Former Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore is bringing his regressive tax philosophy to the Virginia governor's race.
Early in his campaign for Virginia governor, Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin proposed a radical idea: eliminating the state's income tax.
"We are absolutely focused on not just getting our income tax down, but how we can eliminate it," Youngkin told conservative radio host Larry O'Connor in April.
Youngkin won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in May. Since then, his campaign has tried to tone down the right-wing rhetoric that helped him win the primary, in an attempt to appeal to voters who both support and oppose former President Donald Trump.
The man behind Youngkin's regressive economic plan is none other than Stephen Moore, a right-wing economist and writer known for his hardline anti-tax philosophy. Moore was one of Trump's key economic advisers while in office, and was one of the main architects behind Republicans' sweeping tax cuts in 2017.
"I've got a great senior economic adviser," Youngkin told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt in April. "Stephen Moore is working with us in order to figure out how to get our taxes down. And we’re targeting on getting them down to zero because we need to compete."
In many ways, Stephen Moore is the missing link between Donald Trump and Glenn Youngkin.
"Where is Donald J. Trump's Nobel Peace Prize?" Moore tweeted on Oct. 7. "I can’t think of a more obvious choice. Can you?"
Moore is a disciple of Arthur Laffer, one of former President Ronald Reagan's key economic advisers. Laffer is credited as the father of supply-side economics, which argues that cutting taxes — particularly on corporations and the wealthy — spurs economic growth. Trump awarded Laffer the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019.
After leaving Trump's shadow administration, Moore joined the right-wing Heritage Foundation as "a distinguished visiting fellow." Moore is currently on a "temporary leave of absence" from the conservative think tank as he advises Youngkin's campaign.
In 2018, Moore and Laffer published Trumponomics, a book about their involvement in crafting the Trump tax cuts. Larry Kudlow, who served as director of the National Economic Council under Trump, wrote the book's foreword. Greg Mankiw, one of George W. Bush's key economic advisers, called Moore's book "snake oil economics," and later said that Moore lacked the "intellectual gravitas" to sit on the Federal Reserve board.
In 2019, former President Donald Trump planned to nominate Moore to sit on the board of the Federal Reserve. Trump eventually withdrew his support for Moore after critics pointed to his history of sexist views. In a 2014 National Review column, Moore wrote that women out-earning men "could be disruptive to family stability."
Moore has also voiced support for abolishing child labor laws.
"Look, I'm a radical on this," Moore said at a FreedomWorks panel in 2016. "I'd get rid of a lot of these child labor laws. I want people starting work at 11, 12."
Other elements of Moore's biography have come under scrutiny in the past. A judge once held him in contempt of court for failing to pay his wife more than $300,000 in child support. He once owed $75,000 in unpaid taxes — perhaps unsurprising, given his personal beliefs.
Aside from the 2017 tax cuts, Moore also engineered former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's tax cuts in 2012. The Kansas plan eliminated income tax for owners of limited liability companies (LLCs) and slashed income taxes for the wealthiest Kansans. Moore wrote several articles defending the tax cuts and cited false data in a Kansas City Star piece.
The cuts led to slow economic growth and the collapse of state revenues. Essential services, like infrastructure and education, were subjected to deep cuts. A bipartisan coalition reversed the income tax cuts in 2017, and Brownback left office as one of the least popular governors in America.
Moore was widely considered the architect of the 2017 Trump tax cuts, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Despite being sold as a tax cut for the middle class, the plan largely benefited big business — which saw their corporate tax rates cut by 40% — and the wealthiest Americans.
Moore's plan was the most regressive tax cut in modern U.S. history. Under the 2017 act, the average American family saved about $870 from the tax cuts, while Americans making more than $1 million saved nearly $70,000, according to an analysis from the Tax Policy Center. The same analysis found that by 2027, the average family would actually have to pay $30 more while saving millionaires at least $29,000 in taxes.
Moore and Laffer argued that the tax plan would spur economic growth by inspiring American companies to bring money stored in overseas tax havens back into the U.S. The Federal Reserve and Brookings both found that while American companies did so, the majority of that money was spent buying back company stock, not creating jobs.
Contrary to Moore's claims, the Trump tax cut not only failed to pay for itself but also increased the federal deficit and failed to boost economic growth, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Brookings Institute.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that the 2017 tax cuts would increase the federal deficit by roughly $1.9 trillion between 2018 and 2028. A separate analysis from the conservative Tax Foundation found that the plan would decrease federal tax revenues by $1.47 trillion.
Youngkin has to win over more moderate voters in the Nov. 2 election if he hopes to defeat his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Less than a month before Election Day, the polls predict a tight race.
Youngkin and McAuliffe sharply disagree over how to best manage Virginia's economy. Under Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's stewardship, Virginia ended the 2021 fiscal year with a $2.6 billion surplus — the largest in state history.
In July, CNBC ranked Virginia as America's Top State for Business in 2021. The business news channel has given Virginia the distinction five times since 2007 — more than any other state.
But according to Youngkin and Moore, Virginia's economy is stuck in a stranglehold of Democrat-imposed taxes, regulations, and COVID mandates. The only answer, they say, is to keep cutting taxes for Virginia's 1% while cutting funding for programs that benefit the other 99% of Virginians.
The Youngkin campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.