Donald Trump
Donald Trump Image: Bloomberg

The New York real estate mogul Donald Trump defied all conventional wisdom by winning the presidency, a huge upset that is sending shock waves through the political and policy establishment.

During the campaign, Trump eschewed providing details on many issues, instead just providing a broad outline of his policy positions.

Following is a guide to what Trump has said.

Tax Reform

Trump came out early with very specific tax proposals that would generally lower rates and simplify the tax regime.

  • Lowering Tax Rates: Trump's plan calls for lowering taxes across the board. It would consolidate the tax brackets into three, with the biggest tax cuts going to middle-class workers who are married with children. Tax rates would be: 12%, 25% or 33%. He would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax.
  • Capital Gains: Trump would keep the existing capital gain rate structure. However — much like his rival, Hillary Clinton — he would tax carried interests as ordinary income.
  • The Affordable Care Act: Trump would repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would include a repeal of the additional Medicare tax, the net investment income surtax, the medical device excise tax and the "Cadillac tax."
  • The Estate Tax: Trump proposes a repeal of the estate tax but would tax estates' unrealized capital gain above $10 million, and would disallow contributions of appreciated assets to a private charity established by the decedent or the decedent's relatives.
  • Child Care: Trump proposes an above-the-line deduction for child care expenses, capped at the average cost of such expenses in the taxpayer's state of residence, and s similar deduction for elder care, capped at $5,000 per year. He also proposes an expansion of the earned income tax credit, and tax favored contributions of up to $2,000 per year to Dependent Care Savings Accounts.
  • Business Taxes: Trump proposes eliminating all business tax incentives, except for the Research & Development Credit. He also proposes a one-time deemed repatriation of corporate cash held overseas at a discounted 10% tax rate, and would end the deferral of taxes on corporate income earned abroad while retaining the foreign tax credit regime.

'Too Big to Fail'

One of the biggest surprises at the Republican National Convention in July was Trump's embrace of a return to the Glass-Steagall Act. During the early days of the Cleveland convention, Trump's campaign engineered a call for a return to the Depression-era law as part of the official platform.

"We also call for reintroduction of the platform of Glass-Steagall so that would create barriers between what the big banks can do and avoid some of the crisis that led to 2008," Paul Manafort, at the time Trump's campaign director, said on July 18. "The Obama-Clinton years have passed legislation that has been favorable to the big banks, which is why you see all the Wall Street money going to her."

The move caught Republican lawmakers off guard, with many saying they continue to oppose restoring the law that separated commercial and investment banking. But it's not clear how committed Trump is to Glass-Steagall. While it is part of the official platform, the president-elect himself has never talked about it. He had previously said he disagreed with the idea of breaking up the big banks — something that would happen if Glass-Steagall were restored.

Trump has also separately called for the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Regulatory Relief

Trump said on Aug. 8 that if elected president, he would put a temporary moratorium on new agency regulations. In a speech, he said "overregulation is costing our economy as much as $2 trillion a year."

Under Trump's plan, every federal agency would draw up a list of regulations that are unnecessary and do not improve public safety and repeal them.

Trump's plan was met with skepticism from financial industry observers, who suggested it would be difficult for the president to stop independent agencies — like the banking regulators — from enacting new regulations. It's also notable that such a plan would directly conflict with the idea of restoring Glass-Steagall, which would require more regulations to be promulgated.

More generally, Trump has repeatedly said that he views regulations as harmful.

"We will make America the best place in the world to start a business…we will get rid of these horrible regulations that make it impossible to do business in this country," Trump said during a June economic policy speech in Monessen, Pa.

Trump told The Hill newspaper last year that "under Dodd-Frank, the regulators are running the banks. The bankers are petrified of the regulators. And the problem is that the banks aren't loaning money to people who will create jobs."

Still, in an earlier interview with Time magazine, Trump said there "are aspects of" Dodd-Frank "you could leave," though he did not specify which ones. When asked specifically about the Volcker Rule, he praised former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, and suggested he approved of the rule.

