United States Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump yesterday said he was open to raising taxes on the rich, backing off his prior proposal to reduce taxes on all Americans and breaking with one of his party's core policies dating back to the 1990s.
"I am willing to pay more, and you know what, the wealthy are willing to pay more," Trump told ABC's This Week. After effectively sealing the Republican nomination for the November 8 presidential election last week, Trump has used speeches and interviews to offer more details on his policy positions.
The billionaire real estate tycoon has said he would like to see an increase in the minimum wage, although he told NBC's Meet the Press yesterday he would prefer to see states take the lead on that front instead of the federal Government.
"I don't know how people make it on US$7.25 ($10.63) an hour," Trump said of the current federal minimum wage. "I would like to see an increase of some magnitude. But I'd rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide." Trump's call for higher taxes on the wealthy is a break with Republican presidential nominees who have staunchly opposed raising taxes for almost three decades. Tax hikes have been anathema to many in the party since former President George H.W. Bush infuriated fellow Republicans by abandoning a pledge not to raise taxes and agreeing to an increase in a 1990 budget deal.
Democrats, including presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, have pressed for increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans for years.
Trump released a tax proposal last September that included broad tax breaks for businesses and households. He proposed reducing the highest income tax rate to 25 per cent from the current 39.6 per cent rate.
Pressed on the contradiction between his latest comments on taxes and the September tax plan, Trump said he viewed his original proposal as "a concept" and that he expected it would be changed following negotiations with Congress.
"By the time it gets negotiated, it's going to be a different plan," Trump told ABC. He emphasised in separate interviews with ABC and NBC that his priorities were lowering taxes on the middle class and businesses.
Meanwhile, Trump yesterday issued an implied threat against the party's congressional leader for not supporting him as its nominee.
Trump refused to rule out punishing Paul Ryan, speaker of the US House of Representatives, by unseating him as chairman of this year's Republican national convention in Cleveland, where Trump is expected to be officially anointed. He said he had been "blindsided" by Ryan's refusal to endorse him.
"Three weeks ago, he called me and he was supportive - it was amazing. I never thought a thing like this [would happen]," Trump said.
Ryan became the latest in a series of party heavyweights to come out against Trump's candidacy last week when he was said he was "not ready" to support him, although talks between the pair are continuing.
A more explicit threat came from Sarah Palin, a former Republican vice-presidential candidate and Trump's most high-profile backer in the party, who said Ryan's stance would cost him his seat in his home state of Wisconsin, where he is being challenged by a pro-Trump candidate.