03/13/2018

Trump Is More Like Recent Presidents Than Anyone Wants To Admit

Nick Gillespie, Reason

The flipside of Trump Derangement Syndrome, whose strongest form argues that the president is an "extinction-level threat" to democracy itself, is Trump Exceptionalism Syndrome, which holds that Trump is the greatest leader since Winston Churchill, the biblical kings David and Cyrus, or whomever.

Recent events reveal something more mundane: Trump is all too much like the other recent inhabitants of the White House. We are neither living through the End Times nor at the start of New Dawn. Instead of entering some sort of political Singularity, we're still stuck in the Regularity. Trump is not a transformative character. Once we accept that, we can support the good things he does (supporting school choice, cutting corporate tax rates and regulations) while criticizing the bad (waving away due process, throwing in with white supremacists, and deporting immigrants, among other things).

Trump's decisions to levy tariffs on steel and aluminum clearly fall into the bad category. They are idioticindefensibleeconomically counterproductive, and...not so different than similar policies levied by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Both of those guys pulled similar tricks on steel, after all. Bush did the same on Canadian timber, as Trump also did last year to much less fanfare than the current plan is getting. Hot and bothered that Trump isn't listening to his economic advisors? Back in 2009, Obama waved away concerns that slapping a 35 percent tariff on Chinese tires would hurt U.S. workers. His administration took credit for saving 1,200 domestic jobs, even though later analyses found that the tariffs cost domestic consumers an extra $1.1 billion and actually pink-slipped over 3,000 workers on net.

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Thanks to "bracket creep," the inflation of the 1970s pushed millions of taxpayers into higher tax brackets even though their inflation-adjusted incomes were not rising. To help offset this tax increase and also to improve incentives to work, save, and invest, President Reagan proposed sweeping tax rate reductions during the 1980s. What happened? Total tax revenues climbed by 99.4 percent during the 1980s, and the results are even more impressive when looking at what happened to personal income tax revenues. Once the economy received an unambiguous tax cut in January 1983, income tax revenues climbed dramatically, increasing by more than 54 percent by 1989 (28 percent after adjusting for inflation).

 

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