Hello, investors. Come join the foreign policy experts in daily panic attacks over what a President Donald Trump would mean for your world. What does one do about a candidate whose tax plan would send America into the fiscal abyss — who flaps lips about not making good on the national debt?
Should we be investing in the makers of Xanax and Klonopin? And on the personal side, are there enough benzodiazepines to go around?
We’re not talking just about the very rich. Anyone with a retirement account or a small portfolio has something to lose. The economic consensus is that a Trump presidency would sink all boats. And that certainly applies to Trump’s own economically struggling followers in the least seaworthy craft.
“Most Rust Belt working-class Americans don’t get it,” Bob Deitrick, CEO of Polaris Financial Partners in Westerville, Ohio, told me. “The working class thinks he’s going to stick it to the elites.”
The facts: The Trump tax plan would deliver an average tax cut of $1.3 million to those with annual incomes exceeding $3.7 million. The lowest-income households would get $128. (No missing zeros here.)
Folks in the middle would see federal taxes reduced by about $2,700, which sounds nice but would come out of their own hide. Medicare and other programs that benefit the middle class would have to be slashed. So would spending on science research, infrastructure and services essential to the U.S. economy.
Or we could skip the very deep spending cuts and see the national debt balloon by nearly 80 percent of gross domestic product, calculation courtesy of the Tax Policy Center.
Some might think that Trump’s tax plan — including the repeal of the federal tax on estates bigger than $5.43 million — would impress the income elite, but they would be wrong. In a recent poll of Fortune 500 executives, 58 percent of the respondents said they would support Hillary Clinton over Trump.
Most in this Republican-leaning group are undoubtedly asking themselves: What good is a fur-lined deck chair if the ship’s going down?
Then there are the others.
“Do middle-class Americans have any idea what could happen to the economy or the stock market if our president ever vaguely suggested defaulting on the national debt?” Deitrick asked. (His clients tend to be upper-middle-class investors.)
He recalls the summer of 2011, when a congressional game of chicken over raising the federal debt ceiling led to the possibility of a default. The Dow lost 2,400 points in a single week. And taxpayers were hit with $1.3 billion in higher borrowing costs that year alone.
Trump said on CNN that he is the “king of debt,” which in practice means he frequently doesn’t honor it. That’s why many major lenders shun him, talking of “Donald risk.”
Speaking of, Trump famously said in a Trump University interview, “I sort of hope (the real estate market crashes), because then people like me would go in and buy.”
But he also predicted that the real estate market would not tank — shortly before it did. Perhaps he never figured out there was a housing bubble. Or it was part of a clever scheme to peddle real estate courses with brochures asking, “How would you like to market-proof your financial future?”
Imagine a whole country taking on “Donald risk.”
The business community runs on stability. It can’t prosper under a showman who says crazy things and denies having said them moments later. A Trump presidency promises more chaos than a Marx Brothers movie — and you can believe it would be a lot less fun.
By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, June 7, 2016
In the weeks following Trump’s mathematical lock on the GOP nomination, the candidate and party establishment have attempted to come to a detente and make overtures toward tacking to center in the general election. We have seen high-profile politicians say that Trump’s political racism and bigotry is an act he put on to win the primary election that he will drop in the general. We have seen Trump himself attempt to use more generically populist pitches than the specifically nativist themes he has consistently used to win Republican support.
But the problem is that Trump’s personal history and personality are going to make it very difficult for him to move into a less offensive general election mode.
Even the most casual observer can see that Trump is a classic narcissist. Like most narcissists, Trump tends to do and say whatever is best for him even at the expense of everyone else. Most importantly, he is congenitally unable to apologize and take responsibility for past bad behavior, or even concede that a critic might have a valid point. His reaction to being criticized is to immediately engage in childish and petty personal attacks against his critics.
