Donald Trump

Sorry—Economic Conservatives are Nothing Like Trump

Prepare to hear a lot of conservatives and free market types compared to Trump.


Whether you believe House Speaker Paul Ryan is a squishy Republican unworthy of the nomination, or you think he's the sort of rational conservative voice that could save the GOP from doom, there's one thing he most certainly isn't: Donald Trump. Then again, the idea that "Donald Trump is just Paul Ryan on steroids," as Matt O'Brien wrote in the Washington Post's Wonkblog, and others assert, is the kind of predictably lazy attack we should get used to for the foreseeable future. Every Republican is going to be like Trump. And this will be Trump's short-term legacy.

That's not to say there are no similarities between the two. I mean, other than trade policy, immigration policy, entitlement reform, abortion, foreign affairs, free expression and markets; and other than their tone, temperament, presentation, focus and backgrounds, there's probably some commonality we could ferret out. Of course, using that measurement, a person could just easily argue that Trump's plans have far too much in common with Hillary Clinton's.

But it still doesn't make them ideologically related.

Here is the comparison that allegedly makes Trump and Ryan the same person: they cut taxes. The billionaire casino mogul claims he'll lower taxes rates and can eliminate the nation's $19 trillion debt over the next eight years—a claim I am certain was pulled from the rarified air at Trump Tower for no particular policy reason. Trump promises to never cut Social Security, Medicare or defense spending—because you can promise anything you like when reality is no object.

But get this: Ryan also has a plan, and this one is pretty detailed (well, more detailed than any presidential candidate's) to lower tax rates across the board without cutting Social Security or Medicare for today's seniors. Ryan also promises to cut the deficit.

O'Brien reacted to Ryan's plan in Wonkblog: "Let's back up a minute, though. How does Ryan think he could pull off his own slightly less unrealistic plan? Easy: with magic. Ryan's first trick is to assume that his tax cuts wouldn't cost a thing instead of the $5.7 trillion that the Tax Policy Center says they would, since he would supposedly close enough tax loopholes to pay for them all."

If O'Brien sees Ryan's economic plan as "magic," economics must be a "sufficiently advanced technology" that he just doesn't understand, to paraphrase Sir Arthur C. Clarke. There's a special disdain among liberals—especially those of the Paul Krugman variety, which now dominates economics writing on the left—toward Ryan, whose economic assumptions regarding growth fly in the face of the core assumption of certain Wonkbloggers, namely that simplifying rates and cutting taxes would probably spur growth.

So, naturally, these writers hate the idea of dynamic scoring, which would require them to calculate and forecast the economic effects of a policy change that lowers rates to stimulate economic activity. They will claim that this measurement is unreliable (though they will mostly completely ignore it). Which is true. But it's not half as unreliable as the claims of the ideological liberal shops that the very same columnists and reporters constantly use to make their methodical-sounding arguments.

You know, like the "nonpartisan" Tax Policy Center, which is nonpartisan in the way The Heritage Foundation or Cato Institute or any other liberal or conservative or free market think tank is nonpartisan. The Tax Policy Center is not only often very wrong, very often; but nonpartisan is not nonideological, which is what really matters.

But back to Trump. Yes, his plan is unrealistic, which, on this issue at least, qualifies him to be a typical presidential candidate. For example, Clinton's ambiguous tax scheme aims to pay for an array of highly expensive utopian policies with tax hikes on the wealthy. These include closing tax loopholes like inversions (just like Trump!) and taxing carried interest income (just like Trump). Yet, however similar those two are, though, they're hardly the same. But in any event, be prepared for a slew of silly pieces from liberals claiming that all Republicans and free-market types are secretly just like Trump. Because why not?


NEXT: New York Values, Sexting Panics, and Gender-Neutral Cats: Watch Matt Welch on Red Eye

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  1. So, naturally, these writers hate the idea of dynamic scoring

    This is one of the ideological brain farts of the Left. They either can’t conceive or willfully deny that changing the game will change how people play the game. They make their interventions, and nothing else happens.

