Trump’s ‘Four Pinocchio’ Tax Claim

Trump’s ‘Four Pinocchio’ Tax Claim

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Plus, Trump and Bloomberg clash over health care
Monday, January 13, 2020

Trump’s ‘Four Pinocchio’ Tax Claim

President Trump routinely lies or makes exaggerated, unsupported and misleading claims. The Washington Post’s most recent tally of such statements topped more than 15,400 over Trump’s first 1,055 days in office, with the rate of falsehoods accelerating rapidly. The Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, added one more to the list Monday, highlighting a recent Trump claim about his tax cuts that might have slipped under the radar amid growing questions about the administration’s shifting rationales for killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

The claim: In a radio interview with Rush Limbaugh last Monday, Trump said, “[W]e're actually taking in more revenue now than we did when we had the higher taxes because the economy's doing so well.”

The fact check: Kessler awards this one Four Pinocchios, the rating designation reserved for the biggest whoppers. “The way the federal budget works is often a mystery to Americans. But it shouldn’t be to the president of the United States,” he writes.

The explanation: Yes, the government’s nominal revenues have gone up, but they were projected to rise before the tax cuts. “Inflation and population growth over time raise the cost of programs, while even a slowly growing economy will result in more taxes being collected,” Kessler explains. But revenue has fallen significantly from what was projected before the tax cuts went into effect, a key factor driving the deficit higher.

An analysis done for the Post by Richard Kogan, a former White House budget official who is now senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, finds that, after adjusting for population growth and inflation, revenues rose by an annual average of 3.5% over fiscal years 2009 through 2017. From fiscal 2017 through 2025, revenues are projected to rise by an average 1.4% a year. The economy, meanwhile, is expected to grow at roughly the same rate over time: 1.3% a year, after adjusting for population growth and inflation, compared to 1.4% annual growth from 2009 through 2017.

“Trump gets virtually everything wrong in his framing of this factoid: Revenue has not increased because of the tax cut or because of the economy,” Kessler concludes. “If anything, revenue estimates have slightly declined for 2019 and 2020 since the passage of the tax cut. And revenue growth is sharply down in the period after the tax cut, compared with the period before it.”

The bottom line: Kessler somewhat generously suggests that the president needs to brush up on budget policy. But given that Trump still falsely claims — as he did again in the Limbaugh interview — that his tax cut was the biggest in U.S. history, it’s hard to imagine that some tax and budget tutorials would prevent the president from repeating assertions he thinks will benefit him politically.

Trump and Bloomberg Clash Over Health Care

Following the release of a new ad from Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg that accuses President Trump of being a “destroyer” when it comes to health care, the president claimed in a tweet Monday that he had, in fact, strengthened the health care system, which includes preserving the protections for people with pre-existing conditions that were put into place by the Affordable Care Act.

Trump proclaimed that through his actions, health care in the U.S. has now been “brought to best place in many years,” while promising that if voters give him reelection and a Republican Congress in 2020, he will make health “the best ever, by far.” And he said that he would “always protect your Pre-Existing Conditions, the Dems will not!”

Bloomberg quickly replied, pointing out that the Trump administration is currently supporting a lawsuit that would invalidate the ACA in its entirety and thereby eliminate its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

So who’s right and who’s wrong? Here’s a roundup of comments that point to a clear verdict in Bloomberg’s favor:

  • “The president is touting his health record. So we looked at what he's done. His claim to have protected people with pre-existing conditions & expanded access to care? One expert said it's ‘misleading, if not comical.’ Another called it ‘astounding.’” – Shefali Luthra, Kaiser Health News
  • “Not only did President Trump have nothing to do with covering preexisting conditions, he and congressional Republicans tried in 2017 to pass legislation repealing the ACA that would have eroded those consumer protections.” – Jonathan Oberlander, health policy professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • “This is brazen lying. Democrats *got* the protections for people with pre-existing conditions, in Obamacare. Trump has tried to get bills passed that would weaken the protections, is supporting a lawsuit to overturn the whole law, has presented no plan for if the suit succeeds. ... Before the Trump administration asked the courts to throw out the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, including the protections for pre-existing conditions, it specifically asked the courts to declare the protections for pre-existing conditions unconstitutional.” – Daniel Dale, CNN
  • “This is a bald-faced lie. Having changed its position, the Justice Department is now actively asking the federal courts to throw out the entire ACA—including, more than a little cynically, the (entirely constitutional) requirement that insurers cover pre-existing conditions.” – Steve Vladeck, professor at the University of Texas School of Law
  • “Rather than amplify a baldfaced lie just going to reiterate the truth: Republicans, including Donald Trump, have engaged in an unrelenting campaign to rip health insurance, including protections for preexisting conditions, from tens of millions of people. ... As we speak, the Trump administration is trying to convince the courts to declare the entirety of Obamacare unconstitutional, leaving nothing but chaos in its place.” – Ezra Klein, Vox

Why tell such an obvious lie? Vox’s Aaron Rupar suggests that Trump is worried that health care could be a powerful weapon for Democrats in the election this fall and is trying to muddy the waters to obscure his administration’s record, which includes rising numbers of uninsured and the anti-ACA lawsuit that could eliminate health insurance for 20 million people.

On Friday, the administration bolstered that theory when it asked the Supreme Court to postpone any decisions on the ACA case until after the election, thereby removing the threat that Trump could get exactly what he’s asking for — the effective repeal of Obamacare, which would include the elimination of protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

The Deficit Topped $1 Trillion in 2019

The federal budget deficit for calendar year 2019 topped $1 trillion, according to data released by the Treasury Department Monday. Some details:

  • The shortfall from January through December totaled $1.02 trillion. (The deficit for fiscal 2019, which ran from October 2018 through September 2019, was $984 billion.)
  • It’s the first time since 2012, in the wake of the Great Recession, that the calendar-year deficit has been above $1 trillion.
  • The deficit is up 17.1% from 2018 and 50% bigger than the deficit in 2017, President Trump’s first year in office.
  • The deficit from October through December, the first three months of fiscal year 2020, was $356.6 billion, up about 12% from the previous year.

Poll of the Day

Health care is still at the top of the list of Americans’ concerns. A new Gallup poll released Monday finds that 35% call it extremely important and about 46% say it’s very important. Other issues cited as “extremely important” by the U.S. adults surveyed include national security, gun policy, education and the economy. Income and wealth inequality, the federal budget deficit and taxes were called “extremely important” by about a quarter of respondents. The poll of 1,025 U.S. adults was conducted between December 2 and 15, before heightened tensions with Iran that could result in added attention to national security and foreign affairs.

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