Lately, Donald Trump has been cranking the grandiosity at his rallies up to 11 by promising the crowds that electing him “will make every dream you ever dreamed for your country come true.” This is obviously absurd, at least insofar as the man is talking to downscale whites pining for a return to the 1970s. Trump is not going to deport every undocumented immigrant, and even if he did, America would still become more diverse over time. No amount of tariffs will bring back all factory jobs that have gone to China. We’re not turning back time.
But for a certain kind of conservative, Trump really could promise to make dreams come true—namely, the GOP’s donor class, which can count on a raft of tax cuts should the nominee overcome his current odds and win the White House next month.
How can we be so sure? Because in any environment where Trump wins, there’s a pretty strong chance the Republicans will hold onto both the House and Senate. And with just 51 votes in the upper chamber, they will be able to use the budget reconciliation process to push through all sorts of priorities the right has longed for. As Politico reported earlier Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan is already promising to do just that.
About a year ago, I wrote about the history of reconciliation and how a Republican-controlled government could use it to immolate both the tax code and the social safety net if it felt so inclined. The process prevents filibusters on tax and spending bills, allowing the Senate to pass them with a bare majority vote. It’s an astonishingly flexible tool that can be used to tinker with any mandatory spending program except for Social Security—think food stamps, Medicare, unemployment benefits, and Medicaid—and cut or raise taxes. Democrats famously used it to push Obamacare over the legislative finish line after they lost their 60-vote majority due to Sen. Ted Kennedy’s death. Republicans recently used it to pass an Obamacare repeal bill that the president promptly vetoed. President George W. Bush used it to force through his tax cuts.
And if Trump somehow demagogues his way into the Oval Office, it’s a sure bet Ryan will place a massive tax-cut bill on his desk to sign. Whatever differences there are between the two men, they see eye to eye on the need to eliminate the estate tax, lower the top income tax rates, and drastically lower the corporate rate. They may have some substantial disagreements—Paul Ryan wants to stop companies from deducting the interest they pay on debt, while Trump apparently does not, for instance. But given that Trump lacks even a modicum of policy expertise and has generally relied on advice from generic supply-siders like Stephen Moore and Larry Kudlow who’d big-league love to see Ryan’s ideas signed into law, it seems unlikely Trump would veto anything the speaker sent him.
This is obviously one of the major reasons why Paul Ryan has swallowed his pride and supported Donald Trump, despite acknowledging Trump’s penchant for wildly racist outbursts. It’s essentially the same argument Grover Norquist made for Mitt Romney years ago:
We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate.
So it’s probably more accurate to say that if Donald Trump is elected, Paul Ryan will be able to finally make wealthy conservatives’ dreams come true—a tax cut in which 99 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent.