Monday, December 5, 2016

Last week I wondered... a post what kind of president Donald Trump would end up being.

I figured that the Donald (yeah, I still call him that) would, above all else, want to be considered "successful" and that "successful" for him would be defined as having high approval numbers. And how would he get there? By doing popular things, of course. What popular things? Well, cutting taxes is an easy one. (Everyone loves getting something for nothing; we'll worry about those pesky budget deficits another time.)

In his New York Times column on Saturday, Ross Douthat had an interesting take on Trump along these same lines.

(His piece, by the way, redeemed somewhat one of his weakest columns ever last Wednesday, and the one before that which dealt in extreme Catholic Church esoterica. Welcome back, Mr. Douthat!)

Douthat asks the question which I -- and I'm sure many others -- have been asking ever since Trump's astounding upset almost a month ago: What happens when his voters realize they've been had, i. e., when Trump doesn't "bring back" their jobs?

Paul Krugman, for his part, suggests Trump will find a distraction (all emphasis mine):

And if and when the reality that workers are losing ground starts to sink in, I worry that the Trumpists will do what authoritarian governments often do to change the subject away from poor performance: go find an enemy.

And that's a distinct possibility.

But Douthat has a different and more prosaic answer:

It is possible for policy makers to raise take-home pay directly even without big boosts in the underlying wages. Cutting payroll taxes would do it. The earned-income tax credit does it. Middle-class tax cuts do it. Child tax credits do it. A wage subsidy would do it. The list of possibilities is long.

Several of those possibilities are immediately available to Trump, if he wants to reach for them. His daughter’s child-care subsidy could be reconfigured to deliver more to the working class; it could be combined with the larger earned-income tax credit envisioned by Paul Ryan or the wage subsidy that Marco Rubio is championing, and both could be folded into a tax reform that makes good on Trump’s Treasury nominee’s recent promise to prioritize middle-class tax cuts over tax cuts for the rich.

None of this would solve the long-term dilemma of slow wage growth. But it would make it immediately easier, often to the tune of thousands of dollars a year, for Americans who aren’t employed by companies amenable to Trumpian jawboning to pay bills, raise children, take vacations, and pursue the American Dream.

And I think this is the most likely scenario for a Trump administration. For one thing, it would follow any Republican's playbook: First, do no harm cut taxes. Everything else is negotiable.

You watch: Trump won't bring back white working class jobs, won't build a wall along the Mexican border, won't deport eleven million undocumented immigrants, won't tear up NAFTA or the nuclear treaty with Iran, won't embark on a trillion dollar infrastructure plan, won't eliminate ISIS, won't -- thankfully -- repeal the Affordable Care Act or privatize Medicare, or a whole slew of other things that he promised to do on the campaign trail. In fact, I'll bet Trump's only real accomplishment (if you can call it that) is to lower everyone's taxes. Sure, it will result in larger budget deficits*, but who cares? Let the next (Democratic) president worry about that.

* Here's something you won't hear from the Republican Congress in the next four years: lower taxes = lower revenue.

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