On Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump gave a speech about tax reform, saying his proposed plan would not benefit the “wealthy and well-connected” and is “not good” for him. The problem with that claim is that the opposite is in fact true.
As ThinkProgress’ Rebekah Entralgo reported, two key aspects of the plan, repealing the estate tax and eliminating the alternative minimum tax, would both be good for Trump and other wealthy people. What we know about Trump’s taxes is minimal, but a leaked portion of his 2005 tax return shows that because of the AMT, Trump was taxed at 24 percent. Without the AMT, he would have been taxed only four percent.
The estate tax affects less than 1 percent of all estates, according to IRS figures, just 500 Americans. Thirteen of those 500 people are currently serving in Trump’s cabinet, and the elimination of the estate tax would give those very wealthy and well-connected people a $1.5 billion tax cut.
The fact that Trump’s plan would actually help Trump — and similarly wealthy and well-connected people — is a vital piece of information for the American public and should be included in news reports about Trump’s speech and his vision for tax reform. Trump is claiming this this plan would benefit lower- and middle-class Americans, and it’s clear that isn’t true.
But several news outlets simply took the president’s statements about his plan at face value on Wednesday. Letting Trump or any other political official speak unchecked is an abject failure for anyone purporting to inform an audience, and as Republicans attempt to work on tax reform, readers and viewers deserve to know the context in which they are doing so.
CNN and NBC simply tweeted videos of the president lying about the plan, adding no context for the remarks.
Trump vows that the tax plan will protect low and middle-income Americans, not the “wealthy and the connected” https://t.co/603n23rvaR
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 27, 2017
President Trump on tax reform: “My plan is for the working people, and my plan is for jobs. I don’t benefit” https://t.co/fEW6Y8FRft
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) September 27, 2017
The New York Times also tweeted the remarks without noting that what Trump said was, in fact, just a lie.
Breaking News: President Trump is unveiling the broadest tax plan in decades, saying it will help the middle class https://t.co/bRVrF2fwAA
— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 27, 2017
In their story, at least, the Times noted the early analyses of the tax plan, saying, “Democrats and progressive groups, meanwhile, swiftly denounced the tax plan as a false promise to the middle class.”
The Times also quoted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) statement about the plan, which called the proposal “little more than an across-the-board tax cut for America’s millionaires and billionaires,” but the paper of record never noted the simple fact that Trump’s claim that he would not benefit from the cuts was untrue.
Trump and his fellow Republicans in Congress collectively seem eager to pivot away from their multiple failed attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and try to reform the tax code.
Along with lying about whether his tax plan would be good for him, Trump also went back on his earlier call for the corporate tax rate to be reduced from 35 to 15 percent during his Wednesday speech announcing the plan.
Trump told the crowd in Indiana that he wants it reduced to 20 percent, saying his call for 15 percent was a “negotiating tactic.”
“I wanted to start at 15 so that we got 20,” Trump said. “Twenty is a perfect number.”