Budgets Health Care and Trump's Betrayal

Budgets, Health Care and Trump's Great Betrayal

With attention returning to budgets and the US economy, NDN has assembled some of our work on these matters over the past few months.  We hope you find these analyses helpful.  

'Meaness at the core:' Obama jumps back into the political fray to slam Trump, GOP on health care, David Nakamura, June 22nd, 2017, The Washington Post.

Trump's Tax Plan is Aimed at the 2018 and 2020 Elections, Not U.S. Competitiveness, Rob Shapiro, NDN.org, 4/26/17. Trump's claims that damage from higher deficits will be minor compared to the benefits for US competitiveness, economic efficiency, and tax fairness are nonsense, and the real agenda here is the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Release: Still no 2017 budget from GOP, or proposal from White House, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 4/26/17. While the President’s revenue outline today is a late but welcome development, it cannot be given serious consideration outside the eventual full budget proposal that is usually submitted to Congress in February.

Trump puts foreign investors first by supporting the Republican tax plan, Rob Shapiro, The Hill, 3/28/17. Rob weighs in on the very real problems of the House GOP's proposed border adjustment tax.  

Trump's Great Betrayal, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 3/23/17. President Trump is pursuing policies deeply at odds w/his pledge to help every day Americans. It should become known as "The Great Betrayal."

Column: 5 Ways Trump Could Stop Obama's Expansion, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 3/23/17. There just isn't a lot of justification for the market's optimism that Trump's economic policies - Maralagonomics - will keep the Obama expansion going.

Memo: In A New Global Age, Democrats Have Been Far Better for the US Economy, Deficits, and Incomes, Chris Murphy and Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 2/21/17. In a new memo NDN finds that over the past generation of American politics Democrats have been far better for the economy, deficits and incomes. 

Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 2/21/17. If history is a guide, Trump's efforts to institutionalize xenophobia and ramp up immigration enforcement could disrupt businesses, hurt the US economy and tear apart families. The blowback could be significant and cause lasting damage to his Presidency.

If you would like to read more of Rob's other recent work, be sure to review our backgrounder "Rob Shapiro on the Economy."

With attention returning to budgets and the US economy, we've put together some of our recent work on these important matters.  

Trump’s Tax Plan Is Aimed At the 2018 and 2020 Elections, Not U.S. Competitiveness

President Trump wants to cut the tax rate for all American businesses to 15 percent, and damn the deficit. If you believe him, any damage from higher deficits will be minor compared to the benefits for US competitiveness, economic efficiency, and tax fairness. The truth is, those claims are nonsense; and the real agenda here is the 2018 and 2020 elections. Without substantial new stimulus, the GOP will likely face voters in 2018 with a very weak economy – and tax cuts, especially for business, are the only form of stimulus most Republicans will tolerate. Moreover, if everything falls into place, just right, deep tax cuts for businesses could spur enough additional capital spending to help Trump survive the 2020 election.

Let’s review the economic case for major tax relief for American companies. It’s undeniable that the current corporate tax is inefficient – but does it actually make U.S. businesses less competitive? The truth is, there’s no evidence of any such effects. In fact, the post-tax returns on business investments are higher in the United States than in any advanced country except Australia, and the productivity of businesses is also higher here than in any advanced country except Norway and Luxembourg.

The critics are right that the 35 percent marginal tax rate on corporate profits is higher than in most countries. But as the data on comparative post-tax returns suggest, that marginal tax rate has less impact on investment and jobs than the “effective tax rate,” which is the actual percentage of net profits that businesses pay. On that score, the GAO reports that U.S. businesses pay an average effective tax rate of just 14 percent, which tells us that U.S. businesses get to use special provisions that protect 60 percent of their profits from tax (14 percent = 40 percent of 35 percent).

Tax experts are certainly correct that a corporate tax plan that closed special provisions and used the additional revenues to lower the 35 percent tax rate would make the overall economy a little more efficient. But lowering the rate alone while leaving most of those provisions in place would have almost no impact on the economy’s efficiency – and the political point of Trump’s plan depends on not paying to lower the tax rate.

Finally, would a 15 percent tax rate on hundreds of billions of dollars in business profits help most Americans, as the White House insists, since 52 percent of us own stock in U.S. corporations directly or through mutual funds? The data show that most shareholders would gain very little, because with 91 percent of all U.S. stock held by the top 10 percent, most shareholders own very little stock.

