People come [to Trump campaign events] with tremendous passion and love for their country. … When they see what’s going on in this country, they have anger that’s unbelievable. They have anger. They love this country. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals. They don’t like seeing higher taxes. They don’t like seeing a loss of their jobs. … And I see it. There’s some anger. There’s also great love for the country. It’s a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all.
— Donald Trump, during last night’s debate
Back last fall when Ben Carson was surging and according to the polls had overtaken Trump in Iowa, the Koch brothers’ main super PAC saw an opening to end the Trump phenomenon once and for all: It announced plans to buy, I think it was, $1 million in ad time on Iowa and New Hampshire airwaves.
Trump, up to that point, had been campaigning as sort of a fiscal progressive, suggesting (among other things) that he supports a more progressive tax code and maybe even universal healthcare insurance. Uh-oh; he definitely had to be stopped by a Koch brothers’ super PAC ad campaign.
Unless, of course, he adopted Koch brothers fiscal-policy positions and continued his climate-change-is-a-hoax thing. The latter would be easy, of course, but the former required the hire of a mainstream-wingy Republican fiscal-policy consultant who could, and did, chose a mainstream-wingy Republican fiscal-policy candidate’s already published trickle-straight-down-to-the-sewer-system fiscal policy platform and just double the tax cuts for the wealthy. Take that, Jeb!
It worked. At least to my knowledge, the ad buy never materialized. Carson collapsed in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, Trump’s campaign regained steam—and never looked back. Until two weeks ago or so, anyway, when comments he made about not wanting people to die in the street for lack of access to medical care raised questions about whether he – he – he supports Obamacare and its Medicaid expansion.
Not to worry. That mainstream-wingy Republican fiscal-policy consultant was still under contract with the Trump campaign and could quickly rattle off the points on the Movement Conservative list of heathcare-insurance-reform clichés for Trump to post on his campaign’s website as his healthcare-reform proposal. There was increasing healthcare savings accounts. There was allowing insurance companies to sell policies nationally.
And of course there was the end-Medicaid-by-giving-the-money-to-the-states-to-use-for-anything-they-wished-even-maybe-Medicaid-which-of-course-Republican-controlled-states-won’t-use-it-for proposal.
And you, Tea Partiers, were starting to worry that Trump doesn’t really want to kill Obamacare and Medicaid! Fear no longer. It’s safe to vote for him. Whew.
That was a relief, of course, for Establishment wingers, too. But, dang. It’s not enough. Some of them are pretty worried that although that fiscal policy proposal is still there on his website, Trump never actually talks about it. Instead he’s always just playing to the white blue-collar folks who’ve been financially devastated by the free-trade treaties. And by other policies that have had the effect of favoring the well-off, to the detriment of, well, these Trump supporters. And this guy Bernie Sanders keeps detailing the statistics about wealth and income distribution over the last thirty-five years. He won’t shut up about it.
Big problem. Especially since this week it became time for Trump to try to unite the Republican establishment behind him. Not easy for someone who’s one positive contribution to the political climate is to expose Republican establishment financial-elite proxies as not really so in sync with the Republican blue-collar base after all.
The answer? Ah. Higher taxes! The perfect fiscal dog whistle to the Koch folks and their ilk.
So … the people who come to Trump rallies? They have anger. They love this country. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals. And they don’t like seeing higher taxes on the wealthy. Because, see, the angry people who come to Trump rallies and who don’t like seeing bad trade deals are wealthy. Just ask them.
Interesting, isn’t it, that now that Trump has all but wrapped up the nomination and wants the party establishment’s support, his first olive branch is assuring them that he really does support massive tax cuts for the wealthy?
UPDATE: An exchange between reader Warren and me today in the Comments thread:
March 12, 2016 2:43 pm
I missed the part where Trump said “for the wealthy”.
Or are you saying that only the wealthy pay taxes, so it is implied?
March 12, 2016 7:06 pm
You missed the part where Trump said “for the wealthy”, Warren? Guess you didn’t read Trump’s tax proposals or any of the articles summarizing them. You should.
The link is to an Oct. 2 blog post by Paul Krugman. Trump had released his tax plan earlier that day.
March 12, 2016 8:53 pm
So is it “a single sentence in his in last night’s debate” or isn’t it?
Did he say “for the wealthy” in that sentence, or didn’t he?
March 12, 2016 10:39 pm
I said the KEY to defeating Trump in the general election is in a single sentence of his in Thursday’s debate. In a debate performance in which he was saying he wanted to unite the party, he dog-whistled the Kochs, the other donors, and the rest of the Republican establishment that, as president, he would attend to their needs: big tax cuts for the wealthy.
Angry Americans don’t want big tax cuts for the wealthy. But the Republican donors and the rest of the Republican establishment do, and the only one they’re angry with right now is Trump. He announced to them on Thursday that he wants to change that.
The key to defeating him in the general election is to simply point that out. Trump’s tax plan says what it says. It’s just that the only ones who know what it says, other than Paul Krugman and a few other journalists and progressive economists, are the people it was targeted to: the Republican establishment, to keep them at bay.
He was reminding the Republican establishment of his tax plan.
Added 3/12 at 7:44 pm and 10:50 p.m.