Although Republicans are prepared to go it alone on tax reform, President Trump suggested creating a bipartisan working group on the topic during a Wednesday meeting with senators from both parties. Some senators were open to the idea, but it doesn’t look like Republicans have much interest in slowing down the process with in-depth negotiations. “I don’t really personally see the benefit of creating additional structure. I think we’ve got all the tools we need,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who attended the meeting, according to Politico. Democrats appear skeptical, too. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said he told Trump that the distance between what Republicans were saying about their plan and what it actually does is a serious problem.
White House officials tell USA Today’s Heidi Przybyla that President Trump will include a number of compromises to limit his tax plan’s benefits for the wealthy when he promotes the blueprint next month:
“The compromises will include ending a 23.8% preferential tax rate for hedge-fund managers, or the so-called carried interest rate, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told USA TODAY. … Retaining parts of a state and local tax deduction that benefits many middle-class families in blue states is also an area where Trump is expecting compromise.”
Trump campaigned on raising the carried interest rate, saying its beneficiaries are “getting away with murder.” But changes to the carried interest rate may run into opposition from House Republicans, and the tweaks appear unlikely to win any Democratic support.
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.”
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Monday, President Trump said:
"Obamacare is finished, it's dead, it's gone ... There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore."
Click here for the video.
Trump and the GOP still have work to do if they want to convince Americans that their tax plan won’t mostly help the rich. A CBS News Nation Tracker poll released Sunday finds that 58 percent say the tax reforms being discussed favor the wealthy, while 19 percent say it treats everyone equally and 18 percent say it favors the middle class.
The poll also found that 39 percent say that cutting the deficit should be a priority, even if it means taxes stay the same. About half as many people said cutting taxes should be prioritized even if the deficit rises.
The poll, conducted by YouGov, surveyed 2,371 U.S. adults between October 11 and 13. Its margin of error is 2.5 percent.
House tax writers (at least some of them) are worried that slashing the corporate tax rate found will push the deficit higher in a hurry – an analysis by the Tax Policy Center found that cutting the rate to the stated goal of 20 percent would cost $2 trillion over a decade. One way to soften the fiscal blow would be to phase in the reduction over three to five years. House Republicans say such an approach would reduce the size of the lost revenue by half.
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers isn't happy with the Republican tax plan, and it's not just because he has a different set of ideas as a Democrat. More fundamentally, he says Republicans are making false claims: “When you have -- and I hate to be in a position of using this word about our government -- when you have senior economic officials making claims that are made-up ... it’s very hard to have a dialogue, and compromise, and get to a good place.”
Summers is also worried about the effects of a tax cut for the rich during a time of considerable social turmoil: “There’s a lot of unhappiness and anger out there … It’s really hard to see why focusing a corporate tax cut on those at the very high-end is going to do much to assuage that anger.”
Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to attend an NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers yesterday and then leave after some 49ers players kneeled during the national anthem was quickly criticized by some as a planned piece of political theater — and a somewhat expensive one at that. “After all the scandals involving unnecessarily expensive travel by cabinet secretaries, how much taxpayer money was wasted on this stunt?” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) tweeted Sunday afternoon.
The answer, CNN reports, is about $242,500: "According to the Air Force, flying a C-32, the model of plane used for Air Force 2, for one hour costs about $30,000. Pence's flight from Las Vegas to Indianapolis Saturday took about three hours and 20 minutes, so it cost about $100,000. Pence then flew from Indianapolis to Los Angeles on Sunday, which took about four hours and 45 minutes, costing about $142,500."
President Trump defended Pence’s trip, tweeting that it had been “long planned.” CNN also reports that some of the costs of Pence's flight from Indianapolis to Los Angeles will be paid back by the Republican National Committee because the vice president is attending a political event there.