Kudlow's Corner

Setting the record straight on Trump

I have been accused of allegedly giving up my free-market principles in supporting some of Donald Trump's proposed policies.

I'd like to set the record straight.

Donald Trump
Dave Kaup | Reuters

First, I continue to oppose Donald Trump's trade policies. Even if his 45-percent tariff threat on China is simply a negotiating card, as Trump told me in recent interviews, I still think that's the wrong way to go.

I believe China is a major trade violator. The Chinese break all the rules. They counterfeit our goods, steal our international property rights, and hack the computers of our industries and government. Something must be done about it.

But a 45 percent tariff would be a major tax on American consumers and businesses. It would probably do more damage to the U.S. economy than to China's.

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Now, I think we need a very strong U.S. president to enforce current trading laws between the U.S., China, and the World Trade Organization. And perhaps some targeted economic sanctions on Chinese companies could work. For example, the U.S. has decided to sanction Chinese telecom giant ZTE for trade violations with Iran. This is a more precise response to trade violations than a 45 percent tax.

Trump may well have the presidential leadership skills to solve the China problem without resorting to economy-wrecking tariffs. But at the moment, I disagree with him on this topic.

Second, I have been accused of moving in Trump's direction on immigration. Here are the facts: I wrote a piece in mid-December where I announced a much tougher position on immigration — a big change in my thinking. But this had nothing to do with Trump. It was all about the war against ISIS.

I argued for a wartime moratorium on new visas and new immigrants because of the substantial danger of ISIS terrorists infiltrating our system. The piece was written just after the horrific attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. I argued that until FBI director James Comey gives a green light to new visas, and not until we completely reform the vetting process for new foreign visitors, that the borders should be sealed.

War brought me to this position. My only mention of Trump was when I disagreed with him for singling out Muslims. My proposal was not based on religion, but on the threat of ISIS infiltration into the United States. There was nothing "consequentialist" about it.

Finally, I have, for many months, endorsed Trump's tax-cutting plan. In particular, I like his business-tax-cut strategy, which includes a 15-percent rate for large C-corporations and small S-corporations along with ending the double tax on multinational corporations. And, though Trump hasn't specifically laid it out in his plan, I believe he will move to cash expensing for new investments. I think it's an excellent plan that would substantially grow the American economy and bring trillions of dollars in overseas capital back to the U.S., which, in turn, would foster millions of new jobs and faster growth.

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What's more, a number of think tanks believe the biggest beneficiaries of a significant corporate tax cut would be middle- and lower-middle-income wage earners. They, by the way, have not had a raise since 2000, which is probably why they're opposed to trade deals — and illegal immigrants, too.

In the Michigan Republican primary exit poll, 33 percent said trade expansion would create more U.S. jobs while 54 percent said it would take away U.S. jobs. But I prefer an economic-growth solution to this middle-class angst, not a protectionist program. And I think Trump's business-tax-cut package would lessen trade fears by providing wage earners with a significant pay boost.

So, yes. I have endorsed Trump's tax-cut plan.

On the other hand, I have not yet endorsed any GOP candidate. As a commentator, reporter and interviewer on this race, I think it would be inappropriate to do so at this time.

Commentary by Larry Kudlow, a senior contributor at CNBC and economics editor of the National Review. Follow him on Twitter @Larry_Kudlow.

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