"Well, I'm not sure if he likes it, but…if he's happy, I'm happy," Trump said. "He was a terrific guy. I've met him a few times. And I thought he was terrific. But I think his policy and his demeanor — there was something very solid about him."

Health Care and Employee Benefits

Donald Trump has called the Affordable Care Act a "complete disaster" and said it needs to be repealed and replaced. "What I'd like to see is a private system without the artificial lines around every state," he told Fox News. His other specific recommendations include:

  • Letting Americans purchase health care across state lines.
  • Creating "a universal 'market-based' plan that would offer a range of choices," according to a Trump spokesperson. "Mr. Trump will be proposing a health plan that will return authority to the states and operate under free-market principles. Mr. Trump's plan will provide choice to the buyer, provide individual tax relief for health insurance and keep plans portable and affordable. The plan will break the health insurance company monopolies and allow individuals to buy across state lines."
  • Suggesting that rich taxpayers should sacrifice the benefits of Social Security for the good of the country.
  • Opposed massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. "Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can't do that. And it's not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of the sudden they want to be cut," he told a GOP summit in April.
  • Wants to repeal the so-called Cadillac tax, an excise tax of 40% on the cost of health coverage exceeding the threshold value of $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for a family.
  • Promises "six weeks of paid maternity leave to any mother with a newborn child whose employer does not provide the benefit." His plan outlined on his website does not mention if the policy applies to same-sex parents. He says his maternity leave policy will be completely paid for through the unemployment insurance program.
  • Wants parents to contribute up to $2,000 to a tax-free dependent-care savings account. Parents do not have to depend on their employer to set up an account for each of their children, and funds will remain in the account until the age of 18. "Whatever still remains at that time can be used to help offset the cost of higher education for your child," Trump said.
  • Supports a low minimum wage. "Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country," he said.

'Crony Capitalism'

Trump has been consistently critical of the role of campaign donations in shaping politics, arguing that politicians are effectively "bought" by the firms that give them money. Indeed, part of Trump's appeal to voters is that he didn't accept donations during the primary process. He has subsequently begun fundraising, though he has not received much money from the financial industry.

On Oct. 18, Trump announced a new initiative designed to curb the influence of special interests. He said he would seek a constitutional amendment that would impose term limits on all members of Congress.

His plan would also institute a five-year ban on all executive-branch officials and former members of Congress from lobbying the government. Additionally, Trump is seeking to expand the definition of lobbyist and a lifetime ban against former senior executive branch officials from lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.

During the campaign, Trump also specifically criticized Clinton for accepting money from firms like Goldman Sachs. The Trump campaign also highlighted recent WikiLeaks emails that allegedly provide a transcript of Clinton's speeches to Goldman.

Trump has also been critical of capital gains tax breaks for hedge funds and other securities firms.

"They're paying nothing and it's ridiculous. I want to save the middle class," he said in August on CBS's "Face the Nation." "The hedge fund guys didn't build this country. These are guys that shift paper around and they get lucky."


Trump has taken numerous shots at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., the founder of the CFPB, but has not specifically addressed the agency itself. Most political observers believe Trump would be open to Republican efforts to dismantle or change the agency — but the president-elect has not endorsed such a plan.

Fed Policy

Trump has long accused the Federal Reserve of acting politically to help President Obama and Clinton. Specifically, he claimed without evidence last year that Fed Chair Janet Yellen was keeping interest rates low in order to ensure the economy did not collapse.

"Janet Yellen is highly political and she's not raising rates for a very specific reason," Trump said in a speech on Nov. 3, 2015. "Because Obama told her not to because he wants to be out playing golf and other things a year from now and he wants to be doing other things and doesn't want to see a bubble burst during his administration."

He amplified those criticisms in the final days of the campaign. During the first presidential debate, on Sept. 26, Trump went out of his way to criticize the Fed, again predicting doom if and when rates go up again.

"We're in a bubble right now. And the only thing that looks good is the stock market, but if you raise interest rates even a little bit, that's going to come crashing down," Trump said.

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