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Donald Trump's proposed tax cuts are a joke, not a 'plan'

There's plenty of coverage this afternoon about Donald Trump's new tax "plan," but I'd caution against using that word.
Image: White House news conference with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Director Gary Cohn
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (R) and National Economic Director Gary Cohn (L) participate in a news conference to discuss the tax reform...
There's plenty of coverage this afternoon about Donald Trump's new tax "plan," but I'd caution against using that word. The White House has unveiled a document, and plenty of colorful words come to mind when describing that document, but it's awfully generous to describe the piece of paper as a "plan."

[Treasury Secretary Steve] Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn laid out a "broad brush overview" of the plan to reporters, cautioning that they are still negotiating many of the details with members of Congress. [...]The broad outline of the plan resembles many of the promises Trump made as a candidate.

That's true, although in a bizarre turn of events, the tax-related promises Trump made as a candidate were arguably more substantive than the document the White House presented today. The Trump campaign produced a three-and-a-half-page document before Election Day, offering vague and unhelpful information about what the Republican would do on this issue if elected, but today's "plan" is even thinner.In fact, the document the White House released to reporters today is literally one sheet of paper, with roughly 500 words of text, printed on one side. For comparison purposes, note that the blog post you're reading right now is longer than the president's approach to tax policy.No, seriously. The officials responsible for running the executive branch of a global superpower have had plenty of time to craft a half-way credible proposal, and they instead presented some bullet points that read like a wish-list from a president who can't be bothered to think about policy details.So, what's in this so-called "plan"? Mnuchin and Cohn went out of their way to emphasize their contention that the ideas were not focused on cutting taxes for the wealthy, but according to the piece of paper the White House distributed, they weren't telling the truth. The "plan" eliminates the estate tax, the alternative-minimum tax, investment taxes, and lowers the top rate for top earners. The principal beneficiaries of these changes are, of course, America's elite.That includes, of course, the billionaire celebrity in the Oval Office, though we can't say with any certainty just how much Trump would benefit from his own "plan" because (a) the "plan" has so few details; and (b) the president insists on maintaining secrecy surrounding his own finances. (Mnuchin reiterated today that Trump's tax returns will continue to be hidden from the public for reasons no one in the administration has explained.)Beyond that, today's announcement actually raises more questions than answers. Mnuchin, for example, is calling this "the biggest tax cut" in history, which might be true if the administration had any idea how much its proposed tax cuts might cost, but it doesn't.As for how the White House intends to pay for these tax cuts, by all appearances, Team Trump doesn't intend to bother. Team Trump believes the Tax Fairy will magically come along and pay for the tax breaks through economic growth that the administration hopes will eventually materialize after the rich have even more money.Remember, the Trump campaign told voters his approach to tax policy "doesn't add to our debt and deficit, which are already too large.... The Trump tax cuts are fully paid for."If you believed Trump was telling you the truth before the election, I have some bad news for you.As for the future of this "plan," there's obviously a lot of speculation about whether (and how) Congress may pass Trump's proposal, but let's not forget that there is no proposal. If we're being charitable, this might be described as a starting point for a conversation -- a list of things Trump thinks it'd be cool to have -- but no real work went into the preparation of the White House's document.It's a joke, not a plan.Postscript: Matt Yglesias noted the other day that Trump's Treasury Department "does not yet have any confirmed political appointees for the jobs that would be tasked with reforming the tax code. There is supposed to be an Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, who is supposed to be assisted by Deputy Assistant Secretaries for Tax Policy, Tax Analysis, and International Tax Affairs." At present, the president hasn't even nominated anyone for those posts.For all we know, a White House intern spent an hour throwing the president's "plan" together over lunch.