The problem with petty personal attacks is that they quickly tend to devolve into bigotry. So it is that when a judge with a Hispanic surname ruled against Trump in the ongoing scandal of his fraudulent ponzi scheme “university,” Trump’s reaction wasn’t to suggest that all the facts had yet to come out, or that the judge had misinterpreted the data, or even that the judge had a politically motivated agenda as a secret liberal. These are the sorts of defenses that people who aren’t egomaniacal narcissists might make.
But not Trump. Trump’s reaction was to slam the judge for the crime of being Hispanic.
Trump goes for the jugular every time to silence his critics by placing himself (in his mind) on a level above them and denying them the right to even dare to judge him, by virtue of some innate inferiority on their part. It’s classic kindergarten bully antics. And in adult political life, it’s almost impossible to engage in kindergarten bullying without repeatedly stepping across lines of racism, sexism, and bigotry. This isn’t just a problem for him as a candidate, of course: it’s a problem for the entire Republican Party, which is aghast
But then, the GOP did this to itself. You can only use dogwhistled racism and sexism to deprive the middle class of its living standards for so long until that middle class stops buying into the hidden rhetoric and the plutocrat-friendly ideology, and starts to want more overt policies designed to help members of their own tribal identity.
It just happens to be that Republican voters picked a narcissist bully who will be constitutionally unable to do what it takes to win a general election. He just can’t help himself.
By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 5, 2016
“Dramatizing The Truth About Trump”: Trump University Is A Devastating Metaphor For The Trump Campaign
When Donald Trump became the heavy favorite to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, news leaked out of Clinton world that the campaign against him would resemble the 2012 campaign Democrats ran against Mitt Romney. “The emerging approach to defining Trump is an updated iteration of the ‘Bain Strategy’—the Obama 2012 campaign’s devastating attacks on Mitt Romney’s dealings with investment firm Bain Capital,” Democratic operative and campaign aides told Politico. “This time, Democrats would highlight the impact of Trump’s four business bankruptcies—and his opposition to wage hikes at his casinos and residential properties—on the families of his workers.”
That idea was puzzling to some liberals because, for all the superficial similarities between Trump and Romney, they represent very different kinds of oligarchs: Trump, a tribune of the working class, versus Romney, a champion of capitalism and big business. Trump’s everyman-billionaire political identity, taken at face value, is much harder to weaponize than Romney’s was. The fear was that if Democrats set about reprising the 2012 campaign against a self-styled populist, it would fail or backfire. Trump, after all, acknowledges his personal avarice— “I‘ve been greedy, greedy, greedy.” His promise now is to turn that greed outward on behalf of us.
Fortunately, the steady pace of disclosures from the civil case against Trump University—including testimony from Trump employees who say his business-education program scammed the vulnerable out of tens of thousands of dollars a head—provides Democrats a way to repurpose the Romney strategy against a very different kind of foe. The Trump University scam undermines the very notion that a man of Trump’s greed can ever be trusted to advance the interests of others. If exploited properly, it will be Trump’s undoing.
The Democrats can capitalize on lessons they learned from 2012. Early in that campaign, they ran up against a problem they hadn’t planned for. When they pressed voters in focus groups for their views on Romney’s economic platform, it didn’t rate as negatively as they expected, because voters literally couldn’t believe the premise of the questions: Why would anyone who wanted to be president propose privatizing Medicare and giving rich people enormous tax cuts? For a scary number of voters, it just didn’t compute.
Trump University will dramatize the truth about Trump for those voters in the same way Bain Capital dramatized Romney’s stone-heartedness.
The sustained attack on Romney’s private equity career and his capital worship—the ads featuring people whose lives were ruined by the “creative destruction” Bain Capital rained down on their places of employment, and quoting Romney telling a voter, “Corporations are people, my friend”—allowed Democrats to dramatize the story they were trying to tell about Romney’s political agenda.
“[O]nce people have learned that Romney was willing to fire workers and terminate health and pension benefits while taking tens of millions out of companies,” a prominent Democratic pollster told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent four years ago, “they are much more ready to understand that Romney would indeed cut Social Security and Medicare to give tax breaks to rich people like himself.” If the Republican nominee is a heartless capitalist who cares naught for working people, then perhaps he really does want to serve the rich in office.
