President Trump sat down with The Economist last week to talk trade, immigration, taxes, and health care and the transcript is chock-full of 'Trumpisms' that should not go unnoticed. Here are just a few of our favorite exchanges:
On NAFTA, apparently 'big' is not an appropriate adjective to describe the renegotiation that will take place...'massive' and/or 'huge' are far better descriptors:
It sounds like you’re imagining a pretty big renegotiation of NAFTA. What would a fair NAFTA look like?
Big isn’t a good enough word. Massive.
It’s got to be. It’s got to be.
What would it look like? What would a fair NAFTA look like?
No, it’s gotta be. Otherwise we're terminating NAFTA.
Some people think this is a negotiating tactic—that you say very dramatic things but actually you would settle for some very small changes. Is that right?
No, it’s not, really not a negotiation. It’s really not. No, will I settle for less than I go in with? Yes, I mean who wouldn’t? Nobody, you know, I always use the word flexibility, I have flexibility. [Goes off the record.] [Our] relationship with China is long. Of course by China standards, it’s very short [laughter], you know when I’m with [Xi Jinping], because he’s great, when I’m with him, he’s a great guy. He was telling me, you know they go back 8,000 years, we have 1776 is like modern history. They consider 1776 like yesterday and they, you know, go back a long time. They talk about the different wars, it was very interesting. We got along great. So I told them, I said, “We have a problem and we’re going to solve that problem.” But he wants to help us solve that problem.
On the discussion of the new tax plan we discover that Trump coined the phrase "priming the pump."
Another part of your overall plan, the tax reform plan. Is it OK if that tax plan increases the deficit? Ronald Reagan’s tax reform didn’t.
Well, it actually did. But, but it’s called priming the pump. You know, if you don’t do that, you’re never going to bring your taxes down. Now, if we get the health-care [bill through Congress], this is why, you know a lot of people said, “Why isn’t he going with taxes first, that’s his wheelhouse?” Well, hey look, I convinced many people over the last two weeks, believe me, many Congressmen, to go with it. And they’re great people, but one of the great things about getting health care is that we will be saving, I mean anywhere from $400bn to $900bn.
But beyond that it’s OK if the tax plan increases the deficit?
It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll…you understand the expression “prime the pump”?
We have to prime the pump.
Priming the pump?
Yeah, have you heard it?
Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.
Yeah, what you have to do is you have to put something in before you can get something out.
Meanwhile, CNN will be even more eager to track down Trump's taxes after he seemingly admitted to taking deductions for "birds flying across America."
But the biggest winners from this tax cut, right now, look as though they will be the very wealthiest Americans.
Well, I don’t believe that. Because they’re losing all of their deductions, I can tell you.
But something like eliminating the estate tax.
I get more deductions, I mean I can tell you this, I get more deductions, they have deductions for birds flying across America, they have deductions for everything. There are more deductions…now you’re going to get an interest deduction, and a charitable deduction. But we’re not going to have all this nonsense that they have right now that complicates things and makes it…you know when we put out that one page, I said, we should really put out a, you know, a big thing, and then I looked at the one page, honestly it’s pretty well covered. Hard to believe.
On the merits of a VAT Tax:
Would you consider a VAT for the United States?
Well the concept of VAT I really like. But let me give you the bad news. I don’t think it can be sold in this country because we’re used to an income tax, we’re used to a…people are used to this tax, whether they like it or don't like, they’re used to this tax. I fully understand because I have a lot of property in the UK. And it’s, sort of, not a bad tax. And every time I pay it, they end up sending it back to me. In fact, my accountant is always saying…
That’s a good tax.
No, it’s really not so bad. Like, I own Turnberry in Scotland. And every time I pay they say, “Yes sir, you pay it now but you get it back next year.” I said, “What kind of tax is this, I like this tax.” But the VAT is…I like it, I like it a lot, in a lot of ways. I don’t mean because of, you know, getting it back, you don’t get all of it back, but you get a lot of it back. But I like a VAT. I don’t think it can be sold in this country, I think it’s too much of a shock to this system. I can tell you if we had a VAT it would make dealing with Mexico very much easier. Because it could neutralise. And I really mean that. Part of the problem with NAFTA, the day they signed it, it was a defective deal. Because Mexico has almost a 17% VAT tax and it’s very much of a hidden tax, people don’t see it. So, but these guys, instead of renegotiating the following week…many years ago, how old is that? 35?
On Healthcare, we'll never know what brand/model of car was used to describe cheap inurance plans but we did learn that Trump is friends with key executives at the major insurers..."you know, the head people."
One of the things that was so different about your campaign message compared to other Republicans was, you said things like “I want everyone to be covered”.
We’re not going to let people die on the streets.
Look, Obamacare was a disaster. Under Obamacare, you get your doctor; that was a lie. You get your plan; that was a lie. With us, you get your doctor. You get your plan. With us you’ll get hundreds and hundreds of plans. You know, one of the insurance companies, one of the big ones came to see me yesterday. They’re so anxious to start going crazy and you know it’s going to be like life insurance. People that buy life insurance they’re inundated with carriers. All different plans. That’s what this is going to be like. And I said to them, “What do you think the good plans are going to look like?” He said, “Mr President, we’re going to have so many plans. We’re going to have the low version, the high version”, he used the word Cadillac. I won’t tell you what car he used for the low version because I don’t want you to write it because they happen to be friends of mine, you know, the head people. [Goes off the record.]
Do you want to curb legal immigration?
Oh sure, you know, I want to stop illegal immigration.
And what about legal immigration? Do you want to cut the number of immigrants?
Oh legal, no, no, no. I want people to come into the country legally. No, legally? No. I want people to come in legally. But I want people to come in on merit. I want to go to a merit-based system. Actually two countries that have very strong systems are Australia and Canada. And I like those systems very much, they’re very strong, they’re very good, I like them very much. We’re going to a much more merit-based system. But I absolutely want talented people coming in, I want people that are going to love our country coming in, I want people that are going to contribute to our country coming in. We want a provision at the right time, we want people that are coming in and will commit to not getting…not receiving any form of subsidy to live in our country for at least a five-year period.
On releasing his tax returns, Trump says that he may release them after he's out of office because he's "very proud of them actually. I did a good job."
Mr President, can I just try you on a deal-making question? If you do need Democratic support for your tax plan, your ideal tax plan, and the price of that the Democrats say is for you to release your tax returns, would you do that?
I don’t know. That’s a very interesting question. I doubt it. I doubt it. Because they’re not going to…nobody cares about my tax return except for the reporters. Oh, at some point I’ll release them. Maybe I’ll release them after I’m finished because I’m very proud of them actually. I did a good job.