Revolutionary: Trump hints at reviving proposal to replace income tax with tariffs

by WorldTribune Staff, June 24, 2024 Contract With Our Readers

Has Donald Trump trial-ballooned repealing the income tax and replacing it with tariffs as an idea whose time has come?

During his recent return to Capitol Hill, the former president reportedly floated such a proposal.

“The potential crossover appeal with populists and libertarian-minded swing voters was illustrated by the enthusiasm of the stalwart libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie, who called the proposal ‘most intriguing,’ ” David Gornoski, host of the news podcast A Neighbor’s Choice, wrote for The American Conservative on June 23.

“That Massie, a primary supporter of Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis and vocal opponent of Trump’s pandemic spending, and Trump’s more protectionist supporters could find energetic common ground around such an idea demonstrates the galvanizing potential such a bold tax policy revolution could provide.”

Trump’s proposal had Gornoski revisiting a documentary interview he conducted in the summer of 2020 with the Curtis Ellis, who he called “a brilliant economic adviser to Trump.”

The interview discussed “ways to fuse the libertarian and protectionist wings of the American right to benefit the worker,” Gornoski noted. “Ellis (who passed away in 2021) talked about returning to the Founders’ system of robust tariffs to protect the American wages and standard of living.”

“Make what we buy and buy what we make,” Ellis said.

Gornoski said he then “proposed repealing the income tax and replacing it with tariffs and deep spending cuts on our regulatory state, which severely retards innovation and wealth creation.”

Ellis called the idea “a revolutionary concept.”

Ellis went on to conclude: “You probably couldn’t have enough tariffs to fund the regulatory state we have now. So the best way to do it is exactly what you said, get rid of the income tax. We’re going to replace the revenues with tariffs and then start chopping away everything we can’t afford anymore.”

Gornoski noted: “Repealing the income tax—including taxes on tips as Trump has recently promoted—could provide the kind of boon Americans need. One of the most demoralizing rituals Americans have internalized—especially self-employed business owners who set the metabolic health of our economy—is the stressful navigation of the tax code the government imposes on its people.”

Former GOP congressman Ron Paul, who advocates for the abolition of the income tax, has suggested the whole process of self-reporting violates Americans’ right to not self-incriminate.

“Withholding W2 employees’ income conditions Americans to feel that the fruit of their labor and time is the property of the government that then shares a portion of it with the producer. The government uses Tax Day’s promise of a possible tax refund check to Pavlovian condition Americans to feel a warped pleasure stimulus associated with what amounts to an onerous drain on their life. For many employees, April 15 means one gets a bonus check with which to splurge, rather than the annual ritual humiliation of the American spirit self-employed entrepreneurs are more likely to experience,” Gornoski added.

“The appeal to working-class voters, particularly in the Rust Belt, that Trump’s tariffs provide does not necessarily have to contradict the fiscal libertarian appeal of the income tax repeal. Contrary to some online right wing discourse, working-class labor, young voters in the service economy, and suburban middle class business owners—all constitutive of a winning coalition of voters—do not have an allergy to the notion of not having to pay income tax. It is just that no recent Republican presidential nominee has proposed it,” Gornoski concluded.

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