Donald Trump assembled a cabinet meeting at Camp David over the weekend, apparently in the hope that it would demonstrate White House engagement on disaster response, and though news organizations weren’t on hand for the gathering, the president’s YouTube page featured a clip of Trump’s opening comments – which included a pitch for tax cuts.
To be sure, the bulk of the president’s message was about Hurricane Irma and public safety, but Trump also took the opportunity to reflect on the storm’s effect on his broader agenda.
“To create prosperity at home, [my cabinet and I will] be discussing our plan for dramatic tax cuts and tax reform. And I think now with what’s happened with the hurricane, I’m gonna ask for a speed-up. I wanted a speed-up any way, but now we need it even more so.
“So we need to simplify the tax code, reduce taxes very substantially on the middle class. And make our business tax more globally competitive. We’re the highest anywhere in the world right now.”
The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin had an item yesterday, which didn’t directly reference the president’s comments, in which she noted, “You almost get the idea that the entire GOP economic philosophy is dependent on a never-ending stream of tax cuts for the rich.”
Look, for now, let’s put aside Trump’s ongoing confusion about U.S. tax rates relative to international standards, because it’s really just the start of what makes his pitch so misguided. For one thing, these comments came on Saturday morning, when tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy probably shouldn’t have been at the forefront of the president’s mind.
For another, the argument really doesn’t make any substantive sense. Victims of these deadly storms and their communities will need considerable public support – which will be neither cheap nor quick – but “dramatic tax cuts” isn’t high on their list of concerns right now. For the president to exploit hurricanes to sell tax breaks for people who don’t need them seems ill-advised.
Finally, though it’s an inconvenient detail that tends to be overlooked, let’s not forget that the administration’s tax-reform plan – which Trump has already held two public events to tout – doesn’t actually exist in legislative form.
A president can’t press lawmakers to “speed up” approval of a plan that hasn’t been written.
There was a running joke throughout much of the Bush/Cheney era that the Republican White House saw tax cuts as the solution to every problem. Gas prices are too high? A tax cut will help people afford higher costs at the pump. Too many Americans are uninsured? A tax cut will help people buy coverage. The economy is sluggish? A tax cut will get it back on track. The economy is strong? A tax cut will prevent it from stalling.
It’s a lazy approach to policymaking, which Trump appears to have adopted without much thought.