and we would love to have you as a resource to bounce that off."
... the Party Decides theory of presidential primaries ... argued, persuasively, that political parties quietly dominated presidential primaries, and so the best way to predict the eventual winner is to watch early endorsements. But as Andrew Prokop wrote in his critique of the idea, after correctly predicting nine out of 11 contested presidential primaries between 1976 and 2000, the only primary the theory has correctly predicted since 2000 was Mitt Romney's 2012 win.Klein thinks a changed media landscape helps candidates who are compelling on TV at the expense of those who are good at courting insiders. That plus the abundance of billionaire cash gives the party insiders less clout.
Perhaps it's just been a bad few years for the theory. Or perhaps parties are systematically losing their ability to decide.
Trump seems to be the guy who's proving that the old rules no longer apply -- yet here he is putting together an utterly conventional tax plan by Republican standards, and submitting it for pre-approval to the pope of conservative tax policy, Grover Norquist. Trump sought Norquist's imprimatur the way any mainstream Republican candidate would.
And as Joe Nocera notes, Trump has also issued a gun plan that's utterly conventional:
[Trump's] second position paper, which hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves, is a no-holds-barred defense of the Second Amendment that the National Rifle Association could have written. Among other things, Trump says that we don’t need expanded background checks, and that concealed carry permits ... should be valid in all 50 states, just like a driver’s license.Nocera seems shocked by this, but these are very mainstream positions in the GOP. Nearly every candidate in the field would sign legislation instituting national concealed carry reciprocity.
At first, Trump seemed like a wild man and an unconventional Republican. But he's becoming more and more conventional -- and he seems increasingly interested in winning the approval, if not of party insiders, then at least of the most influential Republican-linked interest groups.
Is Trump now just another Republican pol? By the time of the Iowa caucuses, will his personality be the only thing that distinguishes him from everybody else in the race? I'd say that's the way we're heading.