On Sunday, Donald Trump said that under his administration, taxes probably will go up for the wealthiest Americans, in contradiction of his proposed tax plan. On Monday, he clarified that he meant his proposed tax cut, after negotiation with Congress, might just become a smaller tax cut.
Trump's inconsistency on the issue of taxes extends back 30 years. In the early 1990s, Trump criticized Reagan-era tax cuts for those in the top tax bracket, saying they removed any incentive for wealthy people to invest. At the end of the '90s, Trump was saying taxes needed to be increased to pay down the national debt and for universal health care.
In the 2000s, Trump advocated for the Bush-era tax cuts. Last year, he proposed a plan that would dramatically cut taxes for top earners.
Here's a breakdown of Trump's meandering position on tax policy:
1991: Trump calls tax policy changes passed under Ronald Reagan in 1986 a “disaster.”
"What caused the savings and loan crisis, other than incompetence and various other things, was the 1986 tax law change. It was a disaster. It took all of the incentives away from investors, etcetera, etcetera, and it was a disaster,” stated Trump on the Joan Rivers Show.
“You don't hear that but that was really the primary, in my opinion, that was the primary problem with the savings and loan,” he continued. “That’s why the country is losing billions and hundreds of billions dollars today because of a mistake in the tax law: change.”
1991: Trump testifies before the House Budget Committee that the Tax Reform Act of 1986 removed incentives to invest, saying the "25% for high-income people, for high-income people, it should be raised substantially."
Also in 1999: Trump proposes raising taxes for universal health care during his Reform Party presidential run.
Also in 1999: Trump proposes what would have been the largest tax in American history.
"I would impose a onetime, 14.25% tax on individuals and trusts with a net worth over $10 million. For individuals, net worth would be calculated minus the value of their principal residence. That would raise $5.7 trillion in new revenue, which we would use to pay off the entire national debt. We would save $200 billion in interest payments, which would allow us to cut taxes on middle-class working families by $100 billion a year or $1 trillion over 10 years. We could use the rest of this savings—$100 billion—to bolster the Social Security trust fund. By 2030, when the Social Security fund is expected to go broke, we could put $3 trillion into the trust fund. This would make it solvent through the next century."
2004: Trump tells Fox News' Neil Cavuto he loves George W. Bush's tax policies:
Neil Cavuto: There — one could argue that Senator Kerry getting elected tonight, Donald, would help your business, that is, the real estate business, commercial and private, if it means interest rates go down.
If we are to take him at his word that he wants to attack these deficits, that could be good for bonds, interest rates go down. So wouldn't that be in fat cats' interest like yourself to see Senator Kerry get elected?
Donald Trump: Well, I happen to love the Bush policy on taxes, because I think that, you know, taxes should stay as long as they can down. And you know, a lot of people are saying that maybe that's going to drive ultimately interest rates up. So you really never know. It's a flip of a coin.
I think that the war in Iraq has been to me the big problem with the Bush group. And you know, Kerry, I would like to see taxes stay nice and low, and we're not as sure about Kerry keeping them low, but I have a feeling what's going to happen is that Iraq will end up costing President Bush this election.
2005: Trump tells Bill O'Reilly he voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 election because of his policy on taxes.
Bill O'Reilly: All right. You didn't vote for Bush, did you?
Donald Trump: Actually, I did.
BR: Did you really? You were bad-mouthing him.
DT: No, I wasn't. I was bad-mouthing the war in Iraq. I'm not a big fan of the war in Iraq.
BR: So you voted for Bush.
DT: I voted for Bush because I think he's got certain things that are excellent, including a tax policy that's excellent and going to prove to be excellent. But I am not a big fan of the war in Iraq, and I've let a lot of people know about it, and perhaps that's being proven to be correct.
2008: Trump tells Fox News' Heather Nauert that he thinks taxes should stay low when she asks what sort of presidential candidate he'd support in January of that year.
Donald Trump: Well, you know, I don't want to hurt any of the candidates by endorsing them. I'm afraid I may hurt. So I won't endorse anybody because I don't know if they'd like it or not, but I do have great feelings for a number of people. And, you know, another thing, as Mitt Romney is a very talented guy. I have met him a few times and he has done an amazing job. It looks to me like it's going to be a very tight race, especially on the Republican side. And let's see what happens with the Democrats.
Heather Nauert: OK. Well, let me ask you this, then, because you're obviously someone who knows a lot about the business world, a lot about real estate. Who, in your opinion, has the best economic plan?
DT: Well, I think you don't need tax increases and at the same time, you have to get other countries and other companies, even, if you talk about the oil companies, to stop taking advantage of this country, because we are being just swept away by oil.
You know, they lower interest rates and the oil countries, which is an illegal monopoly — let's not kid ourselves — they look at this and they say, "Oh that's good. They lowered rates, so now let's just—" So every time we lower rates, they increase oil, which is basically the same thing, so we haven't done anything by lowering the rates. Somebody has to come in who is going to be very, very strong, very, very firm and I want to use that as a nice word as opposed to a much tougher word and somebody has to come in and really do the job, because countries and companies are destroying our country.
2008: Trump says he is supporting Sen. John McCain over then-Sen. Barack Obama because McCain wants to lower taxes while Obama wants to raise them.
Greta Van Susteren: Are you endorsing him because you've known him for a long time, or is it—? Tell me the difference between Senator Obama and Senator McCain in your eyes.
Donald Trump: Well, I can tell you one of the differences is that Senator Obama wants to raise taxes beyond belief, and Senator McCain doesn't. And in a fragile economy like we're in right now, you cannot go around raising corporate taxes and lots of other taxes. You just can't do it. Then you really will see the great depression.
GVS: But when we talk about taxes, you're a rich guy, Donald. You just sold a house for an enormous amount of money. You're one of the richest guys. Senator Obama says he's not going to raise taxes on the people who aren't rich.
DT: You know what I find? I find when people say that, and yet they're raising the taxes on the rich, they end up raising the taxes on everybody. And ultimately, that's what would happen. Whereas John McCain is not going to be raising taxes and could even be lowering taxes.
And frankly, that's the language I like to hear, because the economy is very weak, it's very fragile. And any talk of tax increases, it's over, it's going to be over.
So I endorsed John McCain. I've known him for a long time. He's a brilliant guy, and I think he'll be a great president.
2008–2015: Trump repeatedly says the Obama administration should keep taxes low and not go back to the tax rates before the Bush tax cuts took effect.
2015: Trump releases his tax plan that cuts taxes and creates four tax brackets, with rates of 0%, 10%, 20%, and 25%. From the Tax Foundation:
2016: Trump reverses course entirely after securing the Republican nomination, saying in a Sunday interview that "taxes for the rich will go up somewhat."
Trump said his plan is already a starting point for negotiations. Trump said his plan will cut taxes for the poor and middle class but taxes for the wealthy will go up. On Monday, he clarified that taxes on the wealthy would still go down under his plan, but might go down less than he originally proposed.
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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