Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said his chief economic concern is giving the middle class a sizable tax cut, while other proposals, including lowering taxes on businesses and the wealthy, were starting points for negotiation.
“I have to negotiate now with senators and congressmen,” Trump said during an interview that aired on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It really is a floor.”
Trump outlined his proposals for tax reform, including an effort to simplify the tax code, in September. Among other proposals, the plan promised that no business, from a mom and pop store to a Fortune 500 corporation, would pay more than 15 percent of their business income in taxes. The plan also aimed to not add to U.S. debt or the deficit.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Trump allowed that “by the time it gets negotiated, it’s going to be a different plan.”
The candidate said he would “make sure the middle class gets good tax breaks” but he suggested that political realities may make cuts for the rich harder to deliver. “When it comes time to negotiate, I feel less concerned with the rich than I do with the middle class.”
“For the wealthy, I think, frankly, it’s going to go up,” Trump said on NBC. He didn’t specify whether that meant from current levels, or from the rates included in his 2015 plan, although on ABC he said, “on my plan they’re going down. But by the time it’s negotiated, they’ll go up.”
Trump has frequently shifted his economic proposals, including making suggestions recently that he would not eliminate the national debt and could even renegotiate it. The billionaire real estate developer, in his first run for political office, has promoted his knack for making deals, rather than adherence to orthodoxy, as a selling point.
Sunday’s comments suggested how Trump, whose final rivals dropped out of the race in the past week, might work with a Republican-dominated Congress even as he begins the task of unifying the party, which in recent years has rejected any effort to raise taxes.
Many congressional Republicans have been slow to support Trump, with House Speaker Paul Ryan and others saying even after he became the standard bearer in waiting that they can’t or don’t yet endorse Trump. Trump is scheduled to meet with Ryan next week.
He also said businesses would get a tax cut, but likely would not go down to the 15-percent rate he floated in 2015. “They might have to pay a little bit more than my proposal,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, rejected the notion of an evolution of Trump’s positions.
“Don’t believe Donald Trump’s weak attempts at a general election ‘makeover’ for even a second,” Christina Reynolds, the campaign’s deputy communications director, said in a news release following Trump’s appearances. “Trump’s economic plans take direct aim at working Americans — his proposal to cut trillions in taxes for the top one percent would almost certainly come at the expense of working and middle class families.”
The release linked to analyses of Trump’s tax proposals, mostly written during the fall and winter, before the candidate spoke of his new approach. The plan lowered to four from seven the number of income tax brackets for U.S. taxpayers, with a top rate of 25 percent against the current 39.6 percent.
Trump, who once said wages were too high but has made specific appeals to voters hit by economic stagnation, said he would like to see a minimum-wage increase but only at the state level. ”I don’t know how people make it on $7.25 an hour,” he said. “But I’d rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide.”
“I am looking at it, and I haven’t decided in terms of numbers. But I think people have to get more,” Trump said on ABC. “Sure, it’s a change. I’m allowed to change. You need flexibility.”