Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
On Monday, GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared before the Detroit Economic Club to deliver what had been billed as a “major economic policy” speech. You can listen to the full speech here.
Trump began with a general appeal to Detroit’s business community, stating, “It’s wonderful to be in Detroit . . . . The City of Detroit is where our story begins.” Almost immediately, he pointed to Detroit’s median per-capita income, unemployment rate, crime rate, and shrunken manufacturing base as signs of failed Democratic leadership in the city:
[F]or many living in this city, [the American] Dream has long ago vanished. When we abandoned the policy of “America First,” we started rebuilding other countries instead of our own. The skyscrapers went up in Beijing and many other cities around the world, while the factories and neighborhoods crumbled right here in Detroit.
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Half of all Detroit residents do not work. Detroit tops the list of the most dangerous cities in terms of violent crime.
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In short, the City of Detroit is the living, breathing example of my opponent’s failed economic agenda. Every policy that has failed this city — and so many others — is a policy supported by Hillary Clinton.
There was plenty of other red meat for the GOP faithful, too. Trump announced that he would “repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare,” “issue a temporary moratorium on new agency regulations,” roll back EPA rules, and facilitate the opening of new coal-fired power plants. He repeatedly called for “law and order,” and stated that President Obama had paid Iran “$400 million in money-laundered cash as a ransom payment.”
On the issue of taxation, Trump announced that he would streamline and simplify the federal income-tax code, and would reduce the number of personal tax brackets “from seven to three.” He also stated that the “death tax” is “just plain wrong” for “American workers,” and that no corporation would pay more than 15 percent in federal corporate income tax under his presidency.
Hey Donald, you know that most “American workers” will never have to pay the federal estate tax, right? Do you even understand how the federal estate tax works? More importantly, are you aware that Congress is responsible for making tax policy and setting rates? The GOP currently controls the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Yet your fellow Republicans in Congress haven’t taken much action to simplify the tax code. You might want to check this out before you decide to go it alone on tax reform.
Trump said other things that were even more ridiculous. He bemoaned the fact that the Obama administration has “unilaterally” issued new regulations. Umm, yeah. That’s how administrative rules are made — unilaterally by the executive branch, after a period for notice and comment. I’ll be happy to send you my old administrative law textbook if you’d like to bone up on the federal rulemaking process. Do you actually think the President of the United States should have the power to “unilaterally” amend a tax statute, but not to “unilaterally” promulgate a regulation? You’ve got it backwards there, Donald.
Trump also remarked that he would “immediately cancel all illegal and overreaching executive orders.” Ok. Sounds good. But who, exactly, gets to decide which executive orders are illegal and overreaching? What a meaningless statement.
The international-trade portion of the speech was probably my favorite. After decrying overseas manufacturing and the outsourcing of jobs, Trump stated, “This is backwards. All of our policies should be geared toward keeping jobs and wealth inside of the United States.” He later reiterated, “I want jobs, and I want wealth, to stay in America!” Doesn’t Donald Trump manufacture goods overseas? I’m pretty sure I’ve read that somewhere.
And then there was education. Although he didn’t say much, his remarks were clearly directed at supporters of school vouchers:
And [Hillary Clinton] supports the education policies that deny your students choice, freedom, and opportunity.
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[O]ur education policies will help parents send their kids to a school of their choice — so good for Detroit!
More than half of Detroit’s schoolchildren already attend private or charter schools. Countless others attend public schools outside the city. In short, the City of Detroit is already a center for so-called “school choice.” All that remains to be achieved by Michigan “school reform” advocates is vouchers. But Trump — a supposed champion of states’ rights — apparently doesn’t know that the people of Michigan have twice voted to reject school vouchers. While his brief comments might have been designed to excite the GOP base, they laid bare his woeful ignorance of the realities of K-12 education in Michigan.
In sum, I guess the absence of specific proposals (and how to realistically implement them) was not all that surprising. Although the campaign had claimed that the Detroit speech would focus on economic policy, I wasn’t really expecting a wonkish address; I know better than that. I was, however, hoping for something more than “in the days ahead, we will provide more details . . . .”