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Trump's Treasury Dept embarrasses itself with one-page 'analysis'

What the Trump administration released this morning isn't an analysis of tax legislation; it's a joke.
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...

As regular readers know, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin assured lawmakers and the public that he had dozens of officials working on creating a detailed analysis of the Republican tax plan he helped craft. The report, Mnuchin added, would be available before Congress voted.

None of that was true. The New York Times reported two weeks ago that officials inside the Treasury's Office of Tax Policy claim to have been "largely shut out of the process" and haven't "worked on the type of detailed analysis" that Mnuchin described.

Two weeks later, the good news is that Donald Trump's Treasury Department has prepared an analysis and made it available to the public. The bad news is, it's so absurd, I almost feel sorry for the officials who work there. Politico reported:

The Treasury Department said Monday that the GOP tax plan currently before Congress would need an assist from other Trump administration priorities to pay for itself.Tax cuts alone aren't enough, Treasury said in a one-page analysis, citing welfare reform and infrastructure spending as additional boosts to the economy.

The entire document is online here (pdf).

There are three key angles to this, and let's start with the substance of the Treasury's document. Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration have sworn up and down that the GOP's tax package would pay for itself, ignoring the conclusions of every independent analysis, including data from Congress' own Joint Committee on Taxation.

The Treasury Department argued this morning that the Republican promise will prove to be true if (a) we assume that the regressive tax breaks supercharge the economy; and (b) policymakers also agree to pass Trump's non-existent infrastructure plan, Trump's non-existent welfare reform plan, and wait for Trump's regulatory reform plan to work wonders.

In other words, the Trump administration is conceding that Republicans are wrong about one of the core promises of the party's own tax plan. The Treasury effectively declared this morning, "The tax plan will pay for itself if everyone agrees to pass a bunch of other proposals, which haven't been written, and which have nothing to do with the tax plan."

Second, let's not skip past that "welfare reform" tidbit too quickly. Trump's Treasury Department is now saying, in writing, that Republicans can pay for tax breaks for the wealthy, not only by raising taxes on the middle class, but by cutting benefits to the nation's most vulnerable. The document is describing class warfare at its most depraved -- taking money from food-stamp beneficiaries, and giving it to millionaires.

And third, the entire Treasury Department analysis literally fits on one page. If we exclude the headline, the document isn't quite 400 words (by comparison, the blog post you're reading right now is 622 words).

What the Trump administration released this morning isn't an analysis of tax legislation; it's a joke. Treasury officials had plenty of time to do a thorough policy review, even massage the numbers in a favorable way, and produce something that wasn't laughable, and all they ended up producing is a one-page document that further contradicts the Republican line about the GOP tax plan paying for itself.

Maybe Treasury did a real analysis and Mnuchin threw it away because it was a political disaster. Maybe qualified officials were told what to write, but they couldn't defend the indefensible. Either way, today's report is an embarrassment.

Postscript: I'm thinking about starting a new "one-page" franchise, counting the instances in which Trump World keeps important documents to a single page. The White House's original tax "plan," for example, was one page. Four months later, Republican officials released a revised tax blueprint, which was even shorter. Trump also reportedly likes to keep intelligence briefings to one page.

Policy depth isn't exactly this gang's top priority.