- - Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Donald Trump has been “walking back” major economic policy positions he has taken, suggesting that he either hasn’t thought them through or will abandon them under political pressure.

The term “walking back” is a polite political phrase used by the news media to describe what Mr. Trump is really doing — reversing or otherwise changing positions when they become politically damaging or inconvenient.

Two examples are especially alarming, because he is abandoning long-established Republican policy and taking positions held by Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, a self-described, dyed-in-the-wool socialist.

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In just past week, Mr. Trump has suggested that he is open to raising taxes on higher-income Americans and may join the Democrats in raising the minimum wage, positions strongly opposed by small businesses and conservative economists.

Take his position on the minimum wage: Last year, he was for keeping the minimum wage “pretty much where it is right now,” because raising it would hurt America’s competitiveness in the global economy, he said on “Meet The Press.”

Declaring that under his administration the minimum wage would be a non-issue, he told host Chuck Todd, “I’m going to bring jobs back . So that we won’t even have to be talking about the minimum wage.”

And in a Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee last November, Mr. Trump reiterated his opposition to raising the minimum wage, because America “is a country that is being beaten on every front.”

He even told Fox News host Neil Cavuto that “wages [are] too high,” adding that “we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard .”

The day after winning last week’s Indiana primary and becoming the Republican Party’s “presumptive nominee,” he changed his mind in a New York minute.

Mr. Trump told Wolf Blitzer on CNN that he is now “open to doing something with” the minimum wage. The New York Times reported at the time that he also described himself as “very different from most Republicans” on the issue.

“I mean, you have to have something that you can live on,” he said.

In a major report on the economic impact of raising the minimum wage, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said it would result in widespread job losses among small businesses that would be forced to cut their payrolls.

The CBO put those losses at somewhere between 500,000 to 1 million jobs.

More recently, the CBO issued a report Monday that said the minimum wage may be to blame for one in six young men between the ages of 18 and 34 being unemployed, many of them low-skilled, inexperienced minorities.

“Higher minimum wages may also have increased joblessness among young men,” the report stated. “The federal minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, has not consistently risen since 1980, but there has been an increase in the number of state and local minimum-wage laws in recent years.”

Last year, Mr. Trump released an across-the-board tax cut plan that would create four tax brackets, with the highest tax rate cut to 25 percent. That unleashed a barrage of attacks from Democrats and the Clinton campaign.

“There has never been a more risky or reckless tax proposal ever put forward,” said Gene Sperling, a senior economic adviser to President Clinton and President Obama.

“This is a tax plan by the billionaire, for the billionaires,” said Hillary’s senior policy adviser, Jake Sullivan. “Who knows what he’ll say tomorrow? But the problem is his proposal is right there in black and white.”

Over the weekend, Mr. Trump backed away from his tax cut plan, saying he changed his mind about cutting tax rates for those in the highest income bracket.

In fact, he told NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday, he may eventually raise taxes on the wealthy, a stunning admission that made headlines across the country.

“I’m not necessarily a huge fan of [across-the-board tax cuts], he told CNBC. “I am so much more into the middle class, whose just been absolutely forgotten in our country.”

On Monday, Mr. Trump seemed to reverse course yet again, saying that any changes in the tax rates would have to be negotiated with Congress.

But for a presidential candidate, whose supporters say he’s a tough guy who stands his ground and “tells it like it is,” Mr. Trump is looking like a political wimp who abandons his policy principles at the first sign of criticism or tough opposition.

That is, if he has any principles. After all, he is a former liberal Democrat who supported President Clinton and has given generously to Hillary’s past campaigns.

Throughout his campaign, Mr. Trump has boasted that he was self-financing his campaign and refusing any and all big money PAC contributions from wealthy donors.

But now that he is within reach of clinching the GOP’s nomination, he acknowledges that he cannot and will not cover the cost of a general election campaign.

So last week, he named hedge-fund manager and film investor Steven Mnuchin, who spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs, to launch a fundraising blitz aimed at collecting $1 billion for starters from very rich people.

Mr. Trump was running on a pledge to “make America great again,” to which he’s now added this addendum: “Before I change my mind.”

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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