Friday, June 22 , 2018, 7:04 am | Overcast 59º


Veronique de Rugy: The Trump Riddle Wrapped Up in an Enigma

The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, businessman Donald Trump, has been called a lot of things by the media and his adversaries. When it comes to his policy positions, however, it’s difficult to put a political label on him.

For instance, though he holds some pretty standard free market positions on taxes, he’s far from being a purist on the issue.

On one hand, he would cut the top marginal individual rate to 25 percent and reduce the number of brackets to three to encourage productive behavior. However, his plan fails to remove most double taxation of income saved and invested and fails to eliminate many deductions for special interest groups.

He would also remove a large number of taxpayers from the tax rolls, exacerbating the illusion that government services are free.

On the corporate tax side, he would cut the rate to 15 percent because he understands that having the current high tax gives an incentive to businesses to move abroad, but then he would fail to end the punishing and inefficient practice of taxing revenue abroad.

On budget issues, he’s no libertarian, either. In June, he said he would impose a one-time 14 percent tax on the wealthy to pay down national debt.

His math doesn’t work — and the impact on the economy would be pretty negative — but at least it shows that he is aware of our gigantic debt. Still, as far as I can tell, his only budget reduction plan is to push some functions, such as education and environmental protection, back to the states and cut some waste.

There’s nothing wrong with that, except that it wouldn’t do much to address our growing $19 trillion debt.

Unlike most free market advocates, Trump is adamant that he wouldn’t touch such drivers of our future debt as Social Security and Medicare.

He has said, “Social Security isn’t an ’entitlement’; it’s honoring a deal.” Never mind that the Supreme Court ruled in 1960 that there is no deal and Congress can change the law — and hence the benefits — at any time.

As for the program’s solvency problem, Trump thinks he could address that by getting rid of the “tremendous” waste that plagues the system. No way.

Borrowing the rhetoric of the left, Trump also wants to give health care to everyone and have the government pay for it because he doesn’t want people dying in the street. His actual health care plan confirms that he isn’t very familiar with health care policies and that he is highly tolerant of government intervention.

On trade, Trump also breaks with the imperfect but traditional Republican support for free trade to embrace fair trade (a very leftist concept). For instance, he has talked about imposing a 45 percent tariff on imports from China and a 35 percent tax on cars made in Mexico.

Unfortunately, he ignores that protectionism is costly to American consumers while doing nothing to address some of the real unfair trading practices around the world.

His leftist leanings don’t make him a liberal, either. He’s anti-illegal immigration. He thinks that many people who are here illegally are involved in serious criminal activities, which explains his desire to deport them. He is anti-birthright citizenship and wants to temporarily ban Muslims from entering America.

He is also anti-minimum wage, as he thinks it destroys the economy. He is against gun control and rightly understands that most laws are ineffective at preventing gun violence. However, he also claims, without much evidence, that mass shootings point to “a huge mental problem.”

Finally, his foreign policy positions are also all over the place. He wants to deal with “the maniac in North Korea” with nukes. He doesn’t rule out using nuclear weapons against the Islamic State terrorists.

Interestingly, he calls NATO obsolete and rightly notes that European governments should stop relying so heavily on our military dollars. In October, he even said he would cut the defense budget.

The bottom line is that the businessman doesn’t communicate a set of fixed principles, and he openly departs from much of the Republican orthodoxy.

Needless to say, if he gets the nomination, it’ll be interesting to see the impact it has on a party with which only 26 percent of voters identify.

— Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a columnist for Reason magazine and the Washington Examiner, and blogs about ecomomics for National Review. Click here to contact her, and follow her on Twitter: @veroderugy. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >