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The GOP Platform Perfectly Reflects the Lunacy of Trump’s Party

I read it so you don’t have to: It’s an unconditional surrender to the cult of Trump, and its plan to reduce inflation is laughable.

Donald Trump during the June 27 debate
Don’t feel bad; he probably hasn’t read it either.

The Trump-dominated Republican platform committee completed its work very quickly, producing a document (click here) that’s more detailed than I expected. I have written that conservatism no longer possesses an ideology. The 2024 Republican platform (which awaits formal adoption at next week’s Republican National Convention) challenges that premise to the extent that it commits the party to many specific positions. But these turn out to be a recitation of crude applause lines from Trump rallies.

“Republicans,” the 2024 platform says, “will use existing Federal Law to keep foreign Christian-hating Communists, Marxists, and Socialists out of America.” If that rings a bell, it’s because this is slight reworking of what Trump said last Veteran’s Day in Claremont, New Hampshire: “We pledge to you that we will root out the Communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.” It did not go unnoticed back then that “vermin” echoed Hitler (“Should I not also have the right to eliminate millions of an inferior race that multiplies like vermin?”), so the offending word was scrubbed from the platform version. Even without it, political rhetoric doesn’t get much more toxic. But xenophobia and rhetorical bombast (why “Communists” and “Marxists”?) are not ideas.

The only organizing principle I see in this platform is expediency. For example, the word “abortion” appeared 34 times in the 2016 platform, which endorsed a constitutional amendment banning abortion nationwide and legislation declaring that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth. That was then. The word “abortion” appears only once in the 2024 platform (there was no 2020 platform). The new document implies but does not state outright that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the unborn, takes a quick victory lap over the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling (it happened “because of us”), states the party’s opposition to “late term abortions,” and otherwise leaves regulation of abortions to the states.

Another example of the platform’s expediency is its treatment of Social Security and Medicare. In 2016 the Republican platform said, “We reject the old maxim that Social Security is the ‘Third Rail’ of American politics, deadly for anyone who would change it.” In 2024 the Republican platform says, in effect, Damned straight Social Security is the “Third Rail” of American politics! Here’s what it literally says: “President Trump has made clear that he will not cut one penny from Medicare or Social Security.” Never mind that Trump said as recently as March that “there is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements, in terms of cutting” these programs, or that Trump’s 2021 budget proposed cutting Social Security disability benefits by as much as $7,500 per beneficiary. (In fairness, these proposals would not involve cutting one penny but many billions of them.) Expect Trump to deny this plank exists, or to claim he had nothing to do with its inclusion, should he win a second term.

The platform’s preamble enunciates a collective Republican surrender to Trump’s cult of personality, right down to his Eccentric Use of Capital Letters. “In 2016,” the preamble states,

President Donald J. Trump was elected as an unapologetic Champion of the American People. He reignited the American Spirit and called on us to renew our National Pride. His Policies spurred Historic Economic Growth, Job Creation, and a Resurgence of American Manufacturing. President Trump and the Republican Party led America out of the pessimism induced by decades of failed leadership, showing us that the American People want Greatness for our Country again.

To paraphrase Molly Ivins’s famous crack about Patrick Buchanan’s culture-war speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention: It probably sounded better in the original Korean. For comparison’s sake, here is a snippet from the preamble to the Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of [North] Korea singing the praises of supreme leader Kim Jong-Un’s father and grandfather:

In the face of the collapse of the world socialist system and the vicious offensive of the imperialist allied forces to stifle the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il … safeguarded with honor the achievements of socialism which are the precious legacy of the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung.

If anything, the 2024 platform sounds slightly more propagandistic than the North Korean Constitution. Dear Leader might consider in future adopting Trump’s novel use of capitalization.

But enough with these preliminaries. Let’s talk policy.

The platform has 10 chapters, each describing a different policy position. I’m going to focus today on Chapter One: “Defeat Inflation and Quickly Bring Down All Prices.” Already Biden has brought inflation down over the past two years from 9.1 percent to 3.3 percent. Also, excepting certain items like electronics, prices don’t actually come “down” in a healthy economy; when they do, economists call that deflation and the country is faced with much bigger problems. But never mind all that. How would the Republicans lower the consumer price index further?

By, among other things, “lifting restrictions on American Energy Production and terminating the Socialist Green New Deal.” That second item is a tall order, given that the Green New Deal was never enacted into law. The platform probably means to refer to the Inflation Reduction Act’s $730 billion investment in green technologies to address climate change. But given that four times as much IRA climate money has gone to Republican congressional districts as to Democratic congressional districts, according to calculations last month by Bloomberg, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that a Republican administration would cut these funds.

How else does the Republican platform propose cutting inflation? It will “rein in wasteful government spending.” But where? Medicare and Social Security, which Trump promises not to cut, make up 35 percent of all federal spending. Add interest on the national debt, and that’s 48 percent. What about the Pentagon? Nope, the GOP’s 2024 platform promises more military spending, not less, on an Israeli-style Iron Dome missile shield and other “advanced technologies,” plus more pay for the troops. So now we’ve taken 61 percent of all federal spending off the table. Cutting veterans programs is a bad look for a Vietnam draft dodger like Trump who has dismissed fallen soldiers as “suckers” and “losers,” so make that 66 percent of all federal spending that’s off the table. That leaves … one-third. It is axiomatic, if you’re a Republican, that all government waste resides within the puny one-third of government spending that Congress has been squeezing down, off and on, for four decades.

How else are we going to reduce inflation? We’re going to “cut costly and burdensome regulations,” just like Trump did when he was president before. Except he didn’t. According to Pierre Lemieux, writing in the winter issue of Regulation, the volume of federal regulations, as measured by the number of pages in the Code of Federal Regulations, showed under Trump “a rough plateauing of the upward trend” that preceded Trump, “with a very small increase between the last year of Barack Obama’s administration (2016) and the last year of Trump’s (2020).” All Trump can say is that he halted an upward trend. And anyway, it’s never been demonstrated convincingly that regulation increases inflation at all.

How else to stop inflation? “Stop Illegal Immigration.” According to the 2024 platform, undocumented immigrants drive up the price of housing, education, and health care. That may be so in certain isolated instances. But the macroeconomic effect that anti-immigration advocates more typically cite is that immigration drives wages down. The effect appears to be small, and concentrated among workers who lack a high school degree … but that’s the argument. More immigrants, lower wages. Stop illegal immigration, and you will create labor shortages that drive wages up—which will increase inflation, not reduce it.

The 2024 platform’s final proposal to reduce inflation is to “Restore Peace Through Strength.” This is a highly euphemistic way of suggesting that Trump would end military support for Ukraine and thereby bring down energy prices (“geopolitical stability brings price stability”). This is the platform’s only suggestion on how to reduce inflation that might actually work, but the price would be a de facto assent to Vladimir Putin seizing Ukraine. “Who lost Ukraine?” Democrats could say in a couple of years. “Trump’s anti-inflation policy!”

The 2024 Republican platform’s plan to tackle inflation occupies less than one page in a 16-page document. It is therefore worth considering what it leaves out. Most conspicuously, it omits tariffs. In Chapter Five of the platform we learn that “Republicans will support baseline Tariffs on Foreign-made goods.” Slapping a tariff (Trump has suggested 10 percent) on every foreign good imported into the United States is an inflation policy in the sense that (much like curbing illegal immigration) it would increase inflation. Trump told Time his tariffs wouldn’t be inflationary, which is like telling Time the moon is made of green cheese. Now the entire Republican Party is on record agreeing that, yes, the moon is made of green cheese.

“Republicans will make permanent,” the platform says in Chapter Three, “the provisions of the Trump Tax Cuts that doubled the standard deduction, expanded the Child Tax Credit, and spurred Economic Growth for all Americans.” Is it my imagination or is the platform trying to sound like President Joe Biden? Biden has said he’d preserve the Trump tax cuts for everybody earning less than $400,000. Trump has said he intends to keep the tax cuts in their entirety, including the 2017 law’s lowering of the top corporate rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. According to the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, savings from the 2017 tax cut for households in the top 1 percent and top 5 percent were three times greater, as a share of after-tax returns, than for households in the bottom 60 percent. Yet the platform invites readers to believe that Trump doesn’t want to preserve the 2017 tax cuts for corporations and for more affluent families. That isn’t true. Indeed, Trump has talked about piling on even more tax cuts for corporations. All these tax cuts would, of course, increase rather than reduce inflation.

So would other policies that Trump hasn’t embraced overtly but that his allies are talking up, such as exerting Oval Office control over the Federal Reserve and devaluing the currency. These inflationary policies too are curiously absent from the 2024 platform.

“There has never been a presidential platform so self-evidently inflationary as the one put forward by President Trump,” Larry Summers told The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein. That was in late May, so Summers wasn’t talking about the official 2024 Republican platform; he was talking about the proposals Trump and those close to him were talking up at the time. The 2024 Republican platform does its best to disguise the reality Summers described, and to disguise many other realities as well. I’ll discuss more of these in a future post.

This is the first of a two-part article. Click here for part two.