Trump University will serve the same purpose for a campaign aimed at exposing a phony populist for what he is:
Trump U is devastating because it’s metaphor for his whole campaign: promising hardworking Americans way to get ahead, but all based on lies
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) June 1, 2016
Fallon is the Hillary Clinton campaign’s secretary, so consider the source, obviously, but his argument holds up to the 2012 test case exquisitely.
Democrats won’t want to attack populism per se, and will have a hard time convincing certain voters to take them at their word that Trump’s promises are fraudulent. He’s incredibly successful, after all! But Trump University will dramatize the truth about Trump for those voters in the same way Bain Capital dramatized Romney’s stone-heartedness. Trump says that he—and only he—has all the answers for the ailing middle class. That he will ply his business acumen on behalf of the everyman and turn his good fortune into theirs. All they have to do to secure his beneficence is fork over their votes. But it’s all a scam. All lies. And when his victims and former employees testify to this for the country, it will be devastating.
By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, June 1, 2016
“Multigenerational Wealth Is Best Hidden”: What Doesn’t Donald Trump Want You To Know About His Wealth?
This is what Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns says about America. We are a nation that can’t think straight about wealth and class. And Trump knows better than to puncture our delusions.
The American psyche is hyper-attuned to the trinkets of the wealthy: the right car, the right brand of clothes, the right vacation spots. We flatter ourselves with our circumscribed access to these status goods — or perhaps we only dream of that access — but we fail to understand that they do not equate to real wealth.
The very rich are different from you and me. They have something we never will: the power of money. Their money is the kind that doesn’t go away with a divorce, an extended sickness, a dip in the markets or even the death of a high income earner. Theirs is the kind that owns politicians and the laws they make.
Real wealth, the multigenerational kind, is best hidden. And even though a tax return won’t reveal all there is to know, it will reveal enough.
Trump told the Associated Press this week that nothing would be released until the government is through with its audit of him. The next day, Wednesday, he hedged a smidgeon to Fox News, saying he’d like to release the returns before the election. Don’t bet on that happening.
For one thing, if we were able to see how Trump’s fortune is structured and how much tax he pays on it, we would also be able to compute his liability under his proposed changes to the tax code. In other words, we would be able to approximate how much Trump stands to earn for himself and his heirs by pulling the strings of power. Is it any surprise he won’t go there?
Let’s take a closer look at the tax plan that he unveiled last fall. Plenty of experts have already done so.
As part of his populist appeal, Trump envisions simplifying the tax code and dismissing about 73 million households from paying any tax at all (most of those are already not paying). Those families will be able to submit a form to the IRS that says, “I win.” Yes, that is really his plan.
The cuts would lower taxes for people all income levels. But the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan but right-leaning watchdog group, noted “the biggest winners — in raw dollars and on a percentage basis — would be those in the top 10 percent of filers, particularly those in the top 1 percent.”
The top marginal rate for individuals would drop from 39.6 percent to 25 percent. The corporate rate would drop from 35 percent to 15 percent. He would do away with the estate tax. That adds up a lot of lost revenue — about $10 trillion over a decade, according to the Tax Foundation
Trump claims that the tax cuts would be made up for by closing some loopholes for the wealthy and corporations. But the Tax Foundation crunched the numbers and has deemed this to be wishful thinking. Severe cuts to spending would be necessary to avoid crushing growth in the national debt.
Wishful thinking is Trump’s stock in trade. Indeed, some speculate that another reason why he does not want the public to see his tax return is that his boasted wealth is squishier than he’d like to admit. Trump is notorious for overstating his attributes, and when it comes to his wealth he is especially touchy.
