by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Donald Trump gave a speech on his economic agenda to the Economic Club of Detroit. It was heavy on anti-trade invective and high-fructose promises, but there were parts that deserve encouragement and support, too.
The best of Trump’s economic agenda has little or nothing to do with taxes, trade, or spending, but with energy production. Citing the Obama administration’s so-called clean-energy policies and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s promise to continue President Obama’s merciless war on coal producers and consumers, Trump vowed to seek regulatory reform that would “unleash an energy revolution.” Some of the promised benefits of that revolution are wildly optimistic — Trump spoke of adding 500,000 new jobs annually from energy-industry reforms, which seems unlikely — but in fact “revolution” would not be too strong a word for the likely results of unshackling U.S. energy producers. Trump is correct that the energy industry is not a standalone factor in the U.S. economy, but is a critical buttress of the manufacturing, chemical, agricultural, and heavy-industrial sectors, too. …
… On taxes, Trump offers an incoherent program, a dog’s breakfast of proposals obviously engineered with an eye to nickel-and-diming his way to victory. For example, his proposal to create a 100 percent deduction against taxes (rather than taxable income) for money spent on child care will be welcome news to Manhattan families with expensive nannies and to baby-sitters from coast to coast, but it is a terrible policy that will prove very expensive and will provide an economic incentive for outsourcing parenting duties rather than having them done by parents. His proposed simplification and reduction of the federal income-tax brackets is welcome, but it would be much better if that proposal were accompanied by a serious plan for reducing spending proportionately. It isn’t, and his reliance upon the mantra of “waste, fraud, and abuse” — the habitual incantation of the cowardly Washington careerists Trump sneers at — points to a deep and dangerous unseriousness about reducing deficits.