Politico reported that Donald Trump is tapping conservative economic pundits Stephen Moore and Larry Kudlow to assist in remaking the presumptive Republican nominee’s tax plan, which has been lambasted as a budget-busting giveaway to high-income earners and corporations. Media should be aware that both Moore and Kudlow have long histories of playing fast and loose with the facts while making outlandish and incorrect claims about the economy.
Trump Tapped Two Discredited Economists To Rebuild His Disastrous Tax Plan
Politico: Trump Picks Conservative Media Darlings Steve Moore And Larry Kudlow To Re-Write His Tax Reform Plan. Politico reported that Donald Trump has tapped conservative economic pundits Steve Moore and Larry Kudlow to revise Trump’s tax plan, which, in its current form, would expand the deficit by $10 trillion over the next decade and has come “under criticism from both the right and left for vastly expanding the deficit.” From the May 11 edition of Politico:
Trump’s initial proposal, rolled out with fanfare at Trump Tower in Manhattan last September, has been in the spotlight since he became the presumptive Republican nominee last week and promptly declared that it was only a starting point for any negotiations with congressional Democrats, should he become president.
But it turns out Trump’s team is open to revamping it far sooner than that; the campaign last month contacted at least two prominent conservative economists — Larry Kudlow, the CNBC television host, and Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation and a longtime Wall Street Journal writer — to spearhead an effort to update the package.
Trump’s initial plan has come under criticism from both the right and left for vastly expanding the deficit, with the nonpartisan Tax Foundation estimating it would add $10 trillion to the federal deficit in the next decade. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has moved quickly to tattoo the plan’s steep price tag onto Trump, with her team holding a call on Monday calling it a reckless expansion of debt. [Politico, 5/11/16]
National Review Furious Over Kudlow And Moore’s Flip-Flop On Trump. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg berated both right-wing economic figureheads on March 9 for endorsing Trump, despite the presumptive Republican nominee’s lack of apparent conservative policy bona fides. Goldberg pointed out that both Kudlow and Moore had attacked Trump’s policy proposals as recently as last August, but “as Trump rose in the polls, Kudlow and Moore joined the ranks of Trump's biggest boosters”:
Consider Larry Kudlow and Stephen Moore. In August, the two legendarily libertarian-minded economists attacked Trump, focusing on what they called Trump's “Fortress America platform.” His trade policies threaten the global economic order, they warned. “We can't help wondering whether the recent panic in world financial markets is in part a result of the Trump assault on free trade,” they mused. As for Trump's immigration policies, they could “hardly be further from the Reagan vision of America as a 'shining city on a hill.'”
Months later, as Trump rose in the polls, Kudlow and Moore joined the ranks of Trump's biggest boosters -- and not because Trump changed his views. On the contrary, Kudlow has moved markedly in Trump's direction. He now argues that the borders must be sealed and all visas canceled. He also thinks we have to crack down on China. [Media Matters, 3/10/16]
Politico: The Entire Field Of GOP Candidates Was “Wooing … Washington Wonk” Moore. Moore, an economic contributor at the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks and Fox News contributor, is a well known figure in right-wing economic policy circles, with previous stints at the Club for Growth, The Wall Street Journal, and the Heritage Foundation. He was highly sought among potential Republican presidential candidates in the lead up to the 2016 presidential primary season. According to a lengthy March 12, 2015, profile in Politico Magazine, Moore was banking on landing “a paid 2016 campaign job” that could be a “topper” to his Washington career:
For Moore, a paid 2016 campaign job could be the topper to a Washington career that’s placed him at the center of the conservative cause but never within a candidate’s inner circle. Such a job would mean he’d have to take a leave of absence as chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, cancel his Fox News contract and stop the lucrative paid speaking trips that bring him to luxury locales from South Florida to Curaçao. But he thinks it might be worth it.