He sued former New York Times reporter Timothy O’Brien over the latter’s book, “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald,” which questioned Trump’s net worth. The book also explored if Trump convinced his siblings to borrow on his behalf from their trust funds to save him from financial ruin in the early 1990s. Trump’s lawsuit against O’Brien was dismissed.
Still, Trump is clearly rich to an extent most Americans cannot imagine. Oddly — and sadly — many tout this as an alluring quality. He’s so rich he can’t be bought, they say. This attitude reveals a pathetic inability to understand plutocracy, and its growing threat to our democracy. Americans continue to be suckered into unrealistic beliefs about their ability to upgrade their social class. Meanwhile, the policies and programs that are necessary to promote middle-class security are toppling one after another.
Donald Trump is not going to share his wealth with you, dear voter, or help you get rich on your own. He can’t. What worked for Trump will not work for you. His trick was the oldest one in the book: Have a rich daddy. And keep it in the family.
By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, May 14, 2016
“The Working Class Isn’t All That White Anymore”: It’s Inaccurate To Talk About Trump’s “Working-Class Appeal”
From the point of view of the attention being paid to it in analysis of both parties’ presidential contests and the general election as well, you could possibly call 2016 the Year of the White Working Class. Self-styled populists of the left and the right are arguing that Democratic and Republican party elites are reaping the whirlwind from years of sacrificing white-working-class interests to upper-class economic and cultural preoccupations, as evidenced by the strength of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
There are good reasons for this preoccupation. Among Democrats there is a sort of moral obligation to ask why a category of voters once fundamental to the New Deal coalition has strayed so far. And the conflicting interests of the white-working-class and big-business branches of the GOP have been evident for a good while and have this year finally blown up into a shocking presidential nomination and a potentially deep party split.
But it’s important to remember, as Jamelle Bouie reminds us at Slate this week, that while the white working class is interesting, the working class as a whole is a lot less white than it used to be. And ignoring the views and interests of the black and brown elements of the working class is as big a mistake empirically and morally as ignoring non-college-educated voters generally. Marshaling data from the Economic Policy Institute, Bouie notes the trends that are steadily eroding the stereotypes of “blue-collage” wage earners as white folks:
As recently as 2013, more than 60 percent of working-class Americans between 25 and 54 years old were white. If you extend the age bracket to 64, that increases to nearly 63 percent. But in 2014, those numbers—for the first category—dropped to 59.6 percent. In 2015, it was 58.8 percent. This year, non-Hispanic whites are 58 percent of the working class, a historic low.
The idea of the “working class” being composed of the horny-handed sons of toil is a bit archaic as well:
[C]lose to half of all working-class people—across all races and ethnic groups—are women working in service jobs as well as traditional blue-collar professions.
So loose talk about Trump cutting deeply into the working-class vote misses much of the picture:
The truth is that it’s inaccurate to talk about Trump’s “working-class appeal.” What Trump has, instead, is a message tailored to a conservative portion of white workers. These voters aren’t the struggling whites of Appalachia or the old Rust Belt, in part because those workers don’t vote, and there’s no evidence Trump has turned them out. Instead, Trump is winning those whites with middle-class incomes. Given his strength in unionized areas like the Northeast, some are blue collar and culturally working class. But many others are not. Many others are what we would simply call Republicans.
I’d add that a myopic approach to the working class that limits it to white people sometimes infects analysis of Democratic primaries as well. Bernie Sanders gets a lot of props for his appeal to the white working class, and is sometimes viewed as Donald Trump’s primary competitor in this demographic. While Sanders has (by my back-of-the-envelope calculation) carried non-college-educated white voters in 14 of the 24 primaries and caucuses with exit polls (Hillary Clinton won them in six states, and they were basically tied in the other four), he’s lost non-white non-college-educated voters just about everywhere. That shouldn’t be a footnote. Nor should the frequent comments on the political left about Clinton betraying “the working class” and now suffering the electoral consequences go unchallenged without some attention being paid to her robust support among working folks who happened to be non-white or non-male.
By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 6, 2016