Broadcast Evening News Programs Pilloried Trump’s Tax Cut Outline

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn finally unveiled President Donald Trump’s plan for a major overhaul of individual and corporate income taxes in the United States during an April 26 press briefing. The plan, which seemed to many observers like a less detailed version of the budget-busting agenda Trump campaigned on, was assailed by reporters and economic analysts on the major broadcast evening news programs for its sparse details and profligate giveaways to the wealthy, including a likely tax break for the president himself.

Trump Proposal Would Slash Individual And Corporate Income Tax Rates

NY Times: Trump’s Plan Is “A Radical Reordering Of The Tax Code That Would Significantly Benefit The Wealthy.” According to The New York Times, which outlined the cursory details provided in the Trump administration’s “skeletal” corporate and personal income tax agenda, there was “no explanation” from the White House as to how it would finance massive reductions in tax rates that could add significantly to the national debt. From the April 26 article:

President Trump on Wednesday proposed sharp reductions in individual and business income tax rates and a radical reordering of the tax code that would significantly benefit the wealthy, but he offered no explanation of how the plan would be financed as he rushed to show progress before the 100-day mark of his presidency.

Mr. Trump’s skeletal outline of a tax package, unveiled at the White House in a single-page statement filled with bullet points, was less a plan than a wish list. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Gary D. Cohn, the director of Mr. Trump’s National Economic Council, laid out the bare bones to reporters, part of a mad dash toward the administration’s 100th day on Saturday that has included the resurrection of a health care bill and near-daily signings of executive orders. [The New York Times, 4/26/17]

Broadcast News Coverage Slammed Trump’s Rushed Tax Cut Plan

Broadcast Evening News Programs Scoured Trump’s Tax Outline For Details. Each of the major broadcast evening news programs -- ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’s Evening News, NBC’s Nightly News, and PBS’s NewsHour -- devoted considerable attention to the president’s tax cut outline on April 26. The news outlets combined to spend more than 24 minutes discussing the proposals, more than half of which came from PBS alone:

ABC News: Trump Tax Outline Is “Just A Single Page, … With Few Specifics.” During the April 26 edition of ABC’s World News Tonight, correspondent Jonathan Karl hit the Trump administration for releasing a tax plan that was just “a single page, double-spaced, with few specifics” and for continuing to refuse to release the president’s tax returns, which could inform the public as to how much the Trump family stands to materially benefit from the overhaul. In response to a question from host David Muir, Karl added that “there is no question that Republicans are divided” on the tax plan, which he had noted is likely to balloon the federal budget deficit:

[ABC, World News Tonight, 4/26/17]

CBS News: Trump Team “Rushed Out A Plan” In An “Attempt To Beat The 100-Day Mark.” During the April 26 edition of CBS’s Evening News, host Scott Pelley opened the program by noting that the Trump administration “rushed out a plan for historic tax cuts high on hyperbole but with only a dollop of detail” that seemed to be “an attempt to beat the 100-day mark in the Trump presidency, rather than a serious proposal to reform the tax code.” Correspondent Major Garrett later added that Trump’s plan “lacks basic details,” noted that economic analysts had derided Trump’s promise of tax cut-stimulated economic growth as “magic beans,” and concluded by pointing out that Secretary Mnuchin committed “a common mistake for budget amateurs” by confusing the annual federal budget deficit with the national debt:

[CBS, Evening News, 4/26/17]

NBC News: The Specifics Are “Still A Mystery” In Terms Of How Tax Cuts Would Grow The Economy. During the April 26 edition of NBC’s Nightly News, correspondent Peter Alexander noted that the stated goal of the tax cuts is “stimulating the economy” but said the specifics of the plan are “still a mystery,” quoting conservative economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin who called the plan “voodoo economics.” Alexander noted that the proposal to slash corporate tax rates would also extend to “personal real estate empires, like Mr. Trump’s” and added that doing away with the alternative minimum tax could also materially benefit the president, who promised during the campaign that he would increase taxes on the wealthy, including himself:

[NBC, Nightly News, 4/26/17]

PBS News Says Trump Plan “Exacerbates After-Tax Inequality” By Focusing Tax Relief On The Wealthy. During the April 26 edition of PBS’s NewsHour, co-host Judy Woodruff interviewed Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, pressing him to address criticism that Trump’s tax agenda thus far has been catered to benefit wealthy individuals and corporations, including his own. During a later segment, correspondent William Brangham interviewed economist Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who argued that the plan “exacerbates after-tax inequality” by focusing tax cuts on wealthy individuals and corporations instead of working- and middle-class Americans. Bernstein said the proposed expansion of the standard deduction would have a “tiny” impact on some taxpayers “at the bottom” of the income bracket, but the loss of trillions of dollars in tax revenue would “swamp” programs and credits that help the middle class:

[PBS, NewsHour, 4/26/17, 4/26/17, 4/26/17]

Media Matters researcher Madeline Peltz contributed to this post