In Donald Trump’s eyes, he is a tax policy virtuoso.
“I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do and income than I do,” he said this weekend.
But what Trump says about his tax proposal, which he released in February, and what it actually proposes are two different things in some cases. His proposal promised tax relief for middle-class Americans, for instance, and proposed tax cuts for the very highest income households (people like him).
On Sunday, however, during an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’ “This Week,” Trump implied that taxes on the wealthy will go up.
“They will go up a little bit. And they may go up, you know,” he began.
Stephanopoulos interjected, “But they're going down in your plan.”
“No, no, in my plan they're going down, but by the time it's negotiated, they'll go up,” Trump concluded.
Trump attempted to clarify his thinking on CNN this morning, saying he was referring to adjustments in his proposal, not the existing tax code.
“Now, if I increase it on the wealthy, they're still going to pay less than they pay now.” Trump said. "I'm not talking about increasing from this point. I'm talking about increasing from my tax proposal."
As for whether his plan will actually do what he says it will, co-director William Gale of the Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institution affirmed that Trump’s plan includes a tax cut for middle-class families.
But he says that the middle class could actually end up paying more.
“The plan has to be paid for,” Gale, a former senior economist for the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush, told ABC News. “Because the plan is so regressive, any reasonable way of paying for it will burden the middle class. My guess is that after the tax cut plus financing, the middle class will end up worse off.”
Trump’s proposal also says that no business “of any size” will pay more than 15 percent of its income in taxes. But on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Trump implied that number could change.
“We're the highest taxed nation in the world. Our businesses pay more taxes than any businesses in the world. That's why companies are leaving.
“So they may have to pay a little bit more than my proposal,” he said, adding that they would still get a tax cut.
Gale said Trump’s proposed tax cuts for the wealthy mean higher-income Americans will benefit even more than they did under President George W. Bush’s tax cuts. “It would bankrupt the Treasury,” he said.
Economist Michael Madowitz of the Center for American Progress added this assessment: "Trump’s tax plan is a caricature of trickle-down economics. It’s about creating lots of room for increasing the national debt, and giving huge tax cuts to big corporations and wealthy households—even though the evidence shows that such tax cuts do very little for the economy as a whole.”
"In short,” he added “it's devoid of solutions for the working- and middle-class Americans that Trump purports to represent."
Perhaps all this is moot. As Trump told Stephanopoulos in regard to getting the plan through Congress, “By the time it gets negotiated, it's going to a different plan.”
And added a tweeted caveat:
I am lowering taxes far more than any other candidate. Any negotiated increase by Congress to my proposal would still be lower than current!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2016