Monday, June 6, 2016

How Donald Trump can win 40 States

This election is not about policies, it's about identity.  Donald Trump has managed to reach out to the long-neglected working class.  The response in the primaries has been overwhelming - Trump has gotten more primary votes than anyone in GOP history.  So the question for the general election is what will be the turnout from the working class?  If the turnout is high, Trump will win in a landslide; if working class turnout is low, Hillary will likely win.

So the real question is how can Trump guarantee a massive working class turnout?  With all due modesty, I believe that I have precisely the single issue that would do this.

Consider: working class wages have been static for two decades.  Taxes have gone up, the cost of gasoline and rent has gone up, but there's been no corresponding increase in wages to offset this.  The sense of endless treading water has fueled Trump's rise.  Playing to this sense of "I can't win" seems to be the sweet spot for a Trump campaign.

The play is this: instead of income tax cuts (which disproportionately for to the upper 20%), revoke the Social Security worker-paid tax (FICA).  This would be an immediate 7.25% increase in take home wages for 60% or more of the population.  The likely cost would be $400M a year or so.

So where would Trump find that sort of coin?  Adding it to the deficit is perhaps a winning play (c.f. Bernie Sanders), but is without doubt irresponsible.  Having at least a deficit-neutral funding source would be preferable.  So where do you find $400M of current government spending that Joe Everyman doesn't care about?

The federal government spends over $500 billion annually on grants-in-aid to state and local governments, making grants-in-aid the third largest item in the budget after Social Security and national defense. In recent decades, federal aid to state and local governments has soared and, thus, increased their reliance on federal aid for the financing of certain government functions. 
Certainly canceling most of these would cause a storm among the chattering classes.  You'd hear nothing but how "Donald Trump is destroying the foundations of society" all day, every day until the election.  It would be 24x7 anti-trump coverage about how he is undermining society.  Every.  Single.  Day.  For months.

And what's the counter-argument for Joe Everyman?  How about "You'll take home $4,000 a year more than you do today."  And the added argument of "So what current programs are worth $4,000 a year to your family?" will resonate.  After all, the current spending is captured by special interests, none of which is interesting to Joe Everyman.

In an instant, Trump can refocus a significant percentage of government expenditures on a populist plan.  That seems to be a winning play.  Hillary is all about special interests, Trump would own the idea of reducing government burden on the working class.

And while this plan doesn't have the advantage of reducing overall expenditures, it does reduce the regressive nature of the tax structure.  After all, the (Democratic party program of) Social Security is the single most regressive tax that the population struggles with.  Trump would reduce (although not eliminate) that.

This seems like it would guarantee a massive working class turnout in the General election.  Traditional Democratic party constituencies like blue collar and union blocs could break Trump's way.  Hillary would have to spend more to try to keep these constituencies, and have to worry that her get out the vote efforts would just increase Trump's union vote.  It might help Trump get more votes from the Black and Hispanic blocs - after all, it's a simple program with a lot of financial benefits directly to them.

Properly executed, this could lead to 40 or 45 States going to Trump.  That level of support would intimidate Congress into enacting the needed statutes.  They read the election returns, too.


Richard said...

The downside of this is that it makes Social Security a welfare program rather than a retirement savings program. I am aware of the court decisions that say that it already is and that the government can do anything they want to with it but that is not the way it is perceived by the vast majority of people. This perception puts very real political limits on screwing with the benefits.

I also take exception to your notion that the program is regressive. The tax structure itself is regressive because of the cap on income subject to the tax. However, the benefit structure is highly progressive due to minimum and maximum benefits, spousal benefits and, the disability program, not to mention the eventual need to fund the program from general revenues (i.e.. the progressive income tax) Pretty sure that the overall program would be progressive.

I don't quarrel with your idea that this could be a political winner. Demagoguery often is.

SiGraybeard said...

How about hitting chattering class back with saying, "how is less than a 0.1% cut destroying the foundations of society?" If we can't cut 0.1% out of grants, we may as well declare bankruptcy and start selling off the national parks now.

As I understand the numbers, working class income is essentially unchanged since the early 1970s thanks to the Federal Reserve debasing our currency, so it's more like 45 years than 20 years.

Timmeehh said...

If Trump wants a landslide, all he has to do is go on TV and tell the public, if he is elected he will vigorously prosecute all members of the Clinton and Obama administrations, for all of their crimes while in office.

Will said...


No, that will NOT help. You will scare off more voters than are gained.
I'm all for it, but too many people that actually vote will be appalled that you want to rub their face in the crap that those two groups generated. They don't want to acknowledge that they may have made a mistake, and too many would think that that is not playing "fair" in politics. On top of which, some of them don't think any wrong was done, certainly not sufficiently bad as to warrant charging them with crimes.

Personally, I'd be ok with charging nearly every politician that is still breathing, with crimes against the Constitution. Heck, I'd be ok with digging up the dead ones and hanging their corpse, after a proper trial.