Last week, Donald Trump advisor Stephen Moore, who has built his career advocating tax cuts for the rich and the privatization of America’s welfare state, said something startling to congressional Republicans. He said Republicans are no longer the party of Ronald Reagan. “Just as Reagan converted the GOP into a conservative party,” Moore reportedly declared, “Trump has converted the GOP into a populist working-class party.”
What does that mean? On its face, it seems fairly clear. Trump says he opposes NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership and will prevent companies from leaving the US. During the campaign, he came out against overhauling Medicare and Social Security. He’s called for new spending on infrastructure. In each case, he ostensibly supports government intervention in the economy, which runs counter to the gospel of Reagan.
But when you dig further, the policy shift looks less dramatic. It’s extremely unlikely Trump will prove able to renegotiate NAFTA. His infrastructure proposal consists not of government spending but of tax credits to investors. Georgia Congressman Tom Price, who Trump is reportedly considering for Secretary of Health and Human Services, supports turning Medicare into a voucher program. Trump is also reportedly planning income and business tax cuts that would overwhelmingly benefit the rich. In other words, Trump’s plan looks a lot like the old Republican Party’s plan: Shrink government programs and let the rich pocket the difference.