Imagine what could happen if Donald Trump hadn’t turned the presidential campaign into an argument over who founded Islamic State or whether there should be ideological entrance tests for foreign visitors and immigrants. Then he and Hillary Clinton could have a rational debate over taxes, a serious topic on which they have clear differences.
Trump wants to cut taxes massively, especially for the wealthy, which he claims will stimulate unprecedented growth. Clinton wants to boost taxes on corporations and the rich and use the revenue to create jobs and help the middle class.
Both evade some specifics but there’s enough for a substantive debate.
That’s not possible on many issues because the candidates have made it so hard to take their claims seriously. Trump, for example, has abandoned Republican orthodoxy and said he’d make no cutbacks on entitlements; could a President Trump continue to buck his party? Clinton has abandoned her original support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. But she’s said so much on both sides of the issue that it’s easy to imagine a flop to that flip. On national security, it’s difficult to delineate any Trump doctrine; he says he opposed the Iraq war and Libyan intervention, though he didn’t until they soured.
On taxes, the Republican nominee proposes lowering the top rate for individuals to 33 percent from 39.6 percent and setting only two rates below that. The corporate rate would be slashed to 15 percent from 35 percent. And the estate tax, paid only by the wealthiest estates, would be eliminated.
Clinton would require anyone making over $1 million to pay at least 30 percent in federal taxes, and would slap a 4 percent surcharge on those making over $5 million. She’d also limit deductions for upper-income taxpayers and would slightly increase estate taxes for the few who pay them. She would use the added revenue for a host of domestic initiatives, including a $275 billion, five-year infrastructure plan, tax breaks to help with child care and college tuition, and a bigger earned-income tax credit for the working poor.