As a welcome change from name-calling and fact-challenged attacks, Donald Trump gave an actual policy speech Monday.
Unfortunately, his big economic plan was mostly a mix of tired Republican favorites – getting rid of regulations and repealing Obamacare – and his own faulty ideas, such as tearing up groundbreaking climate change agreements and a protectionist policy that could easily start a trade war.
In his speech to the Detroit Economic Club, he promised that his economic plan would boost the middle class and blue-collar workers in battleground states that will likely decide the next president.
But the gigantic tax cuts he wants would mostly benefit the 1 percent like him. If he’d release his tax returns like every other recent presidential candidate, we’d see just how big a windfall he’d get.
Trump ditched an earlier plan that called for a top federal income tax rate of 25 percent, down from 39.6 percent now, and embraced the House GOP proposal to go from seven tax brackets to three: 12 percent, 25 percent and 33 percent.
One of his worst and most misleading ideas is to do away with the “death tax.” It only applies to estates of more than $5.45 million for individuals and $10.9 million for married couples. So repealing it would be like hitting the lottery for the wealthiest families like his.
Even a proposal that sounds friendly to working families – allowing parents to fully deduct the average cost of child care from their taxable income – could be worth far more to the wealthy, although he offered no details for the child care deduction.
He still wants to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, though most corporations pay far less thanks to loopholes and creative accounting, while some make astronomical profits.
It’s not at all clear how Trump would pay for all this generosity without exploding federal deficits or making painful spending cuts. He remains much better at complaining about problems (the loss of manufacturing jobs, stubborn unemployment and poverty) than offering real solutions.
Democrat Hillary Clinton plans an economic speech of her own Thursday, also in Detroit, but she didn’t wait to respond. At a rally in Florida, she warned that Trump is repackaging “trickle-down economics.”
With income inequality rising and the middle class struggling, that’s the last thing we need.