Moreover, the proposed 15 percent tax rate would cover not only public corporations but also all privately-held businesses whose profits are currently taxed at the personal tax rate of their owners. So, Trump’s plan would slash taxes not only for public corporations from Goldman Sachs to McDonald’s, but also for every partnership of doctors or lawyers, every hedge fund and private equity fund, and every huge family business from Koch Industries and Bechtel, to the Trump Organization.

There is no doubt that the President’s tax plan would provide enormous windfalls for the richest people in the country. Beyond that, it may or may not sustain growth through the next two elections, since even the best conservative economists commonly overstate the benefits of cutting tax rates. But the truth is, there aren’t many other options that a Republican Congress would accept.

This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog.

 

Release: Still no 2017 budget from GOP, or 2018 proposal from the White House

“As the White House releases an outline for the revenue side of its budget today, it is important to remember that the governing party has still not yet completed a budget that was due on October 1st, 2016, nor has it proposed one that is due on October 1st, 2017. Even by Washington standards this struggle by the GOP to manage the most elemental part of our running our government is deeply worrisome.

While the President’s revenue outline today is a late but welcome development, it cannot be given serious consideration outside the eventual full budget proposal that is usually submitted to Congress in February. Budgets are about making hard choices among competing priorities, and reconciling revenue and spending proposals. No grading on a curve here for our inexperienced President – the President’s first budget is extraordinarily late, and from what we’ve seen so far not terribly serious or thought through. If our President wants to regain some of the ground he has lost in his wobbly first 100 days, he would be wise to focus on getting the budget from 2016 that is already seven months late completed, and his first budget, already months late, released for consideration by Congress.”

-Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN

 

Donald Trump and Paul Ryan's Plan to Put Foreign Investors First

The “Border Adjustment Tax” (BAT) endorsed recently by President Trump is his administration’s first foray into international economics. It is an inauspicious start.

BAT advocates like House Speaker Paul Ryan promise it will cut the trade deficit by making U.S. exports cheaper abroad and foreign imports more expensive here. The truth is, a BAT won’t much affect U.S. exports or imports, and it certainly won’t create jobs. It would produce a large stream of new federal revenues, and it could trigger retaliatory tariffs on some U.S. exports. A BAT also would enrich a great many foreign investors and companies, and leave a lot of American investors and large companies poorer. All told, it’s the kind of “bad deal” that Mr. Trump once railed against.

Mr. Trump and Speaker Ryan never mentioned a BAT until recently, and the reason they like it now is that it’s a cash cow to pay for their sharp cuts in corporate taxes. The Trump-Ryan BAT would give U.S. producers a 20 percent rebate on the wholesale price of any goods or services they export – 20 percent, because that’s the GOP’s preferred corporate tax rate – and impose a 20 percent tax on foreign goods and services imported here from abroad. It would raise trillions of dollars, because we import about $500 billion more per-year than we export.

For conservatives at least, all those revenues should be a red flag. In a populist period, a subsequent President and Congress may well decide to raise corporate taxes — and when they do, the BAT’s fat revenue stream could well go to fund progressive causes.

Mr. Trump still has no Council of Economic Advisers, so maybe he believes that a BAT will spur U.S. exports and create jobs. Even Peter Navarro should to be able to tell him why that won’t happen. At first, a BAT would strengthen demand for U.S. exports and weaken demand for foreign imports here. But those shifts in demand would quickly strengthen the dollar and weaken foreign currencies, perhaps enough to offset the BAT’s initial impact on import and export prices. In theory, the currency movements triggered by the changes in prices brought about by the BAT should restore pre-BAT prices for both imports and exports, so the only change would be a lot of new revenues from taxing net imports.

In practice, the BAT’s impact on the dollar and U.S. trade is a roll of the dice. As Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen noted recently, no one knows how closely the currency changes will mirror the BAT’s direct effects on prices. If they overshoot, U.S. consumers will pay more for imports; if they undershoot, U.S. export prices won’t fall much. On top of that, no one knows how much of the BAT tax U.S. importers will pass along to American consumers, and how much of the BAT rebates U.S. exporters will pass along to their foreign customers. Finally, painful retaliation might follow, since China and others won’t take kindly to paying a 20 percent tariff on their exports to the United States, and China’s competitors won’t like the BAT’s substantial devaluation in the yuan-dollar exchange rate.

