On MSNBