For those who have tracked Republican politics over the past few years, the Trump administration’s proposal to slice the corporate tax rate without worrying about deficits seems like an anathema. President Trump himself repeatedly criticized his predecessor on the campaign trail for allowing the national debt to balloon, but here he is arguing that adding to that debt is of secondary concern to reducing taxes owed by big business. (To be fair, Trump also repeatedly talked about cutting corporate taxes as a candidate, often repeating the incorrect charge that American businesses faced the highest taxes in the world.)
But recent polling bolsters the idea that the move is politically safe for Trump — assuming that he continues to be largely concerned with appeasing his base as opposed to expanding it outward.
1. Concern about the deficit has declined over the past few years.
Every month, Gallup asks Americans to identify their most important political issue. In January 2013, the second-most commonly cited concern was the deficit or the debt, in the wake of the Capitol Hill showdown over the “fiscal cliff.” At that time, 30 percent of Republicans considered it the most pressing issue, outpacing the 12 percent of Democrats who said the same.
As President Barack Obama’s second term wound on, though, the issue faded in importance. In the most recent Gallup survey taken this month, only 3 percent of respondents said it was the most pressing political issue. In recent months, the number has been consistently in that range.
2. Republicans are more, not less, likely to support increased deficits if it means cutting taxes.
Last month, Quinnipiac University asked Americans how they felt about the prospect of across-the-board tax cuts — a broader category of reductions than what Trump appears to be about to propose, but the results were still suggestive.
A plurality of Americans opposed such cuts, even if the effects didn’t increase the federal deficit. But nearly half of Republicans backed such cuts even if the deficit increased. Overall, three-quarters of Republicans backed cuts depending on how the deficit was affected, a far larger percentage then independents or Democrats who said the same.
3. Trump voters are far more supportive of corporate cuts than other voters — and foresee far more positive effects.
Shortly before Trump took office, Politico and the Harvard School of Public Health surveyed voters to gauge their interest in possible Trump focal points. Included among them was the question about tax cuts for corporations.
While only about a fifth of respondents backed reducing corporate tax rates, Trump voters — perhaps primed by Trump’s candidacy — were nearly twice as supportive, with 39 percent of that group saying they backed the idea. Trump voters were also more likely to back cuts for upper- and middle-income Americans but, interestingly, were less likely to back cuts for poorer Americans.
That same poll offered another clue as to why Trump fans might back corporate tax cuts: They were far more likely to foresee positive effects from doing so. More than 6 in 10 Trump voters figured that slashing corporate tax rates would result in a spike in jobs and economic growth, about twice the public on the whole. Only 5 percent of Trump backers figured that cutting corporate rates wouldn’t help create jobs or expand the economy; five times as much of the general population held that negative view.
The summary makes the point clearly. Trump voters back corporate tax cuts, assuming that there will be economic growth to offset any increase in the deficit. That’s the argument that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin offered last week. Sure, non-Trump supporters and non-Republicans might balk — but if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the course of the past few months, it’s that such concerns don’t offer much pause to Trump.