Saturday, April 29, 2017

Trump Tax Plan Is Giveaway To Fat Cats

President Trump recently revealed a summary of his preferred tax plan. It is something that is as many people said, unserious. Of course that description depends on your perspective. The plan was something that many Republicans would support. Among other things the tax plan would radically cut taxes on businesses and the well off, eliminate some funding for ObamaCare, end federal deductions for state and local taxes, and eliminate the estate tax. If you earn a lot of money or have a lot of wealth then there's a lot for you to like in this plan. Some representatives from states with high tax burdens don't like this plan because they don't want their constituents to lose the ability to deduct their local taxes. People who earn in the high six, or better yet, seven or eight figures, would make out pretty well if this plan were to be adopted as is. People opposed to the plan have spent and will spend a great deal of time going over the tax cut plan summary (and perhaps details once those are released),and pointing all the various ways in which the average taxpayer will get hosed, to use a verb that is safe for work. 

Detractors will say that this proves that all the people who voted for Trump are dummies. They will alternate between mocking the stupidity of the Trump voter and wondering how long it will take before that moron sees the light, if ever. They will enjoy this. And so on.
That's all good as far as it goes. As Jonathan Haidt has pointed out people on the progressive side of the spectrum tend to value the moral concerns centered around "care" and " fairness" very highly, even occasionally to the exclusion of all else.

And Trump's plan does batter those classic liberal concerns quite a bit. If you work for someone else and/or make less than say $300K a year Trump's tax plan doesn't really serve your interests. But conservatives simply do not rate caring and fairness as highly as liberals do or rather to put it a different way, conservatives have different ideas about the meaning of care and fairness than liberals.


So in order for opponents to turn some of Trump's voters against him, detractors won't be able to just yell about caring for people and fairness. Too many conservative voters simply assume that when they hear language like that the speaker is trying to put a hand in their wallet. They tune out. No. To fight the Trump tax plan effectively it might be wise for progressives to learn how to speak logically and effectively on some of the moral concerns that are at least as important to conservatives as care and fairness. In this case loyalty/honor is a moral axis on which Trump could be vulnerable. Liberals should point out that Trump did not run for or win election to the Presidency by claiming that he was going to be like all the other Republicans who thought that tax cuts for the wealthiest were the most important policy goal for any President to accomplish.

Like many wannabe tough guys Trump is super sensitive to the charge that he's not a tough guy. Liberals should say that Trump didn't have the guts to stand up to the fat cats in Washington. Trump ran on the idea that the other Republicans and obviously all the Democrats had all been bought and paid for by plutocratic special interests. Trump ran on the idea that he and he alone had the stones to stand up to these monied special interests and bring good paying jobs back to Middle America. 


However, this tax plan is exactly what those monied special interests would want. Liberals need to point this out. Liberals not only need to make the argument that this plan is bad for the working class but also that it's a betrayal of the people Trump claimed as his own. Trump is stabbing his voters in the back. Point out over and over again that Trump lied. Few people attended Trump rallies to express their raucous support for ending the estate tax or allowing the super wealthy to structure their profits as pass through income to be taxed at a 15% marginal rate. Liberals need to keep on message that Trump is breaking faith with the people who put him in office. When a well heeled right-wing economist is salivating about the opportunity to use Trump's tax cuts as a lever to raise the Social Security eligibility age, liberals should make that part of their attack on Trump. Trump's voters are generally not in favor of alterations to Social Security to help the rich get richer. Point out that Trump isn't who he said he was. He said he was with you but he's really with them. This approach could be effective if any Democrats knew how to speak in this style or if the previous head of the Democratic party wasn't eagerly cashing in favors owed from some of the very groups who stand to benefit from the Trump tax plan. Still, less talk about care and fairness and more talk about loyalty and betrayal would be useful. Even if Trump's tax plan sails through Congress his opponents still need to take the time to learn how to talk to people with whom they disagree and use language that resonates with them.

Despite Trump's impressive electoral victory, the actual voter margins in key states (Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin) were small. A few people who change their minds over the next four years could make a big difference in 2020.
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