By Sarah Wheaton
April 5, 2016
President Barack Obama has a message for Donald Trump about the Republican front-runner’s plan to force Mexico to pay for a border wall: “Good luck with that.”
The president also specifically mentioned the name of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Trump’s top rival for the Republican presidential nomination, as a source of concern around the world.
Obama, speaking to reporters at the top of the daily White House briefing, said he’s been “getting questions from foreign leaders constantly about some of the wackier suggestions that have been made.”
He added, “It’s not just Mr. Trump’s proposals, but I’ve also been hearing concerns with Mr. Cruz’s proposals.”
While Obama has started attacking the proposals and tone of Trump and the other GOP contenders with increasing frequency, he rarely invokes their names. But a reporter’s question about Trump’s plan, released Tuesday morning, to force Mexico to pay for a wall by increasing visa fees and impounding remittances from undocumented immigrants prompted a pointed critique from the president.
“Impractical” Obama said, is “the notion that we’re going to track every Western Union bit of money that’s been sent to Mexico.”
He noted that many of those remittances come from legal immigrants and help the Mexican economy – thereby decreasing incentives for people to seek work in the United States.
“This is just one more example of something that is not thought through and is primarily put forward for political consumption,” Obama said.
Trump’s plan, which depends on an interpretation of the PATRIOT Act, is actually a more detailed version of a proposal he first put out in August.
"We have the moral high ground here, and all the leverage," concluded Trump’s memo, released Tuesday. "It is time we use it in order to Make America Great Again."
Obama repeated his warning that the rest of the world depends on the United States to offer serious solutions for global problems.
“They don’t expect half-baked notions coming out of the White House,” Obama said. “We can’t afford that.”
The question on Trump’s border plan was yet another instance of Trump’s foreign policy proposals distracting from Obama’s agenda. On Friday, Obama told reporters that the billionaire reality star’s call to give Japan and South Korea nuclear weapons came up at the president’s major gathering of world leaders on nonproliferation issues.
This time, Obama was trying to trumpet the Treasury Department’s new, aggressive actions to stop corporations from dodging U.S. taxes by merging with a foreign company. As the president noted, the move got a lot of play in the business press after it was announced on Monday. But it didn’t get a lot of mainstream attention, and the president’s remarks were added to his schedule at the last minute on Tuesday to highlight the move, which he cast as a major win for the middle class against big business.
Obama said the corporate maneuvers, known as inversions, are “one of most insidious tax loopholes out there.”
He added, “It sticks the rest of us with the tab, and it makes hardworking Americans feel like the deck is stacked against them.”
Incidentally, Trump has made opposition to corporate inversions a central plank of his populist platform. But his prescription is more in line with Republicans’ approach to the problem: lowering the corporate tax rate to encourage companies to stay.
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