Why Republicans Stick With Trump

It’s all the things he hasn’t done. On key issues, the president has come around to conservative positions.

it’s instructive to examine what Mr. Trump hasn’t done. Since the campaign, Mr. Trump has abandoned many of his previous positions and embraced traditional conservative views.

Spending and taxes. During the election, Mr. Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Some Republicans feared his first initiative on taking office would be a pork-laden spending package reminiscent of Barack Obama’s stimulus bill. They also worried he would cut a deal with Democrats to raise taxes. “I am willing to pay more,” Mr. Trump said in May 2016. “And do you know what? The wealthy are willing to pay more.” Instead, the reverse happened: There’s no infrastructure plan in sight, except for the border wall, and Mr. Trump signed a sweeping bill to reduce personal and corporate taxes.

• Court nominees. In 2015 candidate Trump said his sister, a liberal federal judge, would be a “phenomenal” Supreme Court justice, though he claimed he had been joking. After Justice Antonin Scalia died, Mr. Trump decided to release a list of potential replacements. This was a central reason many conservatives voted for him. In appointing Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump made good on his promise. Since then, constitutionalists have cheered the quality and sheer quantity of his appointments to all levels of the judiciary.

• Abortion. In a successful effort to win the Iowa caucuses, Sen. Ted Cruz attacked Mr. Trump’s “New York values.” A Cruz TV ad showed Mr. Trump years earlier calling himself “pro-choice in every respect.” Yet President Trump has reinstated Reagan’s “Mexico City policy,” which prohibits federal funds from going to international groups that provide or promote abortions. Mr. Trump is also moving to require a hard division between abortion providers and clinics that take federal Title X funds, which would be a significant hit to Planned Parenthood.

• Israel. In February 2016, Mr. Trump claimed he would not take sides between Israel and the Palestinians, saying he would be “sort of a neutral guy.” Sen. Marco Rubio labeled this “an anti-Israel position.” Yet in December 2016, when the United Nations considered a resolution calling for an end to Israeli settlements, including in East Jerusalem, Mr. Trump said it was “extremely unfair to all Israelis” and pressed the Obama administration to veto it. Then this year Mr. Trump made good on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there. Time and again, he has proved to be a reliable ally for Israel.

• Guns. In a 2000 book, Mr. Trump wrote: “I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.” After the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., earlier this year, President Trump did briefly suggest expanding background checks and raising the age limit to buy certain guns. But he quickly reverted to strong Second Amendment rhetoric, while saying that massacres could be prevented by fixing mental-health services and arming teachers.

 Health care. In 2015, candidate Trump told “60 Minutes” that his plan would provide universal health coverage paid for by the government. “I am going to take care of everybody,” he said. Campaigning in New Hampshire a few months later, he said Medicare could save an unrealistic $300 billion if the government negotiated with drug companies to lower prices. But as president, Mr. Trump has pursued more-conventional Republican policies, such as adding work requirements to Medicaid, expanding short-term insurance plans, and broadening association health plans.

• Defense. In a 2013 interview, Mr. Trump seemingly supported the sequestration cuts to defense spending—only complaining that, as “a very small percentage of the cuts that should be made,” sequestration wasn’t big enough. In 2015 he suggested, unworkably, that by eliminating waste he could strengthen the military while still reducing spending. Yet in his first address to Congress as president, he proposed a 10% increase to the Pentagon’s budget, which he later called “historic.”

It isn’t unusual for a politician to change positions. Unsurprisingly, voters tend to be more forgiving of flip-flops when they agree with the final result. This explains why Mr. Trump is forgiven for abandoning Republican orthodoxy on free trade and entitlement reform: those convictions were always held more by donors than voters. The same is true of support for “comprehensive immigration reform.” If he were to cross his party on issues like taxes, abortion or guns, it would be quite another story. But in the meantime, begging Republicans to ditch Mr. Trump is a waste of time.

 

 

Our socialist president

Protectionism, and the promiscuous and capricious government interventions that inevitably accompany it, is , always and everywhere, crony capitalism. But he is spot on about the incompatibility of America’s new darker system and the rule of law:

“Everyone depends on the whim of the administration. Who gets tariff protection? On whim. But then you can apply for a waiver. Who gets those, on what basis? Now you can get subsidies. Who gets the subsidies? There is no law, no rule, no basis for any of this. If you think you deserve a waiver, on what basis do you sue to get one? Well, it sure can’t hurt not to be an outspoken critic of the administration when the tariffs, waivers and subsidies are being handed out on whim. This is a bipartisan danger. I was critical of the ACA (Obamacare) since so many businesses were asking for and getting waivers. I was critical of the Dodd-Frank Act since so much regulation and enforcement is discretionary. Keep your mouth shut and support the administration is good advice in both cases.”

