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Holding his tongue through protests, Trump goes at Clinton for tax plan

Donald Trump outlined his economic vision in a crucial speech Monday, raising his proposed top income tax rate to 33 percent and expanding on some reforms he has struggled to pin down consistently as a presidential candidate.

In the biggest shift from his past plans, Trump said he would seek three income tax brackets of 33 percent, 25 percent and 12 percent, but did not outline which income levels would pay each rate. He previously sought a top rate of 25 percent versus the current rate of nearly 40 percent.

"The rich will pay their fair share, but no one will pay so much that it destroys jobs or undermines our ability as a nation to compete," Trump said in the speech at the Detroit Economic Club.

Trump paused several times as protesters interrupted. Staying largely on script after a series of recent comments drew broad criticism, he restrained himself from responding to protesters as he has done in the past. A group of more than a dozen women claimed to be behind the disruptions, protesting a past comment that he would move auto plants out of Michigan.

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to the Detroit Economic Club at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan August 8, 2016.
Eric Thayer | Reuters
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to the Detroit Economic Club at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan August 8, 2016.

The remarks came as the Trump campaign looked to refocus after a series of gaffes by the billionaire developer. Trump has repeatedly claimed he is better suited to steer the American economy than Democrat Hillary Clinton, and respondents in recent polls have narrowly favored Trump as more prepared to do so.

Trump did not go into painstaking detail on his policies or explain how he will trim spending to offset the lost revenue from tax cuts. He said he will offer more detail on his proposals "in the coming weeks."

Trump pledged to protect American industries like auto manufacturing, steel and coal, saying his policies will create "millions of good-paying jobs." He said he had "the campaign of the future" without mentioning technological innovation. Trump tried to contrast his plans to what he called "the job-killing, tax-raising, poverty-inducing Obama-Clinton agenda."

In a statement ahead of Trump's speech Monday, Clinton's campaign bashed his proposals.

"The core of Donald Trump's economic plan involves reckless tax cuts that will add trillions to the debt to benefit the wealthy, Wall Street, and big corporations," Clinton policy advisers Jake Sullivan, Maya Harris and Jacob Leibenluft wrote in a statement. "Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to lead — and would tear our country apart with his dangerous ideas, divisive rhetoric, and history of harming hardworking Americans."

Clinton is slated to give an economic speech of her own on Thursday. A Moody's analysis of both plans said Clinton would bring a "somewhat stronger" economy while Trump would cause a "lengthy recession."

Trump largely rehashed previous pledges to cut business taxes, renegotiate trade deals and reverse climate-related executive actions issued under President Barack Obama. But he rolled out new wrinkles in the speech, like putting a moratorium on "new agency regulations" and making child care tax deductible.

"It is time to remove the anchor that is dragging us down. And that's what it's doing, it's dragging us down," Trump said about "over-regulation" of the U.S. economy.

Trump said he wants to ensure the wealthy "pay their fair share" while reducing taxes for the middle and working class. Analyses of Trump's original income tax plan said it could expand the U.S. deficit by as much as $10 trillion, but CNBC contributor and informal Trump adviser Larry Kudlow claimed income tax changes could help to reduce that hit.

Trump once again pledged to cap business taxes at 15 percent for businesses of all sizes, versus the current rate of more than 30 percent.

Trump highlighted these economic proposals on Monday, among others:

  • He called to end the estate or "death" tax, which is levied on the transfer of property after death. It currently applies to estates of more than $5.45 million.
  • He pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and stop the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump has repeatedly railed against those trade deals, saying they harm American workers. Trump has been criticized for discussing the issue while some Trump-branded products are made outside of the United States.
  • Trump proposed reversing Obama administration efforts like the Climate Action Plan and Waters of the U.S. rule. He also wants to renew the Keystone XL Pipeline project, which Obama opposed, while backing out of the Paris climate accords.