During a White House briefing on Thursday, chief White House economic adviser Gary Cohn tried to defend President Trump’s claim that his tax plan will not benefit him. It did not go well.
“Based on what we know, what little we know about [Trump’s] finances, he’d get a big cut on the AMT [Alternative Minimum Tax], I think he’d save something like $31 million. On pass-through income, he’d save $16.5 million, he’d obviously save a lot not paying the estate tax, his heirs would — so how can you say that this is not a plan that would help him?” a reporter asked.
Cohn began his reply by asserting that “what the American people are concerned about is their financial position.” He went on to talk about the things an American family could purportedly do if they saved $1,000 on their tax bill — things that cost much more than $1,000, like renovating homes and buying new cars.
“If we allow a family to keep another $1,000 of their income, what does that mean?” Cohn said. “They can renovate their kitchen, they can buy a new car, they can take a family vacation, they can increase their lifestyle. That’s what our tax plan is to do — our tax plan is aimed to return more income back to hard-working Americans.”
Earlier during the briefing, Cohn said that the $1,000 cut he was referring to would apply to “a typical family earning $100,000 with two children.” The median household income in America last year was about $59,000.
Cohn’s response illustrates the problem the White House will have in trying to sell the Republican tax cut plan, which the New York Times describes as “a potentially huge windfall for the wealthiest Americans.” It benefits the wealthy by slashing taxes on business income, eliminating the estate tax — a tax that impacts only roughly 500 American households, but will cost the Trump family $4 billion if Trump is actually worth as much as he claims to be — and eliminating the alternative minimum tax (AMT), which, according to Trump’s leaked 2005 tax return, resulted in him paying $31 million in income taxes that year.
While Trump and other rich people stand to save millions, it’s unclear whether middle-class Americans will receive a tax cut at all, let alone save enough to buy new cars and take family vacations. During an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America earlier Thursday, Cohn admitted he “can’t guarantee” middle-income families won’t actually pay more in taxes under Trump’s plan.
“I can’t guarantee anything. You can always find a unique family somewhere,” Cohn said, before going on to assert that the tax proposal is “purely aimed at middle-class families.”
During a speech in Indiana on Wednesday, Trump falsely claimed his tax plan “is not good for me, believe me.” If Cohn’s comments on Thursday are any indication, the White House’s plan when confronted with that lie will be to try and change the topic as quickly as possible.