.. Protectionism — government coercion supplanting the voluntary transactions of markets in the allocation of wealth and opportunity — is socialism for the well connected. But, then, all socialism favors those adept at manipulating the state. As government expands its lawless power to reward and punish, the sphere of freedom contracts. People become wary and reticent lest they annoy those who wield the administrative state as a blunt instrument.

.. Tariffs are taxes, and presidents have the anti-constitutional power to unilaterally raise these taxes because Congress, in its last gasps as a legislature, gave away this power.

.. Noting that some Trump protectionism is rationalized as essential for “national security,” Cochrane, who clings to the quaint fiction that Congress still legislates, suggests a new law stipulating that such tariffs must be requested — and paid for — by the Defense Department: “Do we need steel mills so we can re-fight WWII? If so, put subsidized steel mills on the defense budget. If defense prefers to use the money for a new aircraft carrier rather than a steel mill, well, that’s their choice.”

Amazon enters correction as Trump said to eye tax change

The president has a long history of railing against the way the e-commerce behemoth is taxed. Trump has accused Bezos of using The Washington Post as a tax shelter for Amazon. He has said that if the tech company ever had to pay fair taxes, “its stock would crash.” And he has alleged that Amazon is doing damage to the tax-paying public. He has also claimed that Bezos uses The Post to curry political favor with politicians so he can continue to avoid paying taxes.

During an interview with Fox News last May, Trump suggested Amazon had “a huge antitrust problem.”

.. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said during an interview with FOX Business last August that Amazon had violated no antitrust laws.

Episode 819: Tax Me If You Can

In 1992, Douglas Bruce proposed a measure called the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, TABOR for short. TABOR was effectively a tax-limitation measure that said, whenever a government wanted more money — whenever it wanted to increase taxes — it had to put the question on the ballot. Increased taxes for roads? The voters would get to decide. Better schools? Put it on the ballot. But put the price there first.

The proposal passed. And there were a lot of other things in it, too. And today, because of Douglas Bruce’s amendment, Colorado is the only state where politicians don’t have the power to raise taxes under any circumstances.

They say you can’t fight city hall, that one person can’t make a difference. But today on the show, we’ll tell you the story of how one man did. And what happened to his state. And what happened to him.

Planet Money: Pre-filled Income Tax Returns: Tax Hero

Doing your taxes doesn’t have to be a pain. In many countries around the world, filing taxes is so easy and painless, “tax day” isn’t even a thing.

Back in 2005, a little group of California tax experts were talking shop and they figured, we could do that here in the U.S. A lot of people in California get all of their income from their paychecks, and taxes are already withheld from those paychecks. In those cases, California could just fill out the W-2 for the taxpayers, who could check for errors and just send them back in. Easy as 1-2-3. (That was the slogan the state came up with). They named it: ReadyReturn.

The Crown Prince and the New Saudi Economy

The Public Investment Fund is supposed to be Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, but the prince, who heads its board, runs it like his own business. In April, it acquired 129 square miles of state land for a sports and entertainment city. In August, it announced plans for a tourist resort bigger than Belgium. And in October, Prince Mohammed unveiled Neom, his $500 billion robot city, at an international conference.

..  Far from diversifying wealth, he seeks to centralize it in his hands.

.. Prince Mohammed still hopes to raise around $100 billion from the purge. Yet that amount would cover only his budget deficit in 2015

.. the Saudi economy dropped into recession more sharply than predicted in the last quarter. The gross domestic product dipped 0.7 percentin 2017, substantially down on pre-purge predictions of growth of 0.1 percent, and worryingly below population growth of 2 percent.

.. Saudi Arabia’s ranking on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index has fallen from 26 in 2014 to 92 in 2017. Unemployment continues to increase, in part because of the influx of women into the job market.

.. Economists expect the ranks of Saudis living in poverty — around 20 percent — to swell.

.. A direct sale to Chinese state-owned oil companies is also being mentioned.

.. Investors and neighbors crave predictability, stability and the confidence that comes with a sound regulatory system. All three are what made Dubai. Properly carried out, such a system would please bankers who might welcome the chance to retrieve debts or land from princes that act like robber barons.

.. A new House of Lords would lessen the risk that wounded egos will spawn an opposition. Subject to his elders’ scrutiny, the crown prince might be more prudent about spending money, particularly on defense and security, which documents indicate was 43 percent over budget in 2016.

.. For now Prince Mohammed is offering more personal liberty and relief from the scowls of the religious police as compensation for the introduction of taxes.

But as Abdullah, the previous king, recognized, more taxation — whether direct or indirect — will stoke demands for broader representation.