The apparent frontrunner in the race to become the Republican candidate in America’s presidential election later this year, Donald Trump, has built his campaign on a reputation for ‘straight talking’ politics. While it’s easy to laugh at some of the gaffes made by the former Apprentice star, it’s also worth digging into some of his political positions to get a sense of just what he plans to do should he be moving into the White House next January.
On the face of it, some of his economic plans aren’t all that ridiculous. Simplifying the tax code and lifting the lowest paid out of income tax are policies that have proved popular on this side of the Atlantic as well. Reducing corporation tax could make the US more competitive and encourage businesses not to game the system to minimise their liabilities. Whether these measures can be introduced in a ‘revenue neutral’ manner, as he claims, is another question.
Where Trump’s plans fall down is in their approach to trade. It’s probably fair to say the outspoken businessman won’t be winning any awards for international diplomacy after his well-publicised comments about Mexicans and plan for a total ban on foreign Muslims entering the country. This insular attitude extends to his plans for economic relations.
Yesterday Trump announced his intention to introduce an eye-watering 45% tariff on imports from China. It’s a populist measure that taps into concerns about America’s industrial decline and not totally-unfounded perceptions that China isn’t competing on a level playing field. While it might win Trump some blue collar votes in places like Detroit, such a tariff would massively harm the American economy and hit the nation’s consumers in the pockets hard.
His immigration policy strikes a similarly populist tone. While sensible efforts to clamp down on illegal immigration aren’t unreasonable, Trump wants to introduce a ‘requirement to hire American workers first’ – which sounds simple in theory but would likely be a bureaucratic minefield that would harm businesses’ ability to move quickly.
Trump might seem like a bit of a joke that’s residing safely on the other side of the Atlantic, and even if he does win the Republican nomination it seems likely he will be roundly defeated in the final poll by Hillary Clinton. But while there’s a chance he could become ‘leader of the free world’ it’s worth bearing in mind quite how problematic some of his policies could be.