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Trump’s Talk: Aspirations, Not Policies – OpEd

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Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention was a list of aspirations, without any explanation of the policies he had in mind to meet those goals. That’s not surprising, because that is the nature of political campaign rhetoric. Politicians rarely say what they plan to do. Rather, they talk about perceived problems that exist now, and say they will make things better. This isn’t a criticism of Trump. All politicians do that, and I fully expect Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech to be much the same.

Trump said he would make America safe again. He didn’t say how. He said he’d hire the best people to get the job done, but he didn’t say who they are, or how he would find them.

Trump said we had bad trade deals, and he’d renegotiate them to get better deals. He didn’t say what was wrong with the deals we have, and he didn’t say what terms he’d include in any renegotiated deals.

Trump said he’d cut taxes. He didn’t say what taxes he would cut, or give any outline of tax reductions he had in mind.

Trump said he’d cut regulations that reduce productivity. He didn’t say what those regulations were, or what regulations would be eliminated.

Trump said he’d return manufacturing jobs to the United States. He didn’t say how he would do this, leaving me with the suspicion that he’s inclined to place regulations on businesses–the very kind he said he’d repeal in another part of his talk.

This is the nature of campaign rhetoric. Rather than advocate specific policies, point out how things could be better than they are. Everyone agrees they could be. And then say if you are elected, you will make things better. So, while I don’t fault Trump for following a long-standing formula in his campaign speech, I can’t give him too much credit for bold thinking either.

My overall evaluation of his talk was negative. Why? Because well before it was over, I was asking myself how much longer he was going to talk. When that happens, I figure the speaker has gone on too long.

This article was published at The Beacon.


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Randall G. Holcombe

Randall G. Holcombe

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, past President of the Public Choice Society, and past President of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech, and has taught at Texas A&M University and Auburn University. Dr. Holcombe is also Senior Fellow at the James Madison Institute and was a member of the Florida Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors.

2 thoughts on “Trump’s Talk: Aspirations, Not Policies – OpEd

  • July 29, 2016 at 11:00 am
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    I can say that the professor is correct in stating that politicians do not say how they achieve things. This makes sense because they do not have time to explain everything. But during debates pundits and people can ask them on how they achieve what they plan to do. For the other issues raised by the professor, I really think he needs to check his notes about Mr. Trump’s statements because he is wrong. First, about making America safe, Mr. Trump indicated that he would make the military very strong and cooperate with the countries fighting terrorism. For example, he said why the Obama administration is against President Assad and Russia given that they both fight terrorism. So, he has a different way than President Obama and Clinton who have created and supported terrorism directly and indirectly. Most terrorists are using American weapons. Turkey has not closed its boarders and Obama’s air force watches Daesh selling oil without bombing that source of finance. Also, the current administration has had excellent relationships with the countries financing and supporting terrorism. Second, for better trade deals Mr. Trump means that USA should export more to other countries and import less. In addition, Mr. Trump does not allow American firms to leave the country to other countries under the current trade agreements. Third, Mr. Trump likes to cut taxes on the manufacturing sector and other productive sectors but raises taxes on hedge funds and Wall Street. Fourth, for regulations, Mr. Trump likes to redo the Obama care because it costs a lot for many people and retains what is useful. Other bad and costly regulations can be eliminated as well. These regulations are helping the regulated making more profits. Currently, insurance companies are making huge profits through the Obama care and have controlled the health industry. The same can be applied to the pharmaceutical industries. Fifth, Mr. Trump wants to return and keeps the manufacturing firms in the USA by imposing very high tariffs on their exported products to USA. As we know, these American companies are leaving to other low cost countries and export their products back to USA. Thus, imposing tariffs on these firms will force them to come back partly or totally to USA. And this action will create better and high pay jobs for the American workers, and will increase the national employment level and wages. In addition, Mr. Trump will cut taxes on corporations to bring their piled cash back to the USA. Some have estimated this cash to be about 15 trillion dollars. Finally, Mr. Trump has more polices encouraging growth and productivity such as building the infrastructure that has been abandoned by the Bush and the Obama administrations. Going after the Fed with its almost zero interest rate will enable the country to move back toward productive activities rather than fictitious ones. The current Obama economy is really fictitious and phony. For example, unemployment is low but wages are not increasing and labor participation rate is at historical low level. Changing foreign policies and the role of the NATO will save huge funds for the USA that can be used for generating a high rate of economic growth. Finally, Secretary Clinton said that she would depend on President Bill Clinton, a war criminal with loaded Iraqi people’s blood on his hands, to run the economy. But President Clinton during his administration created millions of lousy jobs with very low wages. He created regulations for derivative to prosper and commercial banks to be merged with investment banks by eliminating the Steagall Act, which have created the financial crisis of 2007-8 and the fictitious US economy, where the financiers have become very wealthy at the expense of the working people, raising the inequality and the Gini coefficient significantly.

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  • July 31, 2016 at 6:19 am
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    At least Mr. Trump had a lot to say and delivered a great speech at the RNC. That is a lot more than Mr. Holcomb produced. Commenter Adil Mouhammed filled in all the details.

    By necessity, the nomination congress is a celebration, not the place for tedious details and 12point lists on how the principles Trump laid out will be instituted. Much of that he did say in his stump speeches and on his website. But yes, it means people have to go look at his website.

    Overall Trump’s economic take is simple: lower taxes on outsourced capital so the companies can bring it back and invest it in the US to manufacture their products inland. Lower taxes on business to increase profitability and therefore new investment. Increase taxes on the wealthiest people. Invest in education, rebuilding failing school buildings and train more and better teachers, to provide skilled labor for returning and US companies. Stop regime change and destabilization wars for hegemony. Get along with all other nations the way they are. Increase world trade based on bilateral fair contracts without debilitating free trade agreements like NAFTA, TPP. Rebuild the infrastructure including a train network to cut transportation costs and create well paying jobs. Build a wall between US and Mexico to stem illegal immigration. Put a temporary moratorium on Muslim migration to the US until these people can be credibly vetted to prevent letting terrorists hide among refugees. Protect the police and enforce the existing laws.

    In what way is that not spelled out how Trump intends to do things? America isn’t endangered from outside. There is no power trying to attack the US homeland unless the US attacks them first. The danger to the US is inland: if large numbers of Muslim migrants – mostly young men – are admitted to the US, similar things will likely happen as are now taking place in the EU: sexual assault and rape are endemic. Burglaries, muggings and robberies are drastically increasing. Terrorist attacks on innocent civilians occur with increasing frequency – i.e. Nice, Munich etc. Surely, preventing such developments and incidents are what will keep America safe.

    What Trump set forth is simple, sound economic principles that have to be implemented as he said: with tax changes and government investment in infrastructure. Safety is largely assured by proper policing and a non-corrupt judiciary.

    Any of the larger and more complex policies necessary by necessity have to be laid out in minute detail and by many people in order to pass Congress. It would be a waste of time to do that during election time.

    Maybe Mr. Holcomb should free himself a bit of Obama’s rhetoric to see what the actual dangers are instead of the fictitious dangers wanted by the establishment to keep the military industrial sector and multi-national corporations profitable, regular people down under and the economy stagnant for the benefit of the banks.

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