DETROIT — Trying to turn the page after a tumultuous campaign stretch, Donald Trump unleashed a blistering attack Monday on Hillary Clinton’s approach to the economy while promising he would provide deep tax cuts and jolt middle class workers back to prosperity.
Trump’s speech to the Detroit Economic Club reflected the Republican presidential nominee’s attempt to reboot and redirect the conversation to his strength: the economy. Trump offered a few new policy specifics but trained much of his attention on his Democratic opponent.
“The one common feature of every Hillary Clinton idea is that it punishes you for working and doing business in the United States,” Trump said. He said he wants to “jumpstart America” and added, “It won’t even be that hard.”
Delivering his speech from a teleprompter at a downtown convention centre, Trump was interrupted every few minutes by protesters — all women — who stood on chairs and shouted at him before being pulled out of the room by security guards. Though their chants were inaudible, the protests appeared co-ordinated, and Trump varied between powering through his speech and acknowledging the interruptions.
“It’s all very well planned out,” Trump said of the protesters. He added at one point, “I will say, the Bernie Sanders people had far more energy and spirit.”
Turning to taxes, Trump said no business should pay more than 15 per cent of its income in taxes, a major drop from the current 35 per cent corporate tax rate.
He revamped his previous proposal, unveiled during the GOP primary, by increasing the amount that the highest-individual income earners would pay.
Trump said he wants to simplify the tax code, which currently has seven tax brackets, to three: 12 per cent, 25 per cent and 33 per cent of income after deductions. Trump’s proposal from last year had envisioned four brackets: zero, 10 per cent, 20 per cent and 25 per cent.
In a new proposal, Trump called for allowing parents to fully deduct the average cost of childcare from their taxable income. It’s a theme Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, first introduced during the Republican National Convention as his campaign seeks to broaden its appeal to Democratic voters ahead of the general election.
The current Child and Dependent Care tax credit includes caps for qualifying expenses that Trump’s plan would eliminate, though a senior campaign aide said there would be an income limit for eligibility.
Detroit, with its devastated real estate market and dearth of jobs, has come to symbolize the nation’s broader struggle to recover from the recession and restore manufacturing jobs. But Democrats have touted the comeback of the auto industry during the Obama administration as a mark of success for the types of economic policies Clinton is supporting.
“In short, the city of Detroit is the living, breathing example of my opponent’s failed economic agenda,” Trump said, referring to Clinton. He called her “the candidate of the past.”
It’s an issue where Trump is polling even or ahead of Clinton, though she’s gaining ground. The Democratic nominee planned her own economic speech — also in Detroit — on Thursday to ensure Trump doesn’t get the last word on an issue resonating deeply with voters.
Trump has been immersed in controversy over his repeated criticism of a Muslim-American family whose son, an Army captain, was killed in Iraq, and his refusal for days to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan in Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary. He announced his support for Ryan on Friday.
Clinton, in Detroit later in the week, plans to call for the largest investment in jobs since World War II, her campaign says, while questioning Trump’s own commitment to helping the middle class.
Trump also revisited his opposition to current trade deals, including his plan to renegotiate the NAFTA trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. He said the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with Asia would be the “next betrayal” of Americans. Clinton says she opposes TPP but Trump suggested she was concealing her true support, and said the deal would be even worse for Detroit’s automakers than NAFTA.
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, called the real estate mogul a “refreshing” change and argued he’d never forgotten the workers who made his projects possible.
“He’s a dreamer. He’s a builder. He’s a driver,” Pence said. “And he is a man who speaks his mind.”