This morning, President Donald Trump admitted that the “globalist” Koch brothers “love” his economic agenda of “Tax & Regulation Cuts.” But, as useful an admission as that is, the two tweets he issued about Charles and David Koch actually go considerably further than that in revealing the depths of the scam Trump has perpetrated on his voters.
This is particularly true when you look at Trump’s tweets in light of his administration’s new effort to unilaterally cut taxes on capital gains.
In his Twitter broadside, Trump claimed: “The globalist Koch Brothers, who have become a total joke in real Republican circles, are against Strong Borders and Powerful Trade. I never sought their support because I don’t need their money or bad ideas. They love my Tax & Regulation Cuts, Judicial picks & more. I made them richer. . . . They want to protect their companies outside the U.S. from being taxed, I’m for America First & the American Worker – a puppet for no one.”
The campaign story Trump told about self-enriching globalist elites was that they have employed permissive immigration and misguided or corrupt trade policies to subject U.S. workers to debilitating labor competition from border-crossing migrants and slave-wage workers in China. Trump supplemented this economic nationalism with vows to make wealthy investors pay more, secure huge job-creating infrastructure expenditures and protect social insurance – thus promising a broad, dramatic ideological break with the GOP.
All that’s left of this vision, of course, is Trump’s draconian immigration crackdown, which is spreading terror and misery in immigrant communities, and Trump’s trade war, which is threatening to upend complex global supply chains and is badly rattling our international alliances. On everything else, Trump threw in with traditional GOP plutocratic priorities: He has done all he can to gut consumer, financial and environmental regulations; his tax plan lavished huge, regressive benefits on the wealthy; his infrastructure plan vanished; and his vow to replace Obamacare with better coverage “for everybody” morphed into a failed effort to cut health insurance for millions (to facilitate tax cuts for the wealthy).
Now Trump is mulling yet another plan to cut taxes by $100 billion mainly on the rich: His administration is exploring whether he can unilaterally cut capital gains taxes. Under this plan, the Treasury Department could supposedly allow (though this would be fought in court) Americans to calculate their capital gains by adjusting their original price to inflation, reducing the amount of gains subject to taxation. Studies have shown this would slash revenues by $100 billion over ten years (potentially reducing public expenditures later) and that the vast majority of its benefits would go to the top 1 percent and the top 0.1 percent.
Proponents of the plan say it will spur economic growth. But as Jonathan Chait says for New York magazine, we should look at this new plan as only the latest in a decades-long push by Republicans to reduce the tax burden on the wealthy in every way possible, based on rationales that have proven bogus at every turn. The Trump/GOP tax cuts were supposed to unleash wage-swelling investment, but they have just produced a wave of stock buybacks and windfalls for wealthy executives even as wages remain flat.
In this context, Trump’s claim that the Koch brothers love his tax cuts is usefully revealing. It is true that they will profit bigly from his tax cuts, perhaps to the tune of more than $1 billion per year, just as other extremely rich Americans will. Perhaps Trump meant that the Kochs love his tax cuts on ideological grounds, because they will make everybody richer, but again, that has not happened.
Yet Trump continues to spin his agenda as the bane of wealthy elites, by virtue of the Koch brothers’ dislike of his immigration and trade policies. It’s true that the Kochs, as libertarians, are more tolerant towards immigration than many Republicans are, and it’s true that they dislike his tariffs, as many Republicans do.
But why is Trump sticking with the trade war? One interpretation is that he wants to honor at least one of his economic promises, having sold out all the others: The tariffs are the only surviving piece of his agenda of economic nationalism. That may be, but there is another way to understand this: Trump is sticking to it because it is a key feature of his agenda of xenophobic nationalism, which is, at bottom, the only nationalism he really cares about.
Some U.S. workers do have legitimate grievances about trade, of course. But Trump’s trade war isn’t going to address those grievances. He is railing about conduct by other countries that they aren’t even engaged in. And as Jeff Spross details for The Week, he has no discernible endgame; to the degree that Trump does have a list of demands, those are half baked and won’t meaningfully lift the fortunes of the “forgotten men and women.” Indeed, the trade war could impact Trump counties most severely. This lack of a serious economic rationale makes more sense if you accept that Trump is wedded to an agenda of xenophobic, not economic, nationalism. It’s no accident that the only surviving elements of his nationalism are the immigration and trade crackdowns: Both further his largely fabricated grand narrative that U.S. workers’ struggles are the fault of undocumented immigrants from “shithole countries,” snooty Euro-weenie elites, and the Chinese menace.
The idea that this constitutes taking on the Koch brothers in valiant defense of U.S. workers is just nonsense. Indeed, it reveals more contempt for them, particularly in light of his latest push to cut capital gains taxes. But it is true that Trump is making the Koch brothers and other members of the globalist elite a lot richer, though.
This article provided by NewsEdge.