    1. At the same time, taxes are a wonderful way to impose policy. The economic spirits scrutinize intent before deciding how to react.

    2. Fucking incentives, how do they work?

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  2. Stop apologizing, David.

    1. Seriously, this is the same Left that turned Mitt Romney into George Wallace.

      It does not matter what your real positions are, or what you really said, or if you mean well: if you are a Republican, the Left will lie about you and turn you into a monster, no matter how centrist or squishy or whatever you may be. And apologizing only enables them further.


      1. …Who is George Wallace? :/

  3. Trump is a small-government candidate. Nicholas Kristof said so. Then again, in the same column, he used oppression by the army as an example of the horrors of not enough government.

  4. “Donald Trump is just Paul Ryan on steroids.”

    Ooh, a new game!

    “Ted Cruz is just Jimmy Swaggert on steroids.”

    “Hillary Clinton is just Dianne Feinstein on steroids.”

    “Bernie Sanders is just Dale the chipmunk on steroids.”

    1. “Arnold Schwarzenegger is just Arnold Schwarzenegger on steroids”

      1. “Warty is just Arnold Schwarzenegger on mega-steroids!”

        1. “Gary Johnson is just… *giggle*… what, man? I forgot the question.”

          1. Dave’s not here, man.

            1. “Chuck Schumer is just Dianne Feinstein on steroids.”

              1. That would explain the bitch-tits.

              2. “Chuck Schumer is just Amy Schumer in drag, on steroids.”

    2. Dianne Feinstein on steroids. There’s an image I’d like to get out of my head.

  5. These include closing tax loopholes …

    Just checking here, since Harsanyi appears to be totally bought into the doublespeak lingo. Does this refer to actual, you know, tax loopholes? Or is this referring to the loophole of money that hasn’t been taxed in this manner yet?

    1. This “loophole” BS is a pet peeve.

      Just like “computer glitch”, it’s humans, HUMANS!!

    2. Loopholes won’t get closed. It’s retarded to think they will and Ryan is simply an ass for suggesting they would get closed in his “plan”.

      The vast majority of “loopholes” are extremely popular deductions or credits (child tax credit, mortgage interest deduction, state tax payment deduction, certain R&D expense deduction, etc).

      1. People overwhelmingly want loopholes closed until you take away THEIR loopholes. Principals not principles

        1. It’s not a principle when you don’t even know what it is your for or against. It’s just ignorance.

  6. Paul Ryan has a plan that he’s not willing to fight for. So, it doesn’t really matter how great Paul Ryan’s plan is, because he doesn’t have the stones to even try to fight for a little bit of it.

    Meanwhile, Donald Trump articulated the most libertarian notion I have ever heard a mainstream candidate state:…..2016-04-06

    1. Baby steps?

      1. Selling federal assets to deal with the debt is a pretty radical notion. It’s straight out of the LP’s platform for god’s sake.

        1. Selling assets works one time. After this, it’s back to spending as usual and blowing up the debt. But now we have no more ‘assets’ (whatever this might consist of).

        2. Except that it’s a one-time fix, especially since politicians will be too busy gloating over their balanced budgets instead of making any long-term structural changes.

    2. Ryan is clearly wired in for the long game, which is why the activists currently ascendant in the GOP dislike him. All they want is a fighter, long-term ramifications be damned.

      I did love this bit of illiteracy from the Center for American Progress:

      The GAO report didn’t include natural resources. So how about selling oil and gas assets? In a 2013 report, the Institute for Energy Research estimated the government’s recoverable oil and gas resources were worth $128 trillion. Now, says Chris Warren, the group’s communications director, the number is probably between half and two-thirds of the original figure.

      So, if the U.S. is willing to sell off $64 trillion of oil and gas, there won’t be a debt problem.

      Yet doing so would deprive the U.S. of a huge source of future revenue, notes Nicole Gentile, deputy director of the public lands team at the Center for American Progress. She notes royalty revenue from oil, gas, coal and other minerals was $9.6 billion in fiscal 2015.

      “It would be fiscally irresponsible and short-sighted to sell off these assets for short-term gain,”

      It would take 1,979 years for annual royalties to payoff the current debt yet it would be short-sighted to sell at most 30% of those assets off? Wha?

      1. Not to mention servicing the debt.

      2. Ryan is playing chess while the other side is playing rugby. He is a joke.

    3. trump is a developer. when he is talking about selling federal assets he is talking about property, and these would almost certainly be sweetheart deals of the friennds & family variery. cronyism is not libertarianism. divestment is goos but it requires the involvement of individuals somewhere shy lf overtly corrupt to accomplish it in a way that helps the public.

  7. Cut taxes and don’t cut spending, and everyone will be happy. It’s called Reaganomics.

    1. FFS. It is not “cut taxes”, it is “cut tax rates”, which leads to economic growth, which leads to increased tax revenue. The spending doesn’t need to be cut. That was Reaganomics.

      Economists argue all the time about whether it worked or not, but the least you can do is try to understand what you are talking about instead of repeating the flippant idiocy the clueless left throws around like confetti.

      1. Shush! How will we recognize idiots if you clue them in? 😉

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  9. Or would you favor Obamanomics. Which is increase tax rates, add additional tax mechanisms while at the same time increasing deficit spending further, and encourage economic growth by running the printing presses 24/7 and trucking it to the banks.

    1. Or would you favor neither.

      1. Well, yeh. Flat tax, with spending capped to the tax revenue.
        no federal withholding, everyone must write a quarterly check, so they fully understand the magnitude of the taxation. SS/medicare, etc all rolled into one rate.
        No deductions, no exemptions, no tax credits. Flat tax on every dollar earned regardless of where it comes from.

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  12. It would seem that The Donald has a grasp on economic policy as tenuous as is The Bern’s.
    Crony Capitalism v. Socialism: A Death Match for a Republic’s entertainment … if it can survive.

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  15. Why are we “unable” to do a flat 10% income tax, w/ no tax returns? Maybe I’m just one of those dumb folks who just can’t understand why “the people NEED govt in their life”.

    Why hasn’t the Supreme Court ruled against deficit spending? Seems like that’s a bigger issue than “gender neutral bathrooms”, or “abortion rights”. Blah.

    Oh us Americans.

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  17. “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” -Emma Goldman.1869 ? 1940.

    Elections are “an advance auction of stolen goods.” H.L. Mencken

    Bottom line: It really makes no difference which clown gets elected, the deep state will carry on exactly as before.

    In other words:” New boss same as the old boss” as Pete Townsend once said.

    Or, “Dream On”?:

    “……In your dream, Donald Trump is not a fraud,
    In your dream, Sanders is not a fraud,
    In your dream, all the rest are not frauds,
    In your dream, Obama is not a fraud,
    In your dream, Reagan was not a fraud,
    In your dream, all the rest were not frauds,

    In your dream, the constitution was not a scam,
    In your dream, the Supreme court is not a scam,
    In your dream, 9/11 was not a scam”
    In your dreams, the war on terror is not a scam,
    In your dream, al -qaeda was not a scam,
    In your dream I.S.I.S. is not a scam”

    Lyrics excerpted from “Dreams [Anarchist Blues]”:

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  18. Trump is a mercantilist. And he has zero understanding of monetary economics. Ryan may be a free trader, but without the latter, which he lacks as well, he’ll be no more successful. Problem is NONE of the those who declared themselves candidates is sufficiently qualified for the job.

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  20. RE: Sorry?Economic Conservatives are Nothing Like Trump
    Prepare to hear a lot of conservatives and free market types compared to Trump.

    This election is not about getting a free market advocate elected.
    It’s about choosing three moronic eogmaniacs elected.
    Pick your poison.

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