Image by Jem Sullivan
An old saying holds that falsehoods come in three escalating levels: “Lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Now, however, we’ve been given an even-higher level of intentional deception: Policy speeches by Donald Trump.
Take his highly publicized address outlining specific economic policies he would push to benefit hard-hit working families. It’s an almost-hilarious compilation of Trumpian fabrications, including his bold, statesmanlike discourse on the rank unfairness of the estate tax.
“No family will have to pay the death tax,” he solemnly pledged, adopting the rightwing pejorative for a tax assessed on certain properties of the dearly departed. Next came his slick prevarication: “American workers have paid taxes their whole lives, and they should not be taxed again at death.”
Workers? The tax exempts the first $5.4 million of any deceased person’s estate, meaning 99.8 percent of Americans pay absolutely nothing. Trump is trying to deceive real workers into thinking he’s standing for them, when in fact it’s his own wealth he’s protecting.
What a maverick! What a shake-’em-up outsider! What an anti-establishment fighter for working stiffs!
Oh, and don’t forget this: What a phony!
Sure, The Donald sounds like a populist on the stump, bellowing that the system has been jerry-rigged by and for the corporate and political elites, which is killing the middle class. Well, he’s right about that, but what’s he going to do? Don’t worry, he says smugly, I’ll fix it, I’ll make the system honest again. Trust me!
Groucho Marx said, “There’s one way to find out if a man is honest: Ask him. If he says, ‘Yes,’ you know he is a crook.” Or, in the case of this phony populist, just look at the specific policies he laid out as his fixes for our economy, trumpeting the package as his blueprint for the “economic renewal” of America’s working class.
Trump’s idea of “working class” turns out to be millionaires and billionaires, because that’s who would get the bulk of benefits from his agenda. He would reward the very corporate chieftains he denounces in his blustery speeches for knocking down middle-income families and grabbing all of the new wealth our economy is creating.
Trump’s proposed tax cuts, for example, don’t benefit low-wage workers at all and provide only a pittance to the middle class, but corporations would get a huuuuuuuge windfall with a more-than-50-percent cut in their rate. His tax giveaway will remove $240 billion a year from our public treasury—money desperately needed for expanding educational opportunities and restoring our nation’s dilapidated infrastructure.
In his policy speech, Trump also offered a new tax break to help hard-working people reduce their cost of childcare “by allowing parents to fully deduct [such] spending from their taxes.” He even gave this push a personal touch, saying his daughter Ivanka urged him to provide a helping hand to working parents because “she feels so strongly about this.”
Before you tear up over this show of dad and daughter working-class empathy, however, note that 70 percent of American households don’t make enough to warrant itemizing tax deductions. The big majority of Americans that are most in need of child care help get nothing from Trump’s melodramatic gesture. Once again, his generosity is for his own elite class, for the tax benefits would flow uphill to wealthy families like his who can purchase the platinum packages of care for their children.
What we have here is the same old failed, establishmentarian, economic elitist hokum that Republicans have been peddling for decades, only bigger and more extreme. Rhetoric aside, Trump’s plan replaces Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down theory with his own arrogant, anti-worker scheme of tinkle-down economics.
As an early nineteenth-century labor leader noted, “Figures don’t lie, but liars do figure.” That fits The Donald perfectly.
Jim Hightower produces The Hightower Lowdown newsletter and is the author, with Susan DeMarco, of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow.