During a speech in Columbus, Ohio, Clinton will offer three basic arguments, aides told The Huffington Post. She will contend that Trump is a con artist who never delivers what he promises; that Trump’s economic agenda could plunge the country into recession; and that the net effect of Trump's policies would be to help the rich at the expense of the middle class and poor.
Making these arguments may be more difficult than it sounds. Trump, a real estate developer who is now the presumptive Republican nominee for president, doesn't talk a lot about policy. When he does, he frequently contradicts what he has said previously.
Clinton aides said that the former secretary of state and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee realizes as much -- and plans to cite a new analysis, conveniently published on Monday, that attempts to take account of these uncertainties.
The analysis, by economist Mark Zandi and his colleagues at Moody’s Analytics, makes three projections for how Trump’s economic proposals might play out in practice. One is basically a worst-case scenario that assumes the most extreme version of Trump’s policies became law.
In this projection, Trump’s vows to restrict immigration and trade would sharply reduce economic growth, while deficits from his giant tax cut would drag down the economy further. These effects, Moody’s researchers say, would more than offset the stimulus from the tax cuts and other policies Trump has outlined.
The result, according to the analysis, would be a new and deep recession that would shrink the economy over the course of Trump’s four-year first term.
“By the end of his presidency,” Moody’s analysis predicts, “there are close to 3.5 million fewer jobs and the unemployment rate rises to as high as 7%, compared with below 5% today. During Mr. Trump’s presidency, the average American household’s after-inflation income will stagnate, and stock prices and real house values will decline.”
The other scenarios in the Moody’s analysis try to adjust for political reality. One (which Moody’s calls “Mr. Trump Lite”) assumes that Trump’s policies become law, but only after Congress scales them down. The other scenario (“Mr. Trump Goes to Washington”) assumes that Congress acts on only a portion of the Trump agenda, in particular by keeping the tax cut deficit-neutral. According to Moody’s, both would leave the economy worse off, and the former would result in a recession.
Like all such projections, Moody’s require assumptions that are open to interpretation. Not just conservatives, but even some liberals may take issue with the Moody's preconceptions about the effects of deficits and a tougher position on trade.
Assessing Trump’s policies are particularly difficult because he has been so unspecific -- a fact Trump aides were quick to point out after the Moody's analysis came out. One told The Wall Street Journal that the Moody’s analysis made erroneous assumptions about what Trump would actually do and how his policies would play out, although the aide didn't elaborate with specifics. (Efforts to reach the Trump campaign on Tuesday were unsuccessful.)
Pinning Trump down on taxes has been especially difficult. On one memorable Sunday in May, Trump’s position on taxes seemed to change within just a few hours. First he said he intended to raise taxes on the wealthy. Then he said he merely meant that taxes on the wealthy were likely to be higher than he preferred, while still lower than today's rates.
Still, back in September, Trump’s campaign did publish an actual tax reform proposal with enough detail for non-partisan organizations to evaluate. And the effects were not particularly ambiguous. Both the Brookings-Urban Tax Policy Center and the more conservative Tax Foundation concluded that the Trump tax cut would result in massively higher deficits, with the wealthy getting substantially more benefits. )
Clinton will point this out, aides said, just as she will cite a slew of recent stories about Trump business career to suggest that he’s basically a con artist -- that is, somebody who will take advantage of customers and contractors, in order to enrich himself.
Here, the challenge for Clinton may be convincing voters that this behavior matters. While Trump has denied wrongdoing, legal or otherwise, he has frequently boasted about his negotiating skills -- arguing that, as president, he’d get the same kinds of one-sided deals for Americans that he’s traditionally gotten for his companies.
In a November interview with Business Insider’s Henry Blodget, for example, Trump said "It's give-and-take. But it's gotta be mostly take. Because you can't give. You gotta mostly take."
That kind of tough talk is one reason Trump has won such a devoted following. Jake Sullivan, policy adviser to Clinton, said in an interview that Clinton had an answer for that.
“He’s asking America to invest in him, to go into business with him,” Sullivan said. “He’s saying that if people put their trust in him, he will help. But he never succeeds. He never delivers. He lets people down.”
Sullivan added that Clinton on Wednesday will give a follow-up speech laying out her own economic agenda in more detail.
Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.