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Week In Politics: Clinton's Tax Returns, Dueling Economic Speeches


And to talk more about this and the week in politics, we have E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution. Hey there, E.J.

E J DIONNE, BYLINE: Good to be with you.

CORNISH: And David Brooks of The New York Times. Welcome back.


CORNISH: All right, as we just heard in Sarah's piece there, Hillary Clinton has released her latest tax return. Trump, of course, will probably be pressured to do the same. Let's step back for a minute. How important is it for voters to know how candidates make their money, whether it's from speeches or real estate deals or something else, David?

BROOKS: I don't think it's terribly important. Rich people tend to be populous, and poor people tend to be not populists in politics. I'm going through my list of people who were born poor and went into politics - Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln and even Marco Rubio. And they're never about resentment. They're always about aspiration. And so the people who actually did climb - climb up from the bottom tend not to be resentment-filled populists.

CORNISH: E.J., I feel like half of Congress is loaded, so it's hard for me to be surprised here at what's on tax returns.

DIONNE: Right. I would differ somewhat from David's reading of history. William Jennings Bryan, the original populist, does not strike me as well-heeled. A lot of the people who formed the original populist movement were poor farmers and mechanics, same with the Jacksonian Democrats. But that's a history argument we can have.

I do think it matters that people know these things, partly because it's useful to know whether somebody - what somebody actually pays in taxes. It's useful to know what people give to charity. That can be revealing. And it can be very useful to know about who they're connected to. And I think with - in Donald Trump's case, there's a lot of speculation that he fears showing that he's not as rich as he says he is. He fears showing some of the connections he might have to people he'd rather have - not have the public or the press focus on.

And with the Clintons giving out - I think now it's 31 years of tax returns, I think the pressure will build on him to put them out. And the Clintons will find interesting ways to do it, for example by looking at Trump's tax plan that he released this week that we're going to talk about and showing how much that would help Trump. And we would know exactly how much if he released his taxes.

CORNISH: Let's get into those plans because, for once, we have plans to talk about dueling economic speeches. Here's Hillary Clinton first.


HILLARY CLINTON: My message to every worker in Michigan and across America is this - I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

CORNISH: That was Clinton speaking yesterday, and here is Donald Trump at the start of the week.


DONALD TRUMP: I am proposing an across-the-board income tax reduction, especially for middle-income Americans. This will lead to millions of new and really good-paying jobs. 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.

CORNISH: Donald Trump there speaking in Detroit on message for, I think - what? - 24 hours, David.

BROOKS: Twenty-four seconds.

CORNISH: We can get to the rest of the week later, but what did you hear in these differing visions about what should be done for Americans frustrated with the hand they've been dealt by this economy?

BROOKS: I thought they were both exceptionally poor speeches. If you looked at the three top economic problems we face, the first one is growth - GDP growth. The second one is productivity growth. And the third is all the people left out of the labor force. And I wouldn't say you saw much growth agenda or much productivity agenda from either of these two candidates.

What you saw is a nostalgia for a 1970s manufacturing - labor-heavy manufacturing economy, which simply doesn't exist anymore. And the idea which they both agree on of ripping up the TPP and (unintelligible) trade deals is going to create growth is a fantasy. I have one thing to get off my chest on this one, which is that we can argue about whether trade is good or bad for America. I think it has - these deals have a marginal effect one way or the other - I think probably slightly positive.

But one thing they certainly do is they lift millions of people in Mexico, Vietnam, China out of poverty. And if you're against TPP, you're for the immiseration of the world's poorest. And people who are against TPP and trade deals like that need to deal with that.

DIONNE: I think, on the contrary, a lot of the people who are against trade deals like that are saying, we're not in favor of immiserating those people abroad, but we haven't figured out a way to do trade deals that don't disadvantage the least-advantaged people in our own country. I agree we're going to have trade with the world. I am for lifting up the rest of the world.

But there is great anger about what's happened to the least advantaged people here. And I didn't hear the same Clinton speech. I thought there were a lot of specifics in the Clinton speech about - specifically about investing, lifting people up. It began with a very optimistic view of companies that are innovative and how they mastered change.

I think Trump's speech was this fascinating marriage - a shotgun marriage, as David Graham of the Atlantic put it - between supply-side economics and a kind of populism. But the tax cuts all went to the rich. It was workers got the words; the wealthy got the money. And David Graham, writing in New York, had a nice line where the proposal on repealing the estate tax, as he put it, would not help many blue-collar workers, although it might benefit Donald Jr., Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany and Baron. And, of course, Clinton had a field day with that in her speech.

CORNISH: You know, this week - the week in Trump controversies, I guess - this time people talking about tossing off the claim that Clinton and the president are founders of ISIS before claiming he was being sarcastic - offhand comments interpreted widely as suggesting violence against Hillary Clinton. In the midst of this, she had a high-profile Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, come out against Trump.


SUSAN COLLINS: Donald Trump does not represent traditional American values, traditional Republican values and the Republican heritage that I cherish. A fundamental Republican principle is to respect the dignity and worth of every individual, and he clearly does not.

CORNISH: David Brooks, a lot of the Republicans who have come out against Trump are either retiring, have former in their title or otherwise have nothing to lose.

BROOKS: Yeah, though underneath the surface, there's a greater and greater angst about him. His poll numbers are terrible. They seem to have hit the floor, so these last two comments don't seem to have hurt him in the polls, but he's significantly down in almost all the key - key swing states. And so that is giving people some sense of conscience all of a sudden - being down in the polls.

And what you're beginning to see is talk of getting the Republican National Committee to defund the Trump campaign. And that would either manipulate him out of the race because he'll get so angry, or at least it'll try to save the Republicans down-ballot. So you're beginning to see movement under the water to do those sorts of things.

CORNISH: E.J., Susan Collins is kind of a Yankee Republican, but when you look at her and look at the electorate, is she the kind of common decency voter you've described?

DIONNE: Yeah, I think there may well be a new group in this electorate. We've talked about soccer moms or angry white men. I paid a visit to York, Pa. The county - York County is a very conservative Republican place. And Allison Cooper, who edits The York Dispatch up there, said a fascinating thing. She said this area is a little bit Southern in its attitude toward manners and decorum, and common decency is a core part of who we are. And that's not about ideology. It's about how people react to the kind of person Donald Trump presents himself as.

And whether it's the Second Amendment, quote, "threat" against Hillary Clinton or the fight with the Khan family or mocking a disabled reporter, there are a lot of voters who just look at this and say, this is cruel; this is not what we want in the White House. And so I think Trump's drop in the polls is very significantly related to these common-decency voters, who just look at him and say, this - he's not who I want in the White House.

CORNISH: E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution, thanks so much.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

CORNISH: And David Brooks of The New York Times, good to talk with you.

BROOKS: Good to talk with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.