During this ugly presidential campaign, Republican Donald Trump has shown enough about his character and temperament to prove himself unfit for the Oval Office. But on the issues facing this country, Trump has given voters little to go on, offering mainly bare policy outlines and vague generalities. Perhaps that's because his ideas are poorly thought out — or they don't work as advertised.
Take Sunday's presidential debate, for example. When asked how he would make the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, Trump said he would get rid of the "carried interest" loophole that lets some professional investors slash the taxes they pay on much of the income they earn from investing their clients' money. He conveniently failed to mention that under his plan, the same Wall Street fund managers who lose the loophole could wind up paying less in taxes, not more, because he would lower the top rate for businesses to 15%.
On healthcare, Trump pledged to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act and replace it with "something absolutely much less expensive." His prime tool for lowering costs, he said, would be to let insurers offer policies across state lines.
That's a change that Republicans have been touting for years, premised on the idea that an insurer in a state with light regulation could undercut the premiums of those in states with tougher rules. But Trump either overlooked or ignored that insurers can't offer policies in a new state unless they strike deals with the doctors, hospitals and other providers in every community they plan to sell coverage. And what they pay those providers is a key factor in premium rates. Importing lenient rules from low-cost states won't change that.
What dumping Obamacare in favor of lax state rules could do, though, is let insurers turn away applicants with pre-existing conditions, or charge them higher premiums. Trump doesn't talk about that either, probably because polls have shown strong public support for the 2010 law's ban on insurers cherry-picking their customers and gouging the older, less healthy ones they do serve.
That's not to say there aren't ways to reduce the cost of health insurance — it's just to note that allowing insurers to compete across state lines isn't one of them.
The details of policy matter, but Trump hasn't shown much interest in talking about them. Perhaps that's because the closer one looks at the plans he's actually proposing, the less they live up to his promises.