- - Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Here’s how some savvy folks believe Donald Trump can set Hillary Clinton back on her heels in the second presidential debate: Enlighten the tens of millions of radio and TV listeners how five 20th century presidents, including Hillary’s husband, made America prosperous through well devised tax-cut strategies, the kind of programs that Mr. Trump himself has recently unveiled to goose the still-anemic Obama recovery.

The Donald has all the facts at his fingertips to prove to voters that across-the-board tax cuts, along with some spending and regulatory restraint, have worked wonders every time they’ve been adopted. Lawrence Kudlow, one of Mr. Trump’s key tax policy advisers, has compiled all this critical history in compelling fashion in “JFK and the Reagan Revolution.” The Republican nominee, it is thought, could tie Hillary in knots by just asking why she remains so hostile to a proven jobs producing formula.

Co-authored by economic historian Brian Domitrovic, the newly released book focuses on John F. Kennedy’s conversion to supply-side tax cuts as a seminal political and economic event that led to the Reagan supply-side revolution, which was forced on Bill Clinton after the Democrats’ disastrous political defeat in 1994.

Mr. Kudlow recalls how Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton kept America’s economic engine humming when they, like Kennedy, lowered tax rates on both individuals and business. Even Jimmy Carter’s close economic advisers — though not Mr. Carter himself — informed Congress that JFK’s tax cut had generated unprecedented economic growth in the 1960s.

The tax-cut strategy, in fact, is the most massively under-celebrated cure for the economic doldrums that has been devised, but even media conservatives and Republican Party lawmakers have largely ignored the history that Mr. Trump would do well to vividly recap, especially since Bill’s presidency thrived on what Hillary caustically mocks as “trickle-down economics.

It would be great political theater if Mr. Trump confronts Hillary directly by noting that her husband began his two terms in office as a conventional high-tax, big-spend liberal, but then switched to a Kennedy/Reagan-style tax cut strategy after the Republicans swept both houses of Congress in 1994. Facing political catastrophe, Bill virtually repudiated his first two years in office, publicly conceding that he had “raised taxes too much” and insisting that the “era of big government is over.” As a goodwill gesture to the Republican majority, he junked several of his tax-and-spending proposals, including an energy tax, a huge stimulus package and, yes, Hillary’s disastrous health care program.

He now favored balanced budgets, pro-growth economic policies and tax cuts for everyone (including the rich) to get the economy moving again. He even embraced a Ronald Reagan-type welfare reform program that dramatically reduced caseloads and poverty. Businesses boomed, jobs surged and wages soared. Much to the surprise of his progressive policy advisers, the government also prospered, raking in a huge surplus, which allowed Mr. Clinton to pay off large chunks of the national debt.

As Mr. Kudlow and Mr. Domitrovic put it, the new Republican-controlled Senate and House, which had ridden to victory preaching tax cuts and welfare reform, made it “clear to Clinton that he would neither increase spending nor do anything further on taxes outside of cut them.” In 1997, the authors continue, the Congress “presented the president with a capital gains cut, taking the top rate [then at 28%] down to 20%. “

The result of Bill’s “trickle down” economics? From 1994 to 2000, as the authors note, employment, wages and retirement incomes climbed substantially and “the economy again grew over 4 percent per year,” precisely the goal of Mr. Trump’s Kudlow-influenced tax plan and nearly three times the growth of the Obama economy.

Mr. Trump is clearly making inroads into the middle class and working men and women who might normally vote Democratic. His emphasis on protecting jobs and closing the southern border to illegal immigrants, many of whom compete with U.S. laborers, has obviously struck a major chord with American workers. He’s clubbing Hillary on her determination to wipe out coal miners and her vow to put a tourniquet on fracking and the development of natural gas. She should also be in more trouble with workers if Mr. Trump reminds voters how she teamed up with President Obama to block completion of the Keystone XL pipeline, which her State Department favored. When Mr. Obama finally killed the pipeline project, organized labor and its rank-and-file were furious. Typical was Terry O’Sullivan’s harsh criticism. Head of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Mr. O’Sullivan charged Mr. Obama with being “cowardly” for bowing to “green-collar elitists” and caring more for them than creating “desperately needed, family-supporting, blue-collar jobs.”

Hillary is the destroyer of jobs and, unlike her husband after he was politically massacred, has no sane plan for creating them. She is Bill Clinton without the charm or the policies.

Mr. Trump, alas, has been reluctant to use this line of attack because he prefers to assail Bill for backing NAFTA. But there’s no reason he can’t criticize NAFTA and go after Hillary for turning her back on the positive portions of Bill’s presidency. By taking Hillary on, he could savage her economic program, pit her against Bill and give some needed credibility to his own tax plan, so brilliantly defended by The Washington Times’ Steve Moore. It’s worth a shot. And many of us would love to see her squirm as Mr. Trump lays out the facts.

Allan H. Ryskind is a former editor and owner of Human Events. His latest book is “Hollywood Traitors: Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler” (Regnery, 2015).

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