One effect is certain: The BAT will harm U.S. investors and reward foreign investors as the currency changes reduce the dollar value of U.S.-owned assets abroad and increase the foreign-currency value of foreign-owned assets here. The Bureau of Economic Analysis tells us that in the second quarter of 2016, Americans held foreign stocks, corporate and government bonds, and derivatives worth $12.9 trillion; and foreign-owned financial assets in the United States totaled $20.3 trillion.

If we assume the Trump-Ryan BAT leads to a 20 percent increase in the value of the dollar and a corresponding 20 percent decline in the trade-weighted value of foreign currencies, it would reduce the value of U.S.-held financial investments abroad by nearly $2.5 trillion and increase the value of foreign-owned financial investments here by more than $4 trillion. What kind of deal is that, Mr. President?

The trillion-dollar losers will include U.S. investors in European or Asian mutual funds; U.S. companies with profitable foreign subsidiaries, from Microsoft and Facebook to Coca Cola and Pfizer; and U.S. banks that lend to foreign companies. The trillion-dollar winners will include foreign investors with U.S. mutual funds; foreign companies with major American subsidiaries, from Toyota and Anheuser Busch to Unilever and Phillips; and foreign banks who lend to U.S. companies.

Perhaps the best motto for the Trump-Ryan BAT is “Put Foreign Investors First."

This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog and was a featured op-ed in The Hill.

Trump's Great Betrayal

A new statement from NDN’s Simon Rosenberg:

“Candidate Donald Trump promised every day Americans his Administration would fight for them. Two months into his Presidency it is clear he has no intention of following through on his promise. These early months of the Trump Presidency could become known as “The Great Betrayal.”

Fair? Let’s take three simple examples:

Health Care – Candidate Trump promised health reform that would cover everybody, lower costs and not cut programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The House GOP health care bill he has endorsed and promoted would dramatically increase the number of uninsured (25m, 7% of US population); would increase costs for everybody, particularly for older people; and would savagely cut Medicaid. His plan would make tens of millions of those people he pledged to fight for sicker and poorer, while giving hundreds of billions of new tax cuts to wealthy people like those he hangs out each weekend at Mar-a-Lago.

Few proposals in American history could do as much harm to working people as the health care plan championed by Donald Trump these past few weeks. It is literally the opposite of what he promised he would do.

His Budget – The partial budget document Trump released last week would make massive cuts in education and job training, transportation and infrastructure, simple environmental protections and many other programs critical for working people to live good and decent lives. Whether working people would get a tax break for all of this is unclear as he hasn’t released a complete budget. But if his budget follows the strategy of his health care plan expect the benefits to flow to those already wealthy with little left for those struggling to get by.

His Staff – Despite his campaign rhetoric, the Trump Administration led by the wealthiest collection of Americans to every lead an American Administration in the modern era of American politics, and perhaps ever. It is full of Wall Streeters, including 5 former executives of Goldman Sachs. Working class champions are as hard to find in the early Trump Administration as those immigration documents of Melania’s he promised back in August.

Based on what he has done in his first months in the White House, it is now clear that Donald Trump lied to the American people about his intentions as President. Rather than championing the working man, Donald Trump has backed proposals that would transfer hundreds of billions of dollars from every day Americans to those already wealthy and well off. It is an astonishing and historic betrayal of the people he promised to serve, leaving tens of millions sicker and poorer and even more with reduced life opportunities. Donald Trump hasn’t shown respect to those he pledged to fight for, he has shown them hostility and contempt. He is far more venal Robber Baron than virtuous populist, far more Calvin Coolidge than Andrew Jackson, far more an oligarch than a man of the people.

I am positing for others to debate that no President in American history as veered as far from the core promises and message of his campaign as Trump has in his first few months. It is Trumpian in its scale, something that I hope becomes known as “The Great Betrayal.”

Column: 5 Ways Trump Could Stop Obama's Expansion

In his new US News column,“5 Ways Trump Could Stop Obama's Expansion,” Simon warns that Trump’s economic policies are more likely than not to derail the long Obama expansion.

According to Simon, there are 5 steps Trump is taking that are likely to weaken growth and hasten a recession:

• Labor market disruptions
• Loss of tourism
• Making America sicker and poorer
• The weakening of the global trade system
• A reckless budget

An excerpt from "5 Ways Trump Could Stop Obama's Expansion" –

"If the president's plans provide huge tax benefits to those already well off – as Bush's did – and create massive deficits, the net result will harm the U.S. economy and the nation's fiscal integrity. The hugely regressive nature of the Trump-Ryan health care bill is a sign of where the GOP is going, and it should worry everyone concerned about a strong, healthy American economy.

