Does Paul Ryan Have ‘His Eyes on the Exits’?

FILE PHOTO: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during a press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington
Joshua Roberts
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Politico’s Tim Alberta and Rachael Bade drop a blockbuster: “Despite several landmark legislative wins this year, and a better-than-expected relationship with President Donald Trump, Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker. … He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress. This would give Ryan a final legislative year to chase his second white whale, entitlement reform, while using his unrivaled fundraising prowess to help protect the House majority—all with the benefit of averting an ugly internecine power struggle during election season.”

Speculation has been swirling that Ryan could step down once “he’s harpooned his personal white whale of tax reform,” as HuffPost put it.

When asked at his weekly press conference whether he’ll be quitting anytime soon, Ryan chuckled and said, “I’m not, no.”

EU Finance Ministers Warn Mnuchin About Tax Plan

By The Fiscal Times Staff

The finance ministers of Europe’s five largest economies — Germany, France, the U.K., Italy and Spain — warned that the Republican tax plan could have “a major distortive impact” on international trade and may violate international treaties. "The inclusion of certain less conventional international tax provisions could contravene the U.S.'s double taxation treaties and may risk having a major distortive impact on international trade," the ministers wrote in a letter to Mnuchin.

Trump’s Plans for Welfare Reform Will Hit Health Care, Housing and Veterans

iStockphoto
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Politico reports: “The White House is quietly preparing a sweeping executive order that would mandate a top-to-bottom review of the federal programs on which millions of poor Americans rely. And GOP lawmakers are in the early stages of crafting legislation that could make it more difficult to qualify for those programs. … The president is expected to sign the welfare executive order as soon as January, according to multiple administration officials, with an eye toward making changes to health care, food stamps, housing and veterans programs, not just traditional welfare payments.”

It’s Official: No Government Shutdown – for Now

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times
By The Fiscal Times Staff

President Trump signed a short-term continuing resolution today to fund the federal government through Friday, December 22.

Bloomberg called the maneuver “a monumental piece of can kicking,” which is no doubt the case, but at least you’ll be able to visit your favorite national park over the weekend.

Here's to small victories!

Greenspan Has a Warning About the GOP Tax Plan

Alan Greenspan
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
By Michael Rainey

The Republican tax cuts won’t do much for economic growth, former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan told CNBC Wednesday, but they will damage the country’s fiscal situation while creating the threat of stagflation. "This is a terrible fiscal situation we've got ourselves into," Greenspan said. "The administration is doing tax cuts and a spending decrease, but he's doing them in the wrong order. What we need right now is to focus totally on reducing the debt."

The US Economy Hits a Sweet Spot

iStockphoto
By The Fiscal Times Staff

“The U.S. economy is running at its full potential for the first time in a decade, a new milestone for an expansion now in its ninth year,” The Wall Street Journal reports. But the milestone was reached, in part, because the Congressional Budget Office has, over the last 10 years, downgraded its estimate of the economy’s potential output. “Some economists think more slack remains in the job market than October’s 4.1% unemployment rate would suggest. Also, economic output is still well below its potential level based on estimates produced a decade ago by the CBO.”

The New York Times Drums Up Opposition to the Tax Bill

FILE PHOTO: People line up for taxi across the street from the New York Times head office in New York
Carlo Allegri
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The New York Times editorial board took to Twitter Wednesday “to urge the Senate to reject a tax bill that hurts the middle class & the nation's fiscal health.”

Using the hashtag #thetaxbillshurts, the NYT Opinion account posted phone numbers for Sens. Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, James Lankford, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Jerry Moran. It urged readers to call the senators and encourage them to oppose the bill.

In an editorial published Tuesday night, the Times wrote that “Republican senators have a choice. They can follow the will of their donors and vote to take money from the middle class and give it to the wealthiest people in the world. Or they can vote no, to protect the public and the financial health of the government.”

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Can Trump Succeed Where Mnuchin and Cohn Have Flopped?

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin smiles during the 2017 Institute of International Finance (IIF) policy summit in Washington
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
By The Fiscal Times Staff

President Trump met with members of the Senate Finance Committee Monday and is scheduled to attend Senate Republicans’ weekly policy lunch and make a personal push for the tax plan on Tuesday. Will he be a more effective salesman than surrogates in his administration?

Politico’s Annie Karni and Eliana Johnson report that both Democrats and Republicans say Mnuchin and chief economic adviser Gary Cohn have repeatedly botched their tax pitches, “in part due to their own backgrounds” as wealthy Goldman Sachs alums. “House Speaker Paul Ryan earlier this month asked the White House not to send Mnuchin to the Hill to talk with Republican lawmakers about the bill, according to two people familiar with the discussions — though Ryan has praised the Treasury secretary’s ability to improve the legislation itself,” Karni and Johnson write.

Trump: Repeal the Obamacare Mandate to Cut the Top Tax Rate

President Trump ponders the answer to a question from a reporter en route to Hanoi, Vietnam, aboard Air Force One. 


REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Jonathan Ernst
By The Fiscal Times Staff

President Trump repeated his call Monday to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate as part of the tax bill. In a tweet — geotagged from Pennsylvania, not the Philippines , where Trump currently is — Trump added that the billions in savings from ending the mandate should be used to cut the top marginal rate to 35 percent and the rest on cuts for the middle class.

The Congressional Budget Office said last week that eliminating the mandate would save $338 billion over the next decade.

The current version of the House tax bill keeps the top individual income tax rate at 39.6 percent, while the Senate bill lowers it to 38.5 percent. However, mandate repeal is not currently part of either tax bill, and, as The New York Times notes, “repeal of the individual mandate was not on the list of 355 amendments that the [Senate Finance Committee] released on Sunday night.”

Tax Reform Is Hard, but the GOP Could Have Made This Easier

By The Fiscal Times Staff

The Tax Policy Center’s William G. Gale writes that the GOP’s approach to the tax bill combines a $5.8 trillion tax cut with a $4.3 trillion tax increase to offset the costs. There may have been an easier way. “What if the House GOP simply tried to cut business and individual taxes by $1.5 trillion. No offsets needed. They could have distributed small tax cuts to middle-income individuals by, say, modestly expanding the earned income tax credit and raising the standard deduction. And they could have trimmed the top corporate tax rate by a few percentage points. It would not have been base-broadening tax reform, but neither is the current bill. ... Tax reform is never easy, but crafting the bill this way has vastly increased the challenge of passing it.”

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