History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

Team Trump offers a case study in how not to debate tax policy

Updated
When it comes to the presidential campaign and taxes, much of the focus has been on controversies surrounding Donald Trump’s secret tax returns and the evidence that he’s exploited loopholes to lower his federal tax bills to zero. But let’s not forget the fact that both of the major-party candidates have unveiled tax policy proposals, which say a great deal about their priorities.

About a month ago, for example, the Republican ticket unveiled a new tax plan – Trump’s third attempt at getting this right – which quickly fell apart under scrutiny. The numbers didn’t add up; the blueprint was demonstrably dishonest and contradictory; and by some independent estimates, the GOP candidate’s proposal would actually raise taxes on the middle class while delivering a windfall for the rich.

Yesterday, the Tax Policy Center released a report on Trump’s latest plan and gave it a price tag of $7.2 trillion – more than double the cost of the Bush/Cheney plan. As Vox noted, the same analysis found that the Republican’s blueprint “is even more tilted toward the rich than Trump’s first plan.”

So far, all of this probably seems pretty predictable. The funny part, however, was the written response from the Trump campaign.
“The Clinton Official-led Tax Policy Center has wasted everyone’s time with a fraudulent analysis after admitting they had a software bug that prevented them from scoring the plan’s economic effects. Moreover, the TPC was privately informed they had modeled the wrong plan – not ours – but refused to correct their extremely embarrassing error and model our plan.

“For instance, our plan has explicit safeguards to keep hedge funds from abusing the business rate – it’s Hillary who plans secret benefits for Wall Street, not us. In other words, this article isn’t even about the Trump plan – but about the gross malfeasance of the deeply-biased Tax Policy Center. The Trump plan is revenue neutral, massively cuts middle-class taxes, and has huge benefits for low and middle-income families. The Clinton plan, as released by WikiLeaks, is ‘open borders,’ Medicare and Social Security cuts, and benefits only for Wall Street.”
This was written by Trump’s national policy director, Stephen Miller, who is not to be confused with “John Miller,” the weird alter-ego Trump came up with for himself so he could pretend to be his own publicist while talking to reporters.

The problem, in this case, is that Stephen Miller’s response is kind of nutty. As Matt Yglesias put it, “The key rhetorical strategy Miller employs here is what’s known in the industry, technically, as lying.”

Miller says Trump’s plan “has explicit safeguards to keep hedge funds from abusing the business rate,” which isn’t true. Miller says Hillary Clinton’s plan includes “secret benefits for Wall Street,” which also isn’t true.

Miller says Trump’s plan is “revenue neutral,” which isn’t even close to being true. And Miller says Trump’s plan “massively cuts middle-class taxes,” which is contradicted by independent analyses.

Obviously, it’s not surprising that a Republican presidential campaign wants to implement a massive tax cut that disproportionately benefits the wealthiest of the wealthy. This is, after all, a Republican presidential campaign. But as Yglesias added, the difference here is “the complete lack of seriousness about the policy development process or engagement with the policy community. Faced with criticism, the Trump campaign’s approach is to fly off the handle and say ridiculous things that aren’t true.”



Donald Trump and Tax Policy

Team Trump offers a case study in how not to debate tax policy

Updated