Donald Trump sought to get his derailed presidential campaign back on track with an economic policy speech delivered in Detroit Monday.
Just over a week post-RNC, things are looking grim in Trumpland. After picking a fight with the parents of a fallen Muslim war hero and refusing to endorse several high-profile incumbent Republicans in primary battles, Trump is officially down in every poll. Real Clear Politics has Hillary Clinton beating him by an average of 7 points in a four-way race. The forecasters at FiveThirtyEight give the Republican somewhere between a 4.6 percent chance and 21.3 percent chance of winning the election, if it were held today.
The bad news appears to have finally permeated Trump’s inner orbit, because he’s making some changes. Late Friday, he officially backed House Speaker Paul Ryan — after complimenting Ryan’s primary challenger on Twitter — and said he would support the John McCain and Kelly Ayotte’s reelection campaigns as well.
Then on Monday, he did a few other things he’s been reluctant to do this campaign: He provided a set of policy proposals, in a dry and tightly scripted speech delivered with the help of a teleprompter, and resisted the urge to respond to hecklers.
Trump outlined his “America First” economic plan at the Detroit Economic Club. The plan includes several suggestions that have been championed by Republicans in Congress, including reducing the number of tax brackets from seven to just three, slashing the corporate tax rate by more than half and eliminating the so-called “death tax.”
“American workers have paid taxes their whole life, they shouldn’t be taxed again when they die,” Trump said Monday. What Trump calls the “death tax,” and what is more widely known as the “estate tax,” is worth an estimated $25 billion a year. Doing away with it would only benefit the children of the very wealthy (for individuals, the first $5.45 million are exempt; for couples, the first $10.9 million) — like Donald Jr., Eric, Ivanka, Tiffany and Barron. (The Los Angeles Times dusted off a good breakdown from 2009 of the pros and cons for the occasion.)
The corporate tax rate currently sits at 35 percent; Trump proposed cutting it to 15 percent Monday. That break would also, presumably, benefit the more than 500 businesses in which Trump claimed a large ownership stake in his financial disclosures last year.
Trump also promised to allow parents to deduct the full cost of childcare from their taxes.
He diverged from traditional Republican views on trade, vowing to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership before it is ratified. He also promised to renegotiate NAFTA, in place since 1994. “If we don’t get a better deal, we will walk away” from the agreement, Trump said.
Trump sought to project a tough image, repeating lines like, “We are ready to show the world that America is Back – Bigger, and Better and Stronger Than Ever Before.” But he fought the urge to extend that toughness to the protesters who interrupted his speech. His 53-minute speech was interrupted 14 times by hecklers. Rather than calling for them to be assaulted, as he has in the past, Trump only noted how “very well planned out” the interruptions were.
The speech came a few days after Trump debuted a 13-man economic advisory panel, made up of ultra-wealthy businessmen and one professor of economics. As Politico notes, half of them have either donated to or been asked to donate to the Trump campaign. Five of the 13 are “major donors whose families combined to give Trump’s campaign and his joint fundraising account with the Republican Party more than $2 million,” and fundraisers have reportedly solicited donations from two others.
Clinton will lay out her own economic plan in a speech, also delivered in Detroit, later this week.