Has Donald Trump really backed away from the gigantic wealth tax he proposed over a decade ago?
In 1999, Trump supported a one-time 14.25 percent tax on wealthy Americans and trusts over $10 million in order to sure up the social security trust fund and erase the national debt, which at the time was just under $6 trillion. As Trump began to flirt with running for president as a Republican four years ago, he began to distance himself from his proposal. He has certainly not made it a cornerstone of his current presidential campaign.
But in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News Tuesday night, Trump seemed to suggest he had no philosophical problem with the wealth tax. In fact, he claimed the proposal was “a very conservative thing.” Here’s the exchange:
Trump: If you look at some of the things I said at the time — that was many, many years ago – I wouldn’t have minded taking a piece of my wealth and paying off the national debt, okay, I’ll be honest with you. Now we can’t do it, it’s so humungous. At that time we could have paid off the entire national debt and we could have started the game all even.
Hannity: With a balanced budget amendment to support it?
Trump: Absolutely and that’s what I said. And I wouldn’t have minded doing that Sean. And I took some heat. People said, “Oh what a terrible thing, that’s not a very conservative thing to do.” I think that’s a very conservative thing.
Hannity: Would you still support it?
Trump: I would take – the problem is we owe so much now…
Hannity: It’s impossible.
Trump: I mean, it’s more money than all the wealthy [crosstalk].
Trump’s problem with the tax seems less philosophical than the fact the national debt has increased so much that his proposal would no longer erase it. But that’s not really a good reason to drop the idea. Even if it wouldn’t any longer erase the national debt, erasing $6 trillion or so would go a long way to getting our debt into a more stable position, no?
The point is there are serious philosophical and economic reasons to oppose a massive wealth tax of the type Trump once proposed. But those aren’t the arguments Trump is standing on to explain his reversal in position. Quite the opposite. He maintains the proposal remains fundamentally conservative.