So, growth or recession? If the president just kept current economic policies in place, the U.S. would probably be headed for a few more years of growth, possibly even strong growth. But the president isn't keeping those policies in place, and I worry that what he is trying to do will in aggregate threaten our economy more than help it grow.

Our president has made a good living catering to wealthy Americans and foreigners. While that strategy may have worked as a private business, the American people and their economy can prosper only if the tide is lifting all boats, not just those docked at Mar-a-Lago. And that just isn't where America is headed now. So count me as worried about our economic prospects, and the ability of Trump to sustain a long and durable expansion left for him by his predecessor."

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

For more of NDN's work on the Democrats and Republicans' stewardship of the US economy, please review our memo, "In A New Global Age, Democrats Have Been Far Better for the US Economy, Deficits, and Incomes."

Memo: In A New Global Age, Democrats Have Been Far Better for the US Economy, Deficits, and Incomes (Updated)

Overview – With the debate in Washington soon to turn to budget and economic matters, we have updated and are releasing a memo we first produced in 2016. This short memo looks at the economic performance of the two American political parties when in the White House since the end of the Cold War.

We use 1989 as a starting point for comparison because when it comes to the American and global economies, the collapse of Communism and the non-aligned movement ushered in a new, truly global economic era, one very different from the one that came before. It is thus fair to see how the two parties have adapted to the enormous changes this new era has offered, and whether their policies have helped America prosper or struggle as we and the world changed.

As you will see from the following analysis, the contrast between the performance of the Democrats and Republicans in this new economic era is stark: 2 GOP Presidencies brought recessions, job loss, higher annual deficits, and struggle for workers; the 2 Democratic Presidencies brought recovery and growth, job and income gains, and lower annual deficits.

Based on these findings it is fair to assert that over the past generation the Democratic Party has been far more effective at crafting effective responses to a new economic era than the Republican Party. This case is bolstered, of course, when recalling the GOP’s spirited predictions of economic calamity when opposing both the 1993 Clinton economic plan and budget and the 2009/2010 Obama stimulus and “job-killing” Affordable Care Act. The Republicans have gotten it wrong now in four consecutive Presidencies.

While it will not be the subject of this short memo, our findings raise questions about whether the characterizations of the US economy as one not producing income and wage gains either over 40 years or over the past 15 years are accurate. It would appear that a more accurate description of the US economy in recent years is that with smart policies, Americans can prosper even in a more challenging and competitive global age.

We hope that commentators and policy makers keep the findings of this memo in mind as the Republicans roll out their budget and economic plans in the coming weeks. The Party’s track record on economic matters in this new age of globalization is not something that should inspire confidence in voters looking for plans that create jobs, raise wages and lower the annual deficit. It has been the other Party that has done that.

Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce

US News and World Report has published Simon's fourteenth column, "Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will now appear every Tuesday.

This piece was the focus of a recent interview Simon did with KJZZ 91.5, the public radio station in Phoneix, AZ.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "Has Donald Trump Already Abandoned the Fight Against the Islamic State?"

An Excerpt from "Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce"

As the White House returns this week to immigration and travel bans, it would be wise for them to do a deep dive on the story of former Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce. Pearce was the legislative leader of Arizona's virulent anti-immigrant wave of a few years ago, culminating in his passing of the famous "papers please" SB1070 bill that became a model for states across the country. Pearce rode these politics hard, using it to become in 2011 the Arizona Senate president, the most powerful legislative position in Arizona.

The core of Pearce's strategy, aided by many of the same people advising Donald Trump, was to create a climate so harsh for undocumented immigrants that they would "self-deport." The anti-immigrant "restrictionists" behind this approach had moved on from seeking direct deportation of all 11 million undocumented immigrants, pragmatically realizing that the cost of direct deportation and the tolerance of Americans for what would be years of raids and broken families made deportation politically impossible. Arizona was the testing ground for this new, refined self-deportation strategy, one that at its core required the terrorizing of immigrant communities to be successful. The more fear, the faster the folks would go and the cheaper and more politically palatable this would all be. Fear, lots of fear, was (and remains) critical for self-deportation to work.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

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