Team Trump wants even more corporate tax breaks in a second term

Trump doesn't have much of a policy agenda or campaign platform, but he's apparently committed to pursuing even more tax breaks for big corporations.
Twenty Dollar Bills Are Printed At The Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Treasury Secretary's Timothy Geithner's signature can be seen on a new twenty dollar bill, at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on July 22, 2011 in Washington, DC.Mark Wilson / Getty Images

In the closing days of 2019, the New York Times took a closer look at the effects of the Republican tax breaks approved two years prior. The analysis found that the GOP plan delivered a "windfall for the world's largest corporations," which ended up with tax bills "even smaller than what was anticipated when the president signed the bill."

Two months later, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney appeared at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) said it's not enough. Politico reported:

A top administration official said today that President Donald Trump wants to cut the corporate tax rate again, to 20 percent from the current 21 percent. [...] "He never liked the fact the corporate tax is 21 percent -- he always wanted it to be 20," said Mulvaney. "'Mick, 20 is a better number than 21,'" he said, doing an impression of the president.

As we discussed several months ago, the president doesn't have much of a policy agenda, per se, and in those rare instances in which Trump looks ahead to 2021 and beyond, he tends to keep things vague. There have been reports, for example, about massive and unpopular budgets cuts Trump might pursue if re-elected, and the president occasionally promises to someday come up with a "great" health care plan, but in general, the electorate has very little idea what the Republican would do with four more years.

Mulvaney's comments, however, shed some light on Trump's 2020 platform: he wants more corporate tax breaks.

It's not much of a pitch. For one thing, the original round of corporate tax breaks -- the ones that created conditions in which big businesses ended up with tax bills "even smaller than what was anticipated when the president signed the bill" -- completely failed to deliver on its promised results.

For another, corporations clearly don't need a lower rate since so many of them aren't even paying taxes at the current rate. Late last year, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released the results of a detailed study that found of the Fortune 500 companies, about 400 paid an average tax rate of about 11% -- roughly half of the current rate of 21% -- thanks to a series of loopholes and giveaways Republicans made no effort to address.

As regular readers may recall, plenty of corporate giants didn't pay any federal taxes last year at all.

But even putting all of that aside, if Mulvaney sees this as a winning electoral message, he and his boss are likely to be disappointed. There was no public appetite for massive corporate tax breaks when Trump signed them into law in 2017 -- polls showed Americans actually wanted the opposite -- and there's no evidence of public support for even more corporate tax breaks now.