The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Morning Plum: Donald Trump wants to tax the rich. Will Republican voters agree with him?

Placeholder while article actions load

The chatter continues this morning about Donald Trump’s call for raising taxes on the rich. Justin Green, the political editor of IJ Review, tweets:

It might frighten the donor class, but the bulk of conservative voters aren’t especially worried about protecting low taxes for rich people.

Is that correct? I dug up a few polls and found that majorities of Republican and conservative voters oppose raising taxes on the rich.

A Gallup poll this spring found that while a majority of Americans overall favors redistributing wealth with higher taxes on the rich, only 29 percent of Republicans agree, while 70 percent disagrees. Among conservatives it’s 32-66. A Pew poll in 2014 found that while a majority of Americans favors raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations to expand programs for the poor, only 29 percent of Republicans agree, while 59 percent of Republicans favor lowering taxes on the wealthy to encourage investment and growth.

Of course, these polls don’t measure precisely what Trump is calling for. And it’s here, I think, that Trump’s comments about this have real value. Here’s what Trump said:

“I would take carried interest out, and I would let people making hundreds of millions of dollars-a-year pay some tax, because right now they are paying very little tax and I think it’s outrageous,” Trump said. “I want to lower taxes for the middle class.”…
“The middle class is getting clobbered in this country. You know the middle class built this country, not the hedge fund guys, but I know people in hedge funds that pay almost nothing and it’s ridiculous, okay?” 

Taken all together, what this means (I think) is that Trump would raise taxes on investment income precisely because that would pay for middle class tax relief; that lower tax rates on investments are fundamentally unfair; and that hiking taxes on investments would not dampen economic growth. That seems very much like a broad rejection of trickle down dogma. (The necessary caveats: We don’t know whether Trump’s overall approach would raise or lower the tax burden on the rich; we don’t know whether Trump believes any of this; and he could suddenly reverse course on it at any moment.)

Follow Greg Sargent's opinionsFollow

Trump does seem to have broken with GOP dogma here, and to my knowledge, none of his Republican rivals have responded directly to it. But Marco Rubio is justifying his call for eliminating taxes on capital gains and dividends by arguing that investment creates jobs for people like his bartender father. It’s an interesting contrast.

One of the odd paradoxes of Trump’s rise has been that even as he is little more than an entertainer, his willingness to say what other Republicans won’t has forced out into the open genuine policy debates among Republicans that had previously been shrouded in vagueness or imprisoned within party orthodoxy. His call for mass deportations has unmasked GOP evasions over what to do about the 11 million, forcing something close to a real debate on that question. His vow not to cut Social Security benefits has led some to ask whether GOP voters might actually disagree with party dogma on the need to cut them.

If Republicans respond to Trump’s (apparent) apostasy on taxes, the debate would be useful, not to mention fascinating, and could shed more light on whether Republican voters really agree with GOP orthodoxy on “protecting low taxes for rich people,” as Green puts it, in the name of job creation.


 * BATTLE OVER IRAN DEAL MAY BE OVER: Eli Lake and Josh Rogin report that opponents have all but given up on overriding a veto of a resolution disapproving of the Iran deal. The fight is now over whether Dems will succeed in filibustering the resolution, avoiding a veto-override fight. Note:

According to one whip count from a prominent Republican Senate office, there are now only 12 truly undecided votes among the Senate Democrats.

If true, that means 34 Dem-aligned Senators are now backing the deal or leaning towards it. If backers can get seven of the remaining 12, that’s 41 — meaning no veto necessary.

* ANOTHER DEM BACKS IRAN DEAL: Senator Tom Carper of Delaware comes out for it. That brings the total of declared supporters to 30. Four more and the veto is sustained.

* CLINTON QUIETLY DISCOURAGING BIDEN RUN? The Associated Press has an interesting look at the ways the Hillary campaign may be quietly trying to dissuade Biden from entering the race. The campaign is reportedly expressing disappointment to donors who seem open to a Biden bid, and is unleashing well-timed demonstrations of Clinton’s depth of organizing in early states, to show that Biden can’t catch up.

Of course, it would be surprising if the Clinton camp weren’t doing this; and it also happens to be true that Biden probably would not be able to catch up with her campaign’s organizing.

* DEM INSIDERS DOUBT BIDEN WILL TAKE PLUNGE: Politico surveys Democratic activists and other inside-game types in Iowa and New Hampshire and finds eight in 10 of them don’t think Biden will run:

They say it’s too late in the game for Biden to mount a serious bid unless Clinton implodes — a prospect that most saw as unlikely — after months of scrutiny of her email practices while she was secretary of state, an issue that has triggered the attention of the FBI.

Dem insiders seem to think Clinton will probably weather email-gate, though there will be plenty of public hand-wringing along the way.

* WALKER TO VOW UNLIMITED  FOREIGN POLICY STRENGTH AND TOUGHNESS: Scott Walker today will deliver a speech in which he’ll lay out his vision for combating radical terrorism:

According to excerpts released by his campaign, Walker will accuse President Barack Obama of wide-ranging weakness on the world stage, from his proposed nuclear deal with Iran to his handling of relations with China and Russia. “As president, I will send the following message: the retreat is over,” Walker says.

No word yet on whether Walker will cite his crushing of municipal employees in Wisconsin and his heroic confrontation with a heckler as templates for his handling of the terrorists.

* WHAT DO EXPERTS THINK OF THE HILLARY EMAIL ‘SCANDAL’? David Ignatius takes the preposterous step of talking to actual experts about Clinton’s handling of her emails, and finds:

First, experts say, there’s no legal difference whether Clinton and her aides passed sensitive information using her private server or the official “” account that many now argue should have been used. Neither system is authorized for transmitting classified information. Second, prosecution of such violations is extremely rare. Lax security procedures are taken seriously, but they’re generally seen as administrative matters.

Ignatius’ conclusion: “Are these channels misused sometimes? Most definitely. Is there a crime here? Almost certainly not.”

* AND GOP CANDIDATES DEMAGOGUE ON CHINA: Paul Krugman looks at how the GOP presidential candidates are using the market slide to accuse Obama of being soft on China, and notes that this is emblematic of the GOP’s general approach to economics, particularly the wrong-headed obsession with cutting spending amid crisis:

“Obama is endangering America by borrowing from China” is a perfect political line, playing into deficit fetishism, xenophobia and the perennial claim that Democrats don’t stand up for America! America! America! It’s also complete nonsense, but that doesn’t seem to matter…The point is that one side of the political aisle has been utterly determined to learn nothing from the economic experiences of recent years.

The key point Krugman makes is that it isn’t just Trump. The more “responsible” GOP candidates are getting in on the China-demagoguing fun, too.