The Trump Train Comes Down on Kaine Over Taxes
As Trumpence continue their unselfconscious rampage through the American political process, they’ve once again found themselves in the unforgiving jaws of irony.
At a recent campaign stop in Virginia, Trump came out swinging at Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate. In his words, Kaine did a “lousy job” as governor of Virginia:
“Less than a week after Tim Kaine became governor … he proposed a nearly $4 billion tax increase … on people earning as little as $17,000 a year.”
After recovering from shock over the fact that Trump was speaking about policy, rather than about his hands, his fortune or the attractiveness of his own daughter, fact-checkers descended to see if Trump might just be telling the truth.
Deconstructing Kaine’s Proposal
Let’s start with the $4 billion. The proposal we’re talking about was brought to the table by Kaine in 2006, six days after he took office. Trump isn’t wrong about Kaine seeking a boost for Virginia’s tax revenue. But like all things Trump, how he arrived at that figure took no small amount of creative arithmetic.
To begin with, roughly $150 million per year would have come from levying new fines on Virginia drivers with bad driving records.
Nevertheless, the rest of Kaine’s $4 billion revenue grab would have been comprised of taxes, and would have affected Virginians in all income brackets. This would have included tax increases on vehicle purchases and auto insurance policies, as well as increased fees for vehicle registration. At a time when taxpayers have a consistently rough go of it when it comes to paying their state taxes, Kaine’s proposal comes across as extraordinarily tone-deaf.
Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact finds that Trump’s claims are (brace yourselves) correct: Virginians making $17,000 (or even less) each year would have been affected by Kaine’s proposal.
A Tale of Two Tax Hikes
This 2006 proposal by Kaine was defeated.
But here’s where things get a bit more complicated. The $17,000 figure Trump used as a benchmark didn’t have anything to do with Kaine’s 2006 proposal — it actually came from a separate measure produced by Kaine in 2009, during his last month as governor.
During this time, Virginia still hadn’t recovered from the Great Recession. To answer the crisis, Kaine proposed a tax increase for all Virginians, to the tune of one full percentage point. This proposal was also defeated. Trump’s campaign website cites $17,000 as the cutoff for this proposal — not the one in 2006. His website had it right, but Trump either misspoke or didn’t care that what he was saying was “mostly” true.
But a lie of omission is still a lie. The proposal would have introduced the tax increase over a span of four years — not all at once.
The Pot Calls the Kettle Black
Readers have likely already detected the irony of Trump going after an opponent for their stance on Taxes. Trump himself has yet to produce his tax returns — a useful but ultimately not “legally required” gesture that every Presidential candidate has followed through on since 1976.
His favorite reason is that he’s currently in the midst of an audit. But so is Warren Buffet, who gladly called Trump’s bluff and released his own tax returns.
The larger point here is that it would be unwise to trust somebody like Trump to have a clear understanding of monetary policy — or a clear plan for the future of said policy — when he himself has proved to be an almost manically incompetent steward of his own vast fortune. He’s left failed companies and ruined lives in his wake, and has faced more than 5,500 lawsuits over the course of his life for a variety of shady dealings.
He might be “mostly” right about Kaine, but that doesn’t mean much when Trump himself is a walking, talking broken clock.