US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (R) and National Economic Director Gary Cohn (L) participate in a news conference to discuss the tax reform...
MICHAEL REYNOLDS

If the GOP tax plan were good, its proponents wouldn’t have to lie

Last month, the day after House Republicans passed their regressive tax plan, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC that all Americans will pay less under the GOP proposal – except millionaires, who will face a higher tax burden. This, of course, wasn’t even close to being true.

Mnuchin added in the same interview, “The objective of the plan is to simplify taxes and level the playing field.” In reality, the tax system isn’t being simplified and the playing field will be even less level.

A month later, as the Washington Post  noted yesterday, Trump’s Treasury secretary is still playing fast and loose with reality.

One year and two weeks ago, Steven Mnuchin went on CNBC with a bold claim about the incoming administration’s tax plan. Although the middle class would see significant relief, he said, “there will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class.”

With the bill on the threshold of passing, the treasury secretary made the rounds again Sunday to drive the message home. On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mnuchin argued the wealthy won’t be gaining at all under the plan. “The president was right. There are people who are rich people that are having their taxes going up,” he said.

Responding on CBS’s “Face the Nation” to critiques from Republican lawmakers that the plan doesn’t fulfill the Trump team’s populist pledges, Mnuchin said, “I think that is just not correct…. This is about the middle class. This is about working families.”

But this is demonstrably ridiculous. I can appreciate the fact that there are political considerations at play, and Mnuchin probably doesn’t feel comfortable telling the truth about the tax plan he helped craft, but to brazenly lie to the public this way is to treat Americans like fools.

The Joint Committee on Taxation concluded that the average tax burden on everyone earning up to $75,000 would go up, not down, if the Republican plan is fully implemented as written.

The Tax Policy Center also published a report yesterday that found, among other things, that most Americans would pay more under the GOP plan, while nearly 83% of the plan’s benefits would benefit the top 1% of Americans – which is actually worse than the plan passed a couple of weeks ago by Senate Republicans.

Those who can least afford to pay more would be asked to pay more. Those who already have the most would get the most.

“This is about the middle class”? “This is about working families”? It’s apparently not enough for the Trump administration to pick Americans’ pockets; Trump World feels the need to insult us, too.

Postscript: This is the part where Republicans say middle-class Americans won’t really pay more in taxes because some future Congress will probably figure out some way to prevent that from happening. This is a very bad argument.

For one thing, if your sales pitch is effectively, “Don’t worry, our plan won’t hurt anyone because someone will eventually find a way to fix our plan,” then maybe there’s something wrong with your legislation.

For another, Republicans can’t have it both ways. They can’t raise middle-class taxes to help pay for their proposal, while simultaneously saying this part of their plan won’t be implemented. It creates a Schrodinger’s cat policy in which GOP officials say the tax hikes both will and won’t happen simultaneously.

To sound coherent, they’ll have to pick one: either they plan to raise taxes on most of the country, or they plan to raise future deficits by failing to even try to pay for their tax breaks that benefit the wealthy.

Tax Policy and Tax Reform

If the GOP tax plan were good, its proponents wouldn't have to lie