Trump’s tax team: Plutocratic incompetents or incompetent plutocrats?

     President Donald Trump shakes hands with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the Treasury Department in Washington, Friday, April 21, 2017, where the president signed an executive order to review tax regulations set last year by his predecessor. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

    President Donald Trump shakes hands with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the Treasury Department in Washington, Friday, April 21, 2017, where the president signed an executive order to review tax regulations set last year by his predecessor. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

    The Trump tax reform plan — actually, a one-page sketch of an outline of a plan — is just what you’d expect to get from a guy whose first 100 days have been just what you’d expect to get from a guy like him. Lucky us.

    Once again, Trump intends to sell out his suckered voters. Remember how middle-class and working-class people cast ballots for him because they were fed up with special interests and Wall Street, and assumed that Trump would be beholden to nobody? The joke is on them. According to his wish list, released Wednesday, he and his Goldman Sachs advisers want to heavily tilt their tax cuts to the corporations, to the highest income earners, and to the biggest holders of inheritable wealth.

    The plan, incoherent as much of it is, would pour massive red ink on the federal ledger and deepen the deficit — the nonpartisan Center for a Responsible Federal Budget says the plan would cost up to $7 trillion over the next decade, while potentially “harming economic growth instead of boosting it” — and, thanks to Trump’s plutocratic priorities, it would further widen the gap that separates the rich from the rest of us. Trump voters, 92 percent of whom still rate him favorably, would be well advised to wake up.

    Trump’s true agenda should come as no surprise. Way back in September 2015, when we were just beginning to take him seriously, I wrote that “for all his populist I’m-for-the-little-guy bombast, in truth he aspires to be just another trickle-down Republican who would coddle the rich and deepen the deficit.” I wrote that “Trump isn’t new, he’s deja vu.” And so he is. Everything he proposed in September ’15 – including a huge cut in corporate taxes and nixing the federal inheritance tax (which could allow his own kids to reap a windfall) – is stuff he’s saying now.

    Here’s something else he said in September ’15: “I think we’re going to have something that’s going to be spectacular.” Spectacular for whom? The answer was just as obvious then as it is now. Fortunately for Trump, his voters remained oblivious.

    And the same GOP hypocrises that were evident then are evident now. Most Republicans didn’t bat an eye 19 months ago when Trump sketched a tax plan that would drive America far deeper into debt; nor are they crying foul today (although Paul Ryan may well be gnashing his teeth in private). Remember how the Republicans were all upset about the debt and the deficit when President Obama was in office – because, after all, they always tout themselves as the responsible fiscal stewards? How come they’re not freaking out now?

    Well, that’s an easy one. They only get upset about such things when a Democrat is in the White House.

    Ronald Reagan seriously deepened the deficit, and that was fine. George W. Bush took a balanced budget and blew it wide open — courtesy of his tax cuts tilted toward the rich, and an Iraq war that wasn’t paid for — and that was fine with Republicans, too. Because as long as their upper-bracket constituency is being served, they’re happy to punt the issue of how it all gets funded. It’s only when the lower brackets are being served, via things like Medicaid and health reform, that Republicans complain about government costs.

    But I’ve been holding back on the good news: Trump’s tax reform plan is so sketchy — it’s like something scrawled on the back of a napkin — and his outreach to Congress is so poor, that its prospects for passage are shaky at best. This whole episode is a veritable metaphor for the hapless incompetence that has marked the last 100 days.

    Trump declared a week ago that a tax plan was coming on Wednesday — he wanted to put something, anything, on the scoreboard, even a mere aspiration, as the 100th day drew near — and his own Treasury aides were caught flat-footed. So they cobbled together a wish list that indulges all of Trump’s plutocratic dreams. As a result, not even conservatives who are inclined to support such a plan are enthused about doing so.

    Virtually everyone, aside from your average credulous Trumpkin, has caught on to the Don’s perpetual con. Check out these remarks from Alan Cole, an economist at the conservative Tax Foundation:

    “We’re just in theatrics mode. (Trump aides) still think of, ‘How does stuff play on cable news?’ They’ve built a culture that’s not ideologically predisposed to listening to someone who cares about little details … It feels like we’re kind of in a perpetual campaign, and as a result, there’s no policy.”

    Basically, Trump’s plutocratic impulses are curbed by his rank incompetence — and his ignorance of how government works.

    To enact tax reform, he needs to clear 60 votes in the Senate, but that would require the votes of eight Democrats. Good luck with that. Actually, there’s a loophole that would allow him to clear the Senate with 50 votes, but only if his plan is “revenue neutral,” meaning that it won’t hike the deficit after the first 10 years. Problem is, Trump’s plan is virtually guaranteed to do that. The Congressional Budget Office would need to “score” the plan; problem is, it’s so devoid of required details that the CBO has nothing to work with.

    Trump had 19 months to come up with something substantive, but what he handed in was the equivalent of “the dog ate my homework.”

    Oh the poor guy. It’s no fun drowning in two feet of water. Yesterday he told Reuters, “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

    My first reaction, upon reading that: Wow, a bluster-free moment suffused with self-awareness!

    My second reaction: So quit.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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