Moore made his initial moves to link up with 2016 candidates in early 2014 when he informed The Wall Street Journal that he planned to advise the budding Republican presidential field. To avoid the potential conflict of interest, Moore surrendered his press pass and returned to the Heritage Foundation, where he could work on conservative policy papers and build out campaign contacts. [Politico Magazine, 3/12/15]
Trump Has Been Trying To Rebrand His Tax Plan On The Fly
NBC’s Chuck Todd: Trump Called For “Lowering Taxes On Everybody,” But Has Now Changed His Position. NBC's Chuck Todd noted that “During the primaries, Trump put out a plan lowering taxes on everybody, including the wealthy,” but now Trump “says he's open to raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans.” From the May 8 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press:
CHUCK TODD (HOST): This may well be this generation's defining moment in American politics, particularly for Republicans. The Republican Party splitting apart as it turns its back on its new presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. What we're witnessing is nothing short of what you might call tissue rejection. Conservatives who warned that Trump would ultimately prove he's not one of them are having their own I-told-you-so moment. During the primaries, Trump said he was opposed to raising the minimum wage; now he says he's open to raising it. During the primaries, Trump put out a plan lowering taxes on everybody, including the wealthy; now he says he's open to raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans. [NBC, Meet the Press, 5/8/16]
WSJ ’s Kimberley Strassel: Trump “Disavowed” His Tax Plan. Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel noted that Trump had “disavowed” his tax plan and “said he wasn’t a big fan of it” during the May 8 edition of Fox News Sunday:
KIMBERLY STRASSEL: Look, when we talk about a non-perfect candidate, I keep hearing everyone talk about Trump's agenda. Paul Manafort was on saying his agenda and he articulated it so well. What part of that agenda are we talking about? When he put out his tax plan, or when he disavowed it this week and said he wasn't a big fan of his own tax plan? When he said we cannot raise the minimum wage, and then he turned around this week and said, “Well, yeah, we probably can do that after all”? [Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Sunday, 5/8/16]
Moore And Kudlow Play Fast And Loose With Economics
Larry Kudlow Lectured Single Parents About Poverty Even Though He Admits To Having “Virtually No Knowledge In This Field.” Kudlow appeared on a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to discuss family issues on March 4 and noted that he has “virtually no knowledge in [the] field” of issues that affect low-income American families, yet he still used his CPAC platform to shame low-income Americans and lecture single parents. In his opening remarks, Kudlow argued that “welfare is not a substitute for marriage [or] child-rearing.” Kudlow bragged that he is “ignorant” of many issues facing families, but feels that he can speak about them because “there's enough documentation for ignorant people” to talk effectively about the supposed cause-effect relationship between poverty and single parenting. [Media Matters, 3/4/16]
Kudlow Used His CNBC Platform To Attack Taxes, Regulations In “Anti-Business” Connecticut. On numerous occasions in 2016, Kudlow used his position at CNBC to lob political attacks at Democratic politicians in Connecticut, which he called an “anti-business state” because of supposedly onerous tax and regulatory policies. Kudlow’s attacks came amid speculation that he would run for the United States Senate against incumbent Sen. Richard Blumenthal. [Media Matters, 2/3/16; 2/9/16]
Kudlow Previously Endorsed The Trump Tax Plan He’s Now Re-Writing. In an interview with Breitbart News following the October 28 Republican presidential debate hosted by CNBC, Kudlow admitted that he did not “know all the details” about Trump’s tax plan, but he endorsed Trump’s “spot on” proposal to lower corporate tax rates to just 15 percent. The interview seemed to confirm Trump’s claim during the debate that Kudlow “loves my tax plan.” [Breitbart News, 10/28/15]
Jared Bernstein: Stephen Moore’s Support Of “Right-To-Work” Laws Is Based On “Fact-Free” Claims. Economist Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) addressed Moore’s false claim that so-called “right-to-work” laws would offer extra protection to workers in Wisconsin in a March 2, 2015, op-ed in The Washington Post:
Workers in a bargaining unit in non-RTW states don’t even have to pay full union dues. If they object to, say, the union’s political activities, they can pay reduced dues that cover only the costs of negotiating and enforcing the contract. Since that’s most of what local unions do, by the way, such fees amount to 80 percent to 90 percent of full dues.
