House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), desperate to approve a massive tax-cut package, spent much of the week making a specific boast: the GOP plan, Ryan told several conservative media outlets, delivers "a tax cut for everybody." Who'll benefit? "Every single person," he said.
At face value, that doesn't even make sense. Even if we put aside the independent assessments that show millions of Americans would pay more in taxes under the House Republican proposal, the whole point of tax reform is to shift burdens in such a way that some would pay less and others would pay more.
To hear Ryan tell it, GOP officials have come up with a way to cut taxes for literally "everyone" who pays taxes in this country. That's clearly wrong, and an ostensible budget wonk should know better.
So why did the Speaker keep repeating a claim that obviously isn't true? The Washington Post contacted his office and Ryan's spokesperson said the Wisconsin congressman "misspoke." Indeed, he tried to clarify the claim with reporters yesterday:
"When you take the thing all in its totality, what the analysis shows us, whether it's analysis from [Joint Committee on Taxation], from the Tax Foundation, or even [the Tax Policy Center], that the average households at every income level see a tax cut."
It's an interesting shift. "A tax cut for everybody" is a Republican rallying cry, while "analyses show that the average households at every income level see a tax cut" isn't quite as inspiring.
If we set the bar for honesty very low, I'll give Ryan some credit for changing his talking point. If it were Donald Trump and his team, it's likely they'd simply pretend their version of reality is true and insist that their "alternative facts" are of equal value to actual facts. The Speaker obviously shouldn't have repeated the bogus claim over and over again, but at least he didn't stick to it when confronted with the truth.
The trouble, though, is that Ryan is dealing with a nagging and uncomfortable detail: under his proposal, millions of Americans really will pay more than they're paying now. His office can craft various talking points based on income-level averages, but when push comes to shove, Republicans are trying to approve a tax blueprint that increase many families' tax bills.
As the Post's fact-check piece added, "In the case of married families with children -- whom Republicans are assiduously wooing as beneficiaries of their plan -- about 40 percent are estimated to receive tax hikes by 2027, even if the provisions are retained. That would be a nasty surprise for folks who had heard Ryan's less-precise spin."
Republicans can tell these folks about averages and the "trickle-down" effects of their tax hike paying for a corporate tax break, but I have a hunch they won't be impressed.