IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

What Trump doesn't understand about the politics of taxes

The American mainstream doesn't want tax breaks for corporations or the wealthy. Trump and Republicans are pushing tax breaks for corporations or the wealthy.
Image: US President Donald J. Trump meets with members of the House Ways and Means Committee
epa06228292 US President Donald J. Trump (C) meets with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R), Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member...

Donald Trump put on his political-strategist hat this morning and offered Democrats some advice. "Democrats don't want massive tax cuts - how does that win elections?" the president tweeted.

For now, let's put aside the oddity of thinking Donald Trump wants to help Democrats "win elections" -- as if the nation's top GOP official is sincerely interested in the opposing party's electoral well-being -- and focus instead on the president's confusion about public attitudes.

Consider, for example, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal  poll, which included an interesting question: "In order to fund the government and work to make certain the economy is healthy, would you increase, decrease, or keep taxes about the same as they are now for each of the following?"

The wealthyIncrease taxes: 62%Decrease taxes: 12%

CorporationsIncrease taxes: 55%Decrease taxes: 16%

The same poll found that 42% of Americans -- a pretty significant chunk of the electorate -- doesn't want Congress to cut taxes at all.

Earlier this week, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll was released, and it found similar results: 65% of respondents said corporations should pay more in taxes. The report added, "Given what the public knows about it, [Americans] oppose Trump's tax plan by 44-28 percent."

In other words, the American mainstream doesn't want tax breaks for corporations or the wealthy. Trump and congressional Republicans are pushing tax breaks for corporations or the wealthy. To borrow a phrase, "How does that win elections?"

In Indianapolis yesterday, the president tried selling his plan by lying about it. "Our framework includes our explicit commitment that tax reform will protect low-income and middle-income households, not the wealthy and well-connected," Trump said, reading from his trusted teleprompter. "They can call me all they want. It's not going to help. I'm doing the right thing, and it's not good for me. Believe me."

Actually, no, don't believe him. The Washington Post, among others, published a piece setting the record straight.

There are certain components that will obviously benefit the Trump family (at least two of whom work directly for Trump). Repealing the estate tax, for example, would save the Trump estate half a billion dollars by Bloomberg's estimate — money that would then go to his heirs.What's more, as Wonkblog reports, Trump's vague articulation that he's protecting the non-rich but not the rich is not borne out by the details. "The wealthy get a tax cut," our Heather Long writes. "They will pay only 35 percent on their income taxes (down from 39.6 percent). At the moment, this rate applies to any income above about $418,000." If you make $500,000, in other words, you'll save about $25,000 a year in taxes. What's more, business gets a significant cut, which obviously benefits Trump through the Trump Organization (which still puts money in his pocket).

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published a related report yesterday on the GOP's incomplete tax plan, and found that it "specifies large tax cuts aimed at profitable corporations and wealthy households while offering only vague promises for lower- and middle-income working families."

There's a lot about the Republican plan we don't know, but we know it does the opposite of what most Americans want. If Trump sees that as a political winner, he's mistaken.