So when Steve Moore of the Heritage Foundation claims that workers in non-RTW states “can be compelled to join a union and pay dues at a union shop whether they wish to or not” or that they “can even be forced to pay union dues for partisan political activities with which they don’t agree,” he’s deep within a fact-free zone. [The Washington Post, PostEverything, 3/2/15]
NY mag: Moore “Can’t Find A Single True Fact” Supporting The Campaign Against Obamacare. New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait offered a detailed response to several demonstrably false claims made by Moore in a Washington Times op-ed, stating that Moore “can’t find a single true fact to support his case” against the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Moore based his allegation that the ACA “isn’t affordable” on several claims, and Chait chided the argument as “so incoherent that it is hard to follow” before concluding that “not a single substantive claim in [Moore’s] column appears to be true.” [New York, 2/18/15]
Moore Claimed For Years That Obamacare Would Hurt Full-Time Jobs Without Any Proof. Throughout 2013, Moore repeatedly claimed that Obamacare was driving millions of workers into part-time jobs at the expense of full-time employment. After professional economists debunked his unsubstantiated claim, Moore simply adopted a new claim that a major spike in part-time work loomed in the future. More than one year later, the impact of Obamacare on part-time employment was, at best, “fairly small,” according to FiveThirtyEight chief economics writer Ben Casselman.
Paul Krugman: Moore’s “Incompetence Is Actually Desirable” In Conservative Circles. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman briefly investigated the “mystery” of Moore’s successful career in economic policy in a February 18, 2015, blog post for The New York Times. Krugman concluded that Moore is not held accountable for consistently making bad predictions and misstating basic facts about the economy because “incompetence is actually desirable” in his field:
But here’s the mystery: evidently Moore has had a successful career. Why?
Think about Heritage: It’s immensely wealthy, and could surely afford to hire a technically competent right-wing hack. The Wall Street Journal, similarly, could have attracted someone much less likely to trip over his own intellectual shoelaces. Again, the problem isn’t even that Moore got the macroeconomics of recent years all wrong, although he did; it’s the inability to write without making embarrassing mistakes.
So why is he there (and he’s not alone — there are some other incompetent hacks at Heritage)?
I suspect that the incompetence is actually desirable at some level — a smart hack might turn honest, or something, But it’s remarkable. [The New York Times, 2/18/15]
Moore Falsely Claimed That Higher Minimum Wages Would Kill Jobs. Moore has claimed on many occasions that increasing federal, state, or local minimum wages would have an adverse effect on the labor market -- hurting teenage and entry-level employment, reducing overall hiring, closing businesses, and driving further workplace automation. None of these claims has proven true, and Moore was caught off guard when confronted with his faulty predictions on the February 19, 2014, edition of CNN Newsroom:
Moore Used Bogus Cost Calculation To Stoke Fear Of Unaccompanied Minors. Moore cited his own calculations in estimating that the cost of temporarily educating unaccompanied immigrant children in public schools would be “about a billion dollars a year,” on the August 7, 2014, edition of Fox News’ Your World. Moore’s estimate was roughly 65 percent higher than it should have been, according to research from Moore’s own Heritage Foundation. [Media Matters, 8/7/14]
Moore Was Caught Distorting Job Creation Figures In Push For Tax Cuts. Moore published a misleading op-ed in The Kansas City Star on July 7, 2014, attacking liberal economists for “cherry-picking” data to support their policy preferences while citing job creation data from a handful of states to bolster his claim that tax cuts boost economic activity. According to a correction published by the paper on July 25, Moore “used outdated and inaccurate job growth information at a key point in his article” and “damaged his credibility on the jobs issue” by cherry-picking data to support his own policy preferences. [Media Matters, 7/25/14]
