WASHINGTON ― After a disastrous week for a Republican presidential nominee, you might have expected the party to circle the wagons and bring out its most prestigious leaders to defend their candidate, particularly in front of a friendly, conservative news outlet.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), perhaps? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), maybe? Nope. Donald Trump’s defense on “Fox News Sunday” came from a guy who left office in 1999, and who refuses to pay off the debt he accumulated from a quirky 2012 presidential campaign that served, in part, as a zoo tour.
Newt Gingrich did his best to defend Trump, and effectively attacked Hillary Clinton’s recent bizarre and false statements about her email scandal. But Gingrich also had to acknowledge that his candidate’s economic plan is nonsense. When host Chris Wallace asked whether Trump’s tax and spending plan adds up, Gingrich admitted the absurdity.
“Of course not,” Gingrich said. “Historically, no candidates have numbers that add up.”
It’s, let’s say, very unusual for campaign surrogates to acknowledge that their campaign’s entire economic policy is bunk.
Gingrich’s point is, in a sense, technically accurate and completely ridiculous. Republicans have been particularly egregious on this front. According to a conservative think tank, in the 2016 primary, Bobby Jindal offered a tax plan that would balloon the federal debt by $9 trillion. Other analysts said the Jeb Bush tax plan would cost $8.1 trillion. When Mitt Romney offered a $5 trillion tax cut in 2012 while vowing not to raise taxes on anybody, nonpartisan analysts noted this was impossible, and would require raising taxes on middle-class families. Clinton has acknowledged that her economic plan would require increasing the national debt by about 2 percent.
These could all be construed by deficit hawks as plans that do not add up. But Clinton, unlike the GOP, acknowledges that her plan involves deficit spending, rather than pretending that magic spending cuts or wild economic growth will fill the hole.
But according to Fox, Trump’s plan would add $11.2 trillion onto the national debt ― most of that fueled by tax cuts for the wealthy. Since the federal debt owed to the public is about $12.8 trillion, that’s an increase of more than 87 percent. There’s not adding up, and then there’s not adding up, Trump style.
When the Tax Policy Center rendered its verdict on Romney’s tax plan in 2012, GOP politicians and intellectuals didn’t shrug their shoulders and say that hey, tax policies never add up. They did their best to defend it. Trump’s plan is so preposterous that even his surrogates won’t do that.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump