“I want them too.”
That was Donald Trump’s pithy response last December to Fox News personality Brian Kilmeade’s question regarding Trump’s position on whether or not to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for people earning more than $200,000 a year.
During last year’s debate over the tax cuts, the potential 2012 presidential candidate was outspoken in his opposition to President Barack Obama’s effort to deny an extension.
“He’s taking away a lot of incentives from a lot of people that produce a lot of taxes,” Trump told Fox News, explaining that Obama’s proposal would drive the wealthy out of the country. “It creates the wrong image. You really have to keep the taxes down.”
Ten years earlier, when Trump was also floating a run for the White House, he was singing a different tune.
The first proposal unveiled by his exploratory presidential campaign in 2000 was to impose a one-time 14.25 percent tax on the assets of people and trusts worth $10 million or more -- raising $5.7 trillion to help balance the deficit in one year and ensure the stability of the Social Security Trust Fund for decades to come.
In his book “The America That We Deserve” and in numerous interviews, he touted the proposal. He told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on November 18, 1999:
"I would tax people of wealth -- of great wealth, people over $10 million, by 14.25 percent. This tax would raise approximately $5.7 trillion, which happens to be our national debt. We would now save $200 billion a year in interest costs, which would go toward lowering taxes for everybody and particularly the working middle class; getting rid of the estate tax and saving Social Security. The economy would boom. We'd have no debt. Hey, I know about debt probably as much as anybody. I've had too much, and I've had too little. And you know what? Too little is much better, believe me."
Conservative critics attacked the plan, using arguments similar to those made by Trump today to deride Obama’s proposal. Pat Buchanan, who was then Trump’s main opponent for the Reform Party nomination, said the tax proposal would prompt the wealthy to move their money out of the U.S. “I can’t think of a better idea to cause capital flight out of the United States,” Buchanan told the New York Times.
When a student at the University of Pennsylvania questioned Trump, also arguing that the tax would drive the wealthy to shift their assets, the developer dismissed those concerns:
"Well, I just think that the booming economy that we create by my plan would keep the money here because it's incentive. They're going to want to be where the action is. They're going to be -- want -- want to be where the good economy is. And they move their money around, hey, including me. You move your money around where the action is, and now it's a real world economy. But this country would be booming. We'd have no debt. It would be unbelievable."
Trump's office did not return a request for comment.
How will Donald Trump’s first 100 days impact YOU? Subscribe, choose the community that you most identify with or want to learn more about and we’ll send you the news that matters most once a week throughout Trump’s first 100 days in office. Learn more