Moore Inexplicably Called Expanding Paid Sick Leave “Very Dangerous For Cities.” Moore responded to a proposal by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio that would extend paid sick leave protection to employees at many small businesses, claiming on the January 17, 2014, edition of Fox News’ Your World that the proposal was “very dangerous for cities” and would turn urban centers into Detroit-like “wastelands.” [Media Matters, 1/17/14]
Moore Called The IRS “A Welfare Program” For Paying Out Tax Refunds. Moore said the U.S. should “scrap the IRS,” on the November 11, 2013, edition of Fox News' America’s Newsroom, calling the agency “a dispenser of cash” and “a welfare program.” Moore’s welfare claim was based on that fact that millions of Americans get money from the IRS each year in the form of income tax refunds. [Media Matters, 11/11/13]
Moore Claimed That Fracking Is To The Economy Like “A Cure For Cancer” Would Be To Health Care. Moore said hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is “like the equivalent in health care of a cure for cancer,” on the October 3, 2013, edition of Fox News’ Happening Now. Ironically, fracking has been linked to numerous negative health effects including cancer in addition to environmental dangers. [Media Matters, 10/3/13; Natural Resources Defense Council, 1/27/16]
Moore Supported Spending Cuts That Inhibited Economic Growth. Moore complained that the data in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) job report for September 2013 fell short of some expectations. When asked on the October 22, 2013, edition of Fox News’ Happening Now if he thought the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration were to blame, he claimed that “the sequester has been very good for the economy.” In an August 11, 2013, Wall Street Journal op-ed, Moore had claimed that the cuts were a “success” and free of “negative consequences.” In reality, the budget cuts had significant negative impacts on the economy. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing the cuts would have stimulated economic growth by $113 billion and created up to 900,000 new jobs in just one year. [Media Matters, 10/22/13; 8/12/13]
Moore Promoted Right-Wing Myth That Congress Is “Exempt” From Obamacare. Moore reiterated a prominent right-wing myth that Congress had exempted its members and staffers from Obamacare on the August 12, 2013, edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom. [Media Matters, 8/12/13]
Kudlow’s Climate Denial At CNBC Was Bad For Business. Media Matters conducted a study of CNBC’s coverage of climate change in 2013, finding that several CNBC figures, including Kudlow, deny the science of man made climate change. Despite Kudlow’s repeated denial of climate science on the airwaves of the nation’s leading business network, many business experts invited to discuss climate change accepted the science and argued that climate change was hurting the economy, and would continue to do so without a concerted response. On one occasion, Byron Wien, vice chairman of Blackstone Advisory Partners, told CNBC that climate change was hurting crop yields, thereby raising the cost of food for millions of consumers. [Media Matters, 6/18/13]
Moore Dismissed Critical Lack Of Infrastructure Funding In United States. Moore ignored Republican obstruction of proposals to invest in America’s crumbling infrastructure on the June 21, 2013, edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, dismissing “this idea that there’s not enough money for infrastructure” in the United States. In fact, there was a significant drop in infrastructure spending as a percentage of gross domestic product after Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives in 2011. [Media Matters, 6/21/13]
Kudlow Distorted Health Insurance Mandate To Claim Violators Would “Face A $25,000 Fine Or Imprisonment.” Kudlow distorted a provision in the health care reform bill proposed by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), which later became the Affordable Care Act, on the September 30, 2009, edition of CNBC’s The Kudlow Report to claim that “if an individual opts out of this insurance plan ... apparently they face a $25,000 fine, or imprisonment, or both.” In fact, the bill would levy an $1,900 “excise tax” on those who don't purchase health insurance; those who refuse to pay the tax could face a fine or prison sentence, as The Wall Street Journal editorial Kudlow cited clearly stated. [Media Matters, 9/30/09]