From the October 14 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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In an article for The New York Times, CNBC Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood criticized the field of Republican presidential candidates for unveiling so-called "populist" tax reform plans that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. Harwood will moderate the upcoming Republican presidential debate on October 28, which will focus on the economy.
New York Times contributor Bryce Covert highlighted how Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's claim that Democrats promise "free stuff" to court black voters - a narrative widely used by conservative media - "takes an incredibly narrow, and therefore misleading, view of government benefits," and is at odds with his own tax plan.
In a September speech during a campaign stop in South Carolina, Jeb Bush claimed that Democrats use "free stuff" in order to sway black voters. As The Washington Post's Phillip Bump subsequently explained, Bush's assertion had a "lack of evidence" and was based on popular conservative myths. Conservative media have spent years propping up similar unsubstantiated claims that Democrats use "free stuff" to entice minority voters and jumped to defend Bush when he parroted their talking point.
ThinkProgress' Bryce Covert explained in an October 8 op-ed for the New York Times that the "free stuff" talking point ignores how "we all get 'free stuff' from the government" such as tax credits, deductions, and exclusions. Writing that Bush "is almost certainly aware of the freebies available through taxes" as his own tax plan would give out more of them, Covert pointed out the disconnect between Bush's comments and his economic proposals:
The Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush got caught sounding like a Mitt Romney rerun recently: He told a mostly white audience that he could attract black voters because his campaign "isn't one of division and get in line and we'll take care of you with free stuff." The remark comes just three years after Mr. Romney was lampooned for later describing his own message in a speech to the N.A.A.C.P. as one where the listeners shouldn't expect "free stuff."
In each context, it was clear what kind of government stuff they meant, given the voters they were talking about. They meant welfare programs -- cash benefits from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps, housing subsidies and other direct spending programs that help the poor -- that are, often unfairly, associated with black Americans.
But the shorthand of "free stuff" also takes an incredibly narrow, and therefore misleading, view of government benefits. There's a whole treasure trove of government handouts that aren't dispensed through spending, but rather through the tax code. That doesn't make them any less "free" than a rent voucher or an Electronic Benefit Transfer card.
The government loses about $900 billion in revenue every year on just the 10 largest tax expenditures -- called expenditures because while they aren't direct outlays, they come at a cost just like direct spending. It's a pot that includes credits like the earned-income tax credit and Child Tax Credit as well as deductions and exclusions that help mainly middle-class people reduce how much they owe each April. It also includes special tax rates such as the lower burden on money made through investments instead of a salary. Tax credits mainly help the poor, but the rest help the well off: According to the Congressional Budget Office, more than half of the benefits of these expenditures go to the richest 20 percent of American households.
These facts are obscured for most people. While those who get government benefits through spending programs are often aware -- and too frequently ashamed -- of that fact, those who get them through the tax system usually don't realize they've received a handout. In a 2008 poll, 57 percent of people said they had never availed themselves of a government program, yet 94 percent of those same people had in fact benefited from at least one -- mostly through what the Cornell professor Suzanne Mettler has called the "submerged state," or the huge but often invisible network of money spent through the tax code.
Jeb Bush, however, is almost certainly aware of the freebies available through taxes. (According to one analysis of his federal income tax returns, he himself has saved at least $241,000 since 1981 through the mortgage interest deduction.) Just days before he vowed not to promise voters more free stuff, he put out a tax plan that would give out a whole lot more of it.
There are a couple of things in his plan that would benefit low-income Americans, like a boost to the earned-income tax credit. But thanks to proposed changes such as lowering the top income tax rate, ending the estate tax paid by the wealthiest 0.2 percent and even further reducing the rate for investment income, the biggest benefit would be handed to those who are already counted in the richest 1 percent slice of America. And it would come at a cost of at least $1.6 trillion over a decade, according to analysis by the Tax Foundation.
Every four years, politicians stigmatize "free stuff" like food stamps and welfare while courting votes -- and gloss over tax breaks. But the problem goes beyond disingenuous politicians. Statements like these erode support for government. The more "visible" benefits someone has used -- in other words, direct spending programs -- the more likely he is to feel the government has helped him personally. If most Americans falsely think they don't get free government stuff, though, they won't want to offer it to the people they think get it instead.
Several media outlets have refuted Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio's claim that his tax reform plan sets him apart from GOP rivals because it would balance the federal budget in 10 years.
From the September 30 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the September 29 edition of CNN's New Day:
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From the September 28 edition of Fox News's Hannity:
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From the September 28 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump unveiled a tax reform plan that he claimed will "cost [him] a fortune" and that right-wing media touted as "populist." In fact, like many of his Republican rivals, Trump has offered a tax plan that amounts to a victory for the rich.
An article in Politico uncritically repeated Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's claim that he would raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans as president, but also reported that Trump's plan would actually reduce the top marginal income tax rate from 39.6 to 25 percent and lower the corporate income tax rate to 15 percent.
During a September 27 appearance on CBS News' 60 Minutes, Trump claimed that his tax policy would raise taxes on the "very wealthy." This claim apparently inspired Politico to use the headline, "Trump plans to hike taxes on the wealthy" for a September 28 article describing his tax plan that said publicly-available information about Trump's tax plan -- set to be released in full on September 28 -- indicated that the wealthiest Americans would actually receive a tax cut:
Under a President Donald Trump, some Americans will pay no income tax and the corporate income tax will fall to 15 percent, while the Treasury Department will maintain or even increase current revenue.
According to The Wall Street Journal, which obtained more details ahead of the plan's formal release, individuals making less than $25,000 and married couples making less than $50,000 will not have to pay taxes. The current highest income-tax rate--39.6 percent--would drop to 25 percent. Overall, the number of rates would decrease from the current seven to four, at 0, 10, 20 and 25 percent. While 36 percent of American households do not pay income tax currently, that share would jump to 50 percent.
The gulf between Politico's headline and its reporting on the publicly-available details of Trump's tax plan doesn't stand up to even modest scrutiny, and its failure to get the math right was rightly mocked by conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin on Twitter.
Despite what Trump told 60 Minutes, the numbers don't add up. According to a detailed summary of the billionaire businessman's plan in The Wall Street Journal, Trump also says he would reduce the top capital gains rate from 23.8 to 20 percent, and claims his proposed 15 percent corporate income rate is "among the lowest that have been proposed so far" by any candidate from either party. According to The Journal, Trump's tax plan would eliminate or cap some tax deductions that cater to the wealthy but with major reductions in baseline rates it is unclear how limiting deductions would amount to a tax "hike."
UPDATE: Following a September 28 speech in which Trump revealed his full tax reform plan, Politico updated its article with a new headline and additional reporting, including praise of the plan from Americans for Tax Reform, which opposes any increases of marginal tax rates for any individual or business. The new headline still takes Trump at his word that his tax proposals are "going to cost [him] a fortune," despite the underlying article reaffirming Trump's proposed rate reductions for corporations and high income earners. Politico also confirmed Trump's plan to eliminate the estate tax, which the publication referred to as the "death tax." Eliminating the estate tax would be a major tax policy victory for the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
Mainstream media outlets are ignoring the falsehoods and fabrications underpinning Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's recently-debuted tax reform proposal in favor of endlessly harping on the perceived and imagined flaws of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. George W. Bush benefited from the same kind of free ride in 2000, when media overlooked the impossible economic promises at the core of his fiscal policies.
In a September 14 article, Vox Executive Editor Matt Yglesias took mainstream media outlets to task for glossing over glaring flaws in the tax reform proposals and economic promises offered by Jeb Bush's presidential campaign, recalling the lax vetting received by Bush's older brother during the 2000 presidential election when the press directed incessant, vapid critiques at then-Vice President Al Gore:
According to the conventions prevailing at the time, to offer a view on the merits of a policy controversy would violate the dictates of objective journalism. Harping on the fact that Bush was lying about the consequences of his tax plan was shrill and partisan. Commenting on style cues was okay, though, so the press could lean into various critiques of Gore's outfit.
