Back in 2009, Tom Price spoke out against House Democrats who wanted to spend $550 million on private jets for lawmakers to use. A Republican representative from Georgia at the time, Price told CNBC that the purchase of the jets was “another example of fiscal irresponsibility run amok.” Now Secretary of Health and Human Services, Price seems to have changed his mind about the virtue of government officials using private jets at taxpayer expense. Just last week, Price used a chartered private jet to travel to three HHS events — including one at a resort in Maine — at an estimated cost of $60,000, Politico reports.
While previous HHS secretaries typically flew commercial, reports indicate that Price has been traveling by private jet for months. “Official travel by the secretary is done in complete accordance with Federal Travel Regulations,” an HHS spokesperson told Politico.
Critics on Twitter have been harsh:
More in-your-face kleptocracy from Tom Price.Take food stamps from poor, hungry kids- spend $25k from taxpayers to charter plane to Philly— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) September 20, 2017
1️⃣ Attack Medicaid while trading health stocks.— Harry Stein (@HarrySteinDC) September 20, 2017
2️⃣ Spend funds that could give someone 4 years of Medicaid coverage to fly a private jet. https://t.co/GO5cfJgWgO
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers made his distaste for the Trump administration’s tax framework clear last week when he said Republicans were using “made-up” claims about the plan and its effects. Summers expanded his criticism on Tuesday in a blog post that took aim at the report released Monday by the Council of Economic Advisers and chair Kevin Hassett, which seeks to justify the administration’s claim that its tax plan will result in a $4,000 pay raise for the average American family.
Never one to mince words, Summers says the CEA analysis is “some combination of dishonest, incompetent and absurd.” The pay raise figure is indefensible, since “there is no peer-reviewed support for his central claim that cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent would raise wages by $4000 per worker.” In the end, Summers says that “if a Ph.D student submitted the CEA analysis as a term paper in public finance, I would be hard pressed to give it a passing grade.”
One of the authors cited in the CEA paper also has some concerns. Harvard Business School professor Mihir Desai tweeted Tuesday that the CEA analysis “misinterprets” a 2007 paper he co-wrote on the dynamics of the corporate tax burden. Desai’s research has found a connection between business tax cuts and wage growth, but not as large as the CEA paper claims. “Cutting corporate taxes will help wages but exaggeration only serves to undercut the reasonableness of the core argument,” Desai wrote.
National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said Monday that tax reform has to happen this year, even if it means Congress has to stay in session longer. "I think we have a unique window in time right now, but unfortunately we keep losing days to this window,” he said. “The opportunity is now." House Speaker Paul Ryan said last week he’d keep members over Christmas if that’s what it takes. And Ryan predicted Monday that tax reform would pass the House by early next month and then get through the Senate to reach the president’s desk by the end of the year. But there are plenty of skeptics out there, given the hurdles. Issac Boltansky, an analyst at the investment bank Compass Point, told Business Insider, "The idea of getting tax reform done this year is a farcical fantasy. Lawmakers have neither the time nor the capacity to formulate and clear a tax reform package in 2017."
Passing a budget resolution for 2018 through the Senate will open a procedural door to a $1.5 trillion tax cut over 10 years. The resolution is expected to reach the Senate floor this week, although there are questions about whether Republicans have the 50 votes they need to pass it. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) said this weekend that she would vote for it and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is likely a “yes” as well, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-TN) is reportedly a likely “no” and John McCain (R-AZ) appears questionable. Now it looks like Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MI) won't be back in Washington this week to vote on the resolution due to health problems. The Hill says Cochran’s absence puts tax reform “on knife’s edge.”