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).