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How Kasich And Trump Compare On Economic Policy

Donald Trump
Michael Vadon
Flickr/Creative Commons
Donald Trump

Super Tuesday aside, Ohio governor John Kasich says he will stay in the presidential race at least until Ohio’s March 15 primary. But he’s lagging behind Donald Trump in the polls even in Ohio. Kasich has run largely on his record in Ohio, and particularly his leadership around growing the economy. So, today we take a look at the fine print—the differences between Kasich’s and Trump’s stated economic policies.

The big picture: Depends who you ask

The recession’s over, but there’s still a lot of instability and insecurity in markets and in people’s personal perceptions of the economy. Economic immobility, inequality and a lack of wage growth are concerns for a lot of people, and in a 2015 Pew Poll, 75 percent of U.S. residents said the economy should be a top government priority.

But Democratic voters have placed a lot more importance on government solutions to poverty and inequality; Pew research shows Republican voters, and especially higher income ones, don’t see addressing poverty as a government priority. So, the economic focus for Republicans tends to be more on trade and growing the economy.

Trump v. Kasich on trade

Trump has talked a big game about his personal finances, and that’s not what we’ll address here—in terms of policy, he makes trade a central part of his economic platform. Interestingly, he talks about “fair trade” with China, disparaging Bill Clinton’s moves towards "free trade" in the 1990s. Trump wants to raise tariffs on Chinese exports by a lot, and his campaign website talks about putting an end to lax labor and environmental policies in China. How to accomplish all that is trickier: He says he’ll go through the World Trade Organization to target what he says are China’s violations of trade agreements, and he mentions increasing a military presence in the east and south China sea—to show China he’s serious.

Of course, there’s a lot of disagreement among economists about the benefits of “free trade” as well as the potential for taxation and regulation of trade. What’s interesting is that Trump’s platform in that regard almost seems to lean liberal. Some conservative economists have called Trump’s idea of a trade war with China ridiculous.

Kasich, on the other hand, doesn’t have a detailed platform on trade. But he’s spoken out in the past in support of free trade agreements including the one that’s currently under debate, the Trans Pacific Partnership. Donald Trump has called that same deal “insanity.”

In opposing trade deals, Trump aligns himself with unions and some manufacturing industry folks who feel that shipping jobs overseas has cost them, while Kasich sticks to a more traditionally conservative view of “free trade.”

Trump v. Kasich on taxes

Both Trump and Kasich say they would help out U.S. companies and encourage them to stay hereby lowering corporate tax rates, and both say they’d cut income taxes and simplify the code.

Trump’s plan is a bit more detailed—four tax brackets that top out at 25 percent. But right now, the highest earners pay quite a bit more than 25 percent; as a result, analysis shows that about a third of the benefits of Trump’s proposed tax cuts would go to the extremely rich, the one percent. The bottom 40 percent of earners would see just 5 percent of the benefits of these cuts. But, the tax system remains “progressive”, taxing the rich more heavily.

John Kasich has been pushing across-the-board cuts to Ohio income taxes—but he’s also raised sales taxes to pay for it. That essentially moves the state's taxes away from being progressive, because sales taxes fall more heavily on lower-income people. His federal proposals are not quite as specific, but he says he would cut income tax to a cap that’s close to Trump’s cap—and again, for top earners, those have the potential to be huge cuts.

Kasich would also increase a tax rebate for the very-low income, called the Earned Income Tax Credit. He’s passed a state version of that tax credit as well—and liberals have supported him on that while also calling for more programs to benefit poor people.

And of course, all these are just proposals. In order to pay for his tax cuts, Trump talks about cutting waste fraud and abuse, and eliminating loopholes. It’s not clear how that will pay for potentially trillions of dollars in cuts, and expert analyses show it just doesn’t add up.

But for Kasich’s tax proposals, we don’t yet have a price tag, so it’s difficult to compare. A lot of what’s he’s talked about on the campaign trail is his record in Ohio—where he’s cut taxes, but also cut some programs and services that have really upset people directly affected by those cuts, including many of Ohio’s cities and towns. He’s also focused on job growth in Ohio—but his campaign-season promotion of Ohio’s accomplishments never mentions that the state has consistently lagged behind the U.S. overall in job growth since the Recession.


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