Donald Trump

On Taxes, Economics, and Trade, Trump Is an Incoherent Mess

The reality TV star's policy positions are all over the place.

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Trump
Todd Kranin / Reason

The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, businessman Donald Trump, has been called a lot of things by the media and his adversaries. When it comes to his policy positions, however, it's difficult to put a political label on him.

For instance, though he holds some pretty standard free market positions on taxes, he's far from being a purist on the issue. On one hand, he would cut the top marginal individual rate to 25 percent and reduce the number of brackets to three to encourage productive behavior. However, his plan fails to remove most double taxation of income saved and invested and fails to eliminate many deductions for special interest groups. He would also remove a large number of taxpayers from the tax rolls, exacerbating the illusion that government services are free.

On the corporate tax side, he would cut the rate to 15 percent because he understands that having the current high tax gives an incentive to businesses to move abroad. But then he would fail to end the punishing and inefficient practice of taxing revenue abroad.

On budget issues, he's no libertarian, either. In June, he said he would impose a one-time 14 percent tax on the wealthy to pay down national debt. His math doesn't work—and the impact on the economy would be pretty negative—but at least it shows that he is aware of our gigantic debt. Still, as far as I can tell, his only budget reduction plan is to push some functions, such as education and environmental protection, back to the states and cut some waste. There's nothing wrong with that, except that it wouldn't do much to address our growing $19 trillion debt.

Unlike most free market advocates, Trump is adamant that he wouldn't touch such drivers of our future debt as Social Security and Medicare. He has said, "Social Security isn't an 'entitlement'; it's honoring a deal." Never mind that the Supreme Court ruled in 1966 that there is no deal and Congress can change the law—and hence the benefits—at any time. As for the program's solvency problem, Trump thinks he could address that by getting rid of the "tremendous" waste that plagues the system. No way.

Borrowing the rhetoric of the left, Trump also wants to give health care to everyone and have the government pay for it because he doesn't want people dying in the street. His actual health care plan confirms that he isn't very familiar with health care policies and that he is highly tolerant of government intervention.

On trade, Trump also breaks with the imperfect but traditional Republican support for free trade to embrace fair trade (a very leftist concept). For instance, he has talked about imposing a 45 percent tariff on imports from China and a 35 percent tax on cars made in Mexico. Unfortunately, he ignores that protectionism is costly to American consumers while doing nothing to address some of the real unfair trading practices around the world.

But that doesn't make him a liberal, either. He's anti-illegal immigration. He thinks that many people who are here illegally are involved in serious criminal activities. This explains his desire to deport them. He is anti-birthright citizenship and wants to temporarily ban Muslims from entering America.

He is also anti-minimum wage, as he thinks it destroys the economy. He is against gun control and rightly understands that most laws are ineffective at preventing gun violence. However, he also claims, without much evidence, that mass shootings point to "a huge mental problem."

Finally, his foreign policy positions are also all over the place. He wants to deal with "the maniac in North Korea" with nukes. He doesn't rule out using nuclear weapons against the Islamic State terrorists. Interestingly, he calls NATO obsolete and rightly notes that European governments should stop relying so heavily on our military dollars. In October, he even said he would cut the defense budget.

The bottom line is that the businessman doesn't communicate a set of fixed principles, and he openly departs from much of the Republican orthodoxy. Needless to say, if he gets the nomination, it'll be interesting to see the impact it has on a party with which only 26 percent of voters identify.

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  1. Unlike other candidates, I’d say it’s pretty clear that Trump’s policy proposals come from his own fevered mind as opposed to focus group testing by campaign handlers. But he’s just as likely to follow through on any of his notions as any of the others are on their superficially-crafted promises.

    1. All his ideas come from the hat. The hair advises.

      1. I thought it was the other way around?! But I will have to take your word on that. No way in HELL I am going back and reading that much SugarFree material…

        *shudders*

        1. That’s just what the hair wants you to think.

  2. If, as you say, he is an incoherent mess, and if as you say he is the GOP front runner (who has garnered millions more votes from the GOP electorate than any other nominee), it’s safe to assume the GOP itself is an incoherent mess.

    Cue all the GOP apologists.

    1. They are as big a mess as TEAM BLUE. TEAM BE RULED sucks, Joe. Cut yourself loose from it and think about actually supporting liberty, for once.

    2. joe certainly knows about TEAM apologists. He may be the shortest one, but he makes up for it by being the stupidest one.

    3. Why do you and your fellow travelers insist on conflating regulars on these boards with GOP members? I can’t recall the last time someone posted a defense of the GOP defense, yet you and your parasite-enabling buddies continue to insist we’re covert Republican operatives.

      Are you and your commie friends so politically stupid that you simply cannot understand the difference between Republican and libertarian political beliefs? (Yes, that question was purely rhetorical.)

      1. “posted a defense of the GOP defense”

        Is there some law like Godwin’s that says when calling someone an idiot on the Internet you’re inevitably going to make a stupid mistake with your post? In keeping with Godwin, maybe call it the Grammar Nazi law.

  3. He has said, “Social Security isn’t an ‘entitlement’; it’s honoring a deal.

    Sure, it’s a deal. A deal between the older generations and their politicians, most of whom are dead or otherwise out of power. The current working generations have little to do with that deal and no obligation to honor it or its even more broken brother, Medicare.

    1. “Full faith and credit of the US Government” seems to be a bitch.

    2. @some guy – One could conceivably say the same thing about the US constitution. In fact, I’d be much surprised if some shit head progressive hasn’t already made that argument.

  4. It’s a pyramid scheme

  5. His tax plan is the one thing that seems decent. Of course, without spending cuts it’s really just pushing taxes into the future.

  6. My objection to Trump is that he’s wrong on nearly every single topic.

    The juggalo routine is merely icing on the cake.

    *Cake… Get it? cake

    1. I WANT CAKE

  7. He has said, “Social Security isn’t an ‘entitlement’; it’s honoring a deal.

    There’s another guy out there, who says, “You cannot get blood from a stone.”

  8. On Taxes, Economics, and Trade, Trump Is an Incoherent Mess

    ——————

    Well, so is the entirety of Washington D.C. “Save your money” but “How about negative interest rates?”. How about subsidize then fine? The list goes on forever. An actual review of what is done in DC shows pure insanity. It’s just one more thing they’re allowed to do as part of “good governance” that is not allowed in individuals. DC is group schizophrenia. Think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction but who is the “good guy” and gets to tell you what to do. That boiling bunny is for your own good.

  9. One of my favorite things about Reason is that you read an article about Bernie, and it’s polite and discusses all the good things he talks about. Then you get to Trump and it sounds like Rahm wrote it, and Hillary proofed it.

    I can honestly say, I really don’t even care any more. Until people are willing to storm the capital like they do in other countries, we’re all just keyboard commando’s.

    I’m going fishing. TTYL.

    1. Most people in this country are far too comfortable to be motivated into storming the capitol.

  10. They’re all incoherent messes on policy. That’s not news. What’s news is that he says what’s on his mind, doesn’t play the game of trying to get Beltway mandarins to endorse him, _and he’s winning_. That is also in large part true of Sanders. Trump isn’t a conservative revolt, much less some sort of second coming of the Jim Crow era. He’s a revolt of real people against the political establishment that has run the country into the ground for decades now and then blames it all on the citizenry (and again, that also goes for Sanders, who is a version of Trump tailored to leftwing sensibilities)

    The revolution will be more Orange than Ceaucescu hanging in the lobby, but it is a revolution nonetheless.

    1. I always say what is on my mind and am never politically correct and you would be a fool to vote for me as a dog catcher. Trump has admitted to buying politicians for personal gain and yet you feel because he is a loudmouth and would rather sling insults than stand on his policy issues that he would make a great President. A corrupt politician and the one corrupting that politician are the opposite sides of the same coin. Please just think about that before you vote.

  11. RE: On Taxes, Economics, and Trade, Trump Is an Incoherent Mess

    It is true that Trump the Grump is an incoherent mess.
    But then, so is Comrade Bernie and Hitlery.
    This is the worst selection of candidates that are running for president I have seen since I’ve started voting in ’72.

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  13. On budget issues, he’s no libertarian, either. In June, he said he would impose a one-time 14 percent tax on the wealthy to pay down national debt.

    The Elites like to have taxing wealth as a great unthinkable, but I see nothing at all unlibertarian about taxing wealth compared to taxing labor. Wealth needs the protection of the state more than ephemeral weekly exchanges of value for value.

    1. The truth is that it is people who are taxed, not their labor or wealth – just as a thief robs people, not their labor or wealth.

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  16. So overall his policies (as analyzed here) are good, but not as good as you’d like, & don’t fit into an identifiable pigeonhole.

  17. That just might still be better than being a socialist, theocrat, or fascist, like the other guys.

  18. Why doesn’t anyone remember it was Bill Clinton that asked Trump to run. Every one thinks Trump is such a business genius. Give me 10 million dollars and a list of which politicians and union bosses can be bought and what local local crime lord to send my monthly payments to make sure all runs smoothly and I too could be a billionaire. His daddy supplied the money and the list and even then he is so stupid he almost went bankrupt not once but 4 times. This is the fool people want for President.

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