Joel Kotkin is not a fan of Donald Trump, but he is a man with many good ideas who is always worth reading, in my opinion. He offers a five point plan to make America great again.
A flatter, fairer tax
The basic instinct among many Republicans tends toward reducing taxes on their richest donors and making life easier for the ultrarich, including some on Trump’s economic team. Trump’s imperative should, instead, be to make the tax system fairer for the middle and working classes. One way would be to make a graduated flat tax that would mean that the rich, who make most of their money from investments, pay the same rate for capital gains as the rest of us do for income.
Democrats will, no doubt, still charge Trump with being “unfair,” but, as Ronald Reagan proved 20 years ago, Americans support incentives for work if they don’t unfairly tilt conditions to the ultrarich. Main Street business owners, the most hostile constituency to the Obama administration’s policies, pay taxes based on their income and can’t manipulate the system like Apple, Google, Wall Streeters or, for that matter, real estate developers like Trump himself.
A middle ground for immigration
Opposition to illegal immigration helped drive the Trump campaign early on, but, outside of the GOP base, there is little support for a mass roundup of the undocumented. The vast majority of Americans, over 70 percent, also oppose “open borders.” After all, even President Obama evicted 2 million people during his two terms in office.
Trump also can begin reordering our immigration policies toward skilled workers who are interested in becoming citizens. At the same time, Trump could score points by undermining the H1-B visa program, which allows Silicon Valley firms, along with corporations like Disney and Southern California Edison, to lay off American workers and replace them with temporary indentured servants.
Unleash the energy industry
Much of the growth in America during the first six years of the Obama administration came from energy, which added 500,000 jobs between 2004 and 2014, much of them concentrated in the Trumpian heartland of the upper Midwest, Appalachia and the Texas-Oklahoma-Louisiana “oil patch.” Now, under pressure from low prices, Trump may consider ways to encourage our domestic producers.
Since he is not a free trade ideologue, Trump could position his policy as one way to keep from being dependent on lunatic Middle Eastern states — or even his good friend Vladimir Putin. The energy industry and manufacturing, unlike high tech, employ large numbers of not only of white, working-class people, but also Latinos and African Americans, and generally at high wages.
This election proved how deeply divided Americans are, both by class and geography. The fearful reaction on the Left to Trump’s election reveals how dependent our politics have become on the “imperial presidency.” One way to defuse the worry would be to cede more control from Washington to the localities.
We should let the leaders of the “Left Coast,” if they so wish, wear green energy hair shirts, legalize marijuana, boost the minimum wage dramatically, suppress suburban housing and dictate transgender bathrooms. If the middle of the country does not want to follow suit, that’s just fine, as long as they protect basic human rights. A country as diverse and divided cannot be effectively ruled by a central government that goes increasingly into areas that were once largely controlled locally.
To succeed, Trump must look as much to the model of Franklin D. Roosevelt as Ronald Reagan. A large basic infrastructure plan — long the purview of the federal government — would employ many blue-collar workers, including many minorities. This stimulus should be directed to those areas and industries more open to his administration, such as trucking, warehousing, energy and basic manufacturing. Much of the work should be in the areas that backed Trump — the South, where growth is strongest, and also in the Midwest and Great Plains, where much of the basic road, bridge and energy infrastructure is outdated.
Ultimately, Trump’s success depends on securing the economic interests of his core supporters. To expand his coalition, he needs show how his program helps not just his core base but also broader parts of the population who likewise have felt short-changed in this economy, and deserve a better future.
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