Donald Trump’s Economic Plan Is Straight-Up Trickle Down Nonsense

This guy is running for president. Don't worry! He probably owns a tie.

This guy is running for president. Don’t worry! He probably owns a tie.

Evan McMullin is running for president as an anti-Trump independent candidate. Who the hell is Evan McMullin? Well, he’s a Republican who gave a TED Talk once. That’s about all we know. McKay Coppins at BuzzFeed writes:

He has never held elective office before and has spent most of his career as a CIA officer, according to his LinkedIn page. Young and unmarried, McMullin received an MBA at Wharton in 2011, and after a stint at Goldman Sachs, went to work as a policy wonk on Capitol Hill.

Unlike National Review writer David French, another conservative courted by anti-Trump Republicans to launch a long-shot third-party bid, McMullin has virtually no public profile. He doesn’t appear regularly on television, and has just 135 followers on Twitter. His most recent high-profile appearance seems to have been a TEDx talk about genocide he gave at London Business School in April. He also delivered a speech in May about the future of the Republican Party.

McMullin won’t be able to make it on the ballot in many states, but operatives hope he’ll move the needle, especially, in Utah. (McMullin is a Brigham Young University graduate, and polling indicates that Mormons are very uncomfortable with Trump.) He can’t win the electoral college because he’s missed so many state filing deadlines, but McMullin at least represents a mainstream Republican for anti-Trump mainstream Republicans to vote for.

Let’s take a look at McMullin’s campaign website to see where he stands on the economy. His economic plan is made up of four sentences. First sentence: “America should be the best place in the world for innovation, entrepreneurship and opportunity.” Okay! We agree. Next sentence: “We must reform a system that too often benefits the politically connected and the corporate elite, while leaving too many Americans behind.” Also true. Economic inequality is out of control. We’re halfway through the statement and we’re in total agreement!

So what’s next? “Our tax code should be lean, simple and encourage investment here at home.” Hmmm. See, on the surface, we agree with being simple and encouraging investment at home, but the proposition of a simple tax code from a Republican-identifying candidate often results in tax breaks for the wealthy (and since McMullin worked at Goldman Sachs, it seems pretty easy to predict where his loyalties would lie.) So I agree with some of the spirit of that sentence, but I disagree with what I believe to be the sentiment behind it. And then, this: “Government regulations should be reduced to foster a dynamic economy.” Ugh. Another Republican who blames regulations for murdering growth.  It’s just not true. It doesn’t happen. Regulations create jobs.

So I was looking at McMullin’s economic plan—what little there is of it—at the same time that the internet was reacting to Donald Trump’s economic speech. And barring some of his signature bombastic rhetoric on trade—somehow, China is going to rain down money on the US because Trump is good at deals, I guess—Trump’s economic plan is the same trickle-down baloney that Mitt Romney served. It’s basically the same as John McCain’s plan, which was the same as George W. Bush’s plan.

What Trump is demanding is the usual conservative boilerplate: tax cuts for the rich and deregulation for the powerful. He’s calling for a moratorium on financial regulations and a repeal of the estate tax, which would of course directly benefit all Trump’s children. And in case you worry about those conservative threats that the so-called “death tax” will mean your children won’t receive their inheritance after you pass away, Bloomberg makes it very clear that currently the estate tax “applies only to estates larger than $5.45 million for individuals and $10.9 million for couples.”  So we’re not talking about modest one-bedroom homes being seized by Uncle Sam, here.

The most remarkable thing about Trump’s economic plan, to me, is how conventional it is: promises of cutting taxes for small business sound like Mitt Romney’s small business plan, which actually benefitted large corporations at the expense of small business. Promises to help the middle and working classes grow are supposedly spurred by tax cuts for the rich and deregulation for big business. For a candidate as aggressively un-mainstream as Trump, this is a boring, mainstream Republican plan—the same philosophy that guided George W. Bush until his bad policies exploded the economy in 2008. I’m willing to bet that when we hear more specifics from McMullin’s economic plan, in fact, we’ll learn that he and Trump are pushing roughly the exact same policy. Some independent candidate he turned out to be.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.