It appears Donald Trump wants Bernie Sanders supporters to buy into the patently false notion that Trump is a populist candidate and their next best option. But Mr. Trump’s disingenuous rhetoric doesn’t pass the sniff test.
During a teleprompter-aided speech on Wednesday, a pandering Trump made a direct appeal to Sanders’ supporters, saying that he would “fix a rigged system” that allows insiders to “keep themselves in power and in the money.”
The truth is that Trump’s proposals are quite the opposite of Sanders’. One clear illustration of Trump’s enrich-the-wealthy agenda is his tax plan, which hugely favors the top 1 percent. Sanders, of course, proposes big tax increases on the rich.
Trump would slash taxes by $12 trillion over ten years, while Sanders’ health care tax plan (which forms the bulk of his tax plan) would increase taxes by $13 trillion over 10 years. This means that Sanders and Trump have more than a $25 trillion disagreement on how much the federal government should collect in taxes over the next decade.
Trump and Sanders also have very different ideas on how taxes should be distributed and what they should be used to pay for. For his part, Sanders would focus his tax increases on the very wealthiest Americans. He would use that new revenue to enact a single-payer health care system that would mostly benefit low- and middle-income Americans. Overall, Sanders’ health care and tax plan would increase after-tax income for the middle 20 percent of Americans by an average of $3,240 a year, while cutting after-tax income for the top one percent of Americans by an average of $159,980 annually.
In utter contrast, Trump’s tax cut plan would increase income inequality by distributing trillions in tax cuts to the wealthy. In fact, the top 1 percent of Americans would receive 37 percent of the benefits from Trump’s $12 trillion tax cut. Making matters worse for those who are not among the wealthiest Americans, a tax cut of such dramatic size would inevitably require enormous cuts to spending programs and/or substantial tax increases to pay for its cost. When Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) produced a distributional analysis of his tax plan plus a probable scenario of spending cuts and tax increases to pay for the plan, it found that the middle 20 percent of Americans would see a net loss of $2,076 on average annually under the Trump plan, while the wealthiest 1 percent would see a net benefit of $161,740. In other words, Trump’s tax plan would represent an unprecedented shift of income to the wealthy, while taking away substantial income and public services from the overwhelming majority of Americans.
It may sound good for Trump to claim that “together we can fix a rigged system.” Polls show a vast majority of Americans thing the deck is stacked against ordinary hardworking Americans. But no one should mistake Trump — who by the way won’t release his tax returns, which can reveal quite a bit about whether he has exploited our rigged system — for an economic populist. His rhetoric doesn’t match up with his explicit policy proposals. Instead, his tax policies would ensure that those who have the most wealth and power would get an even larger share of the income pie than they do now.