Today it's clear that Jeb Bush is very much his brother's successor, both in terms of a love of regressive tax cuts and in terms of a passion for making the case for them in a dishonest way. And reading mainstream political reporters characterize the Jeb tax plan as "populist" or some kind of break with conservative orthodoxy paired with endless front-page coverage of every new micro-development in the Hillary Clinton email inquiry is giving me a very uncomfortable sense of déjà vu.
The good news is that new policy-focused verticals like the Upshot and Wonkblog at the New York Times and the Washington Post are doing a much better job of covering this round of Bush tax cuts. The bad news is that policy-focused coverage of presidential campaigns remains a specific and at times marginalized silo. There is not yet any sense that Bush's economic plans -- and his sales job of those plans -- should speak in a central way to how we understand his character, his judgment, his ethics, and his overall quest for the presidency.
The Associated Press recently criticized Republican candidates for claiming that policies "overwhelmingly benefit[ting] the wealthiest" are "populist," but many mainstream outlets have already published stories riddled with such pro-Republican spin.
At Vox, Yglesias argued that news consumers, and voters, deserve to know that the tax-cutting proposals at the heart of the Bush campaign's economic program were proven failures during his brother's administration, overwhelmingly favorws the ultra-rich, and were "a disaster" in his home state of Florida. Bush has already been credited as a "populist" in uncritical coverage of his budget-busting tax plan, gotten away with demanding that Americans "work longer hours" to boost economic growth, and set a 4 percent annual growth target for the economy that actual economists called "nonsense" and "impossible."
The Associated Press called out Republican presidential candidates who engage in populist campaign talk but present tax proposals that would "overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest" -- a trap media often fall into in their reporting on economic policy.
On September 8, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush debuted his tax plan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, attacking what he called an "anemic economy" under the Obama administration and claiming that the only way to guarantee "accelerating [economic] growth" is a complete overhaul of the U.S. tax code." Bush's so-called "overhaul" includes reducing the top marginal income tax rate to 28 percent, reducing corporate tax rates to just 20 percent, and eliminating what he called "lobbyist-created loopholes" in the tax code that advantage high-income filers. Following the release of Bush's plan, media jumped to paint the proposal as a "populist" approach to taxes, despite experts noting that it will mostly privilege the rich.
In a September 14 article, the Associated Press highlighted the problem with labeling GOP candidates' proposals as "populist," explaining that in reality, the plans presented by Jeb Bush, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) all "overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest." Focusing on Bush's proposed tax plan, the article noted that even conservative organizations such as the Tax Foundation concluded that "his plan would initially help the top 1 percent of earners 10 times as much as it would those in the bottom 10 percent":
Jeb Bush went to Detroit and talked about leveling the playing field. Marco Rubio wrote a book about helping the working class. Rand Paul is promising to expand the Republican Party beyond its traditional base.
Yet all three Republican presidential candidates have offered tax proposals that would, for reasons such as nomination politics and tax rate realities, overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest.
In doing so, they have drawn criticism from Democrats who call it proof that the GOP's eventual nominee will mainly try to help the rich.
Even some conservatives expressed concerns after Bush released his proposed tax cut last week. Then there was the analysis Thursday from the Washington-based Tax Foundation that concluded his plan would initially help the top 1 percent of earners 10 times as much as it would those in the bottom 10 percent.
"Republicans should be countering the caricature of themselves as slavishly devoted to the interests of rich people and corporations, not playing into it," according to an editorial in the conservative National Review. The magazine nonetheless praised Bush's effort to reduce income and business tax rates.
The trio's tax plans do contain elements aimed directly at middle- and working-class voters. Rubio proposes to expand the child tax credit and Bush wants to double the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is designed to help the working poor.
But experts note that any broad income tax cut inevitably will benefit the rich more than anyone else, because they pay much more in federal income taxes than the middle class or poor.
Numerous mainstream outlets are reporting on Jeb Bush's proposal to lower income tax rates and reduce exemptions as being "populist" and anti-Wall Street, ignoring that his proposal offers no means of making up for lost revenue and is essentially a retread of mainstream Republican tax policy, including George W. Bush's disastrous tax cuts from 2001 and 2003.
From the August 24 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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