The contemporary American economy, the largest in the world, is a globalized, intricate ecosystem of staggering complexity. Vast amounts of money can now be transferred for investment in a moment. The jobs produced in-country vs. those outsourced, jobs lost and gained — all are in an hourly state of flux. The Presidency in 2016 requires a deep knowledge of global power balances and competition, the desire to learn continually and shift policies according to new realities. Presidents must be able to clearly articulate American economic tenets to the leaders of the world in face to face meetings. They must be careful of their words and precise in the ideas and signals they wish to communicate. A misplaced phrase, an impulsive sentiment, a garbled sentence — any of those might rattle the markets, cause dislocations, create hardship.
So, let us listen to Mr. Trump on the Minimum Wage:
Trump: There doesn’t have to be. I would leave it and raise it somewhat. You need to help people. I know it’s not very Republican to say.
O’Reilly: Give me … 10 bucks?
Trump: I would say 10. I would say 10. But, with the understanding that somebody like me is going to bring back jobs, I don’t want people to be in that $10 category for very long. But, the thing is, Bill, let the states make the deal. *
Leave aside the policy argument about raising the minimum wage. Focus on Mr. Trump’s explanation: First, he implies there need be no increase. Then he says that he would both leave it and raise it. In response to a random number from O’Reilly (a sympathetic interviewer), he would agree to a $10 Federal Minimum wage, but then because he will create so many jobs, presumably paying more than $10 per hour, he hesitates, implying that the $10 is somehow an inviolable standard that all companies or employers must adhere to in their wage packages. Finally, he says that the whole issue should be left to the states to decide. He does not have ideas. He has whims. He has fleeting impulses based on some kind of intuitive fog.
The exchange with O’Reilly illustrates the difficulties Mr. Trump has with language and meaning and knowledge of issues. His thoughts fragment, double back, contradict themselves, and therefore become almost wholly obscure. The examples of Mr. Trump’s confusions and contradictions are legion and cover every idea imaginable. How would those working for President Trump know how to implement his words into policy? They would not, but others would. In a Trump Presidency, his lack of clarity would create a power vacuum. Savvier underlings would step in and create their own centers of power. Any historical analysis of Presidential power always speaks of infighting and battles between agencies and powerful men and women. Based on his use of language, under President Trump, his advisors would wage savage turf wars and thus produce only more policy chaos and misery for the nation. Imagine Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani with enormous, barely checked power.
Mr. Trump’s website promises vast tax cuts and vast spending plans, the usual supply-side economic nonsense**, but he also promises that “No family will have to pay the death tax. You earned and saved that money for your family, not the government. You paid taxes on it when you earned it.” The ‘death tax’ is a Frank Luntz bit of word-play to try and obscure the purpose of the inheritance tax for those with great wealth. Its purpose was to stop the creation of an American aristocracy, a class of enormously rich families who can forever use their wealth to wield political power. Under Mr. Trump’s plan, they could pass on their money in perpetuity. This is not the aim of a man who cares about the working class and a dysfunctional Washington.
If implemented, Mr. Trump’s economic system will starve the Federal Government of revenue and at the same time spend tremendous amounts on building a Mexican Wall, on the military and on infrastructure (and thus blow up the deficit). He will further exacerbate the inequity between the rich and everyone else by offering obscene tax cuts to the wealthy. He will create trade wars and encourage overall economic chaos.
*Bill O’Reilly’s interview with Donald Trump on July 26, 2016
** There have to be tens of millions of other voters out there who look at his economic proposals and Hillary’s (and Bernie Sanders’ as well when he was still running) and think, “Wait, who’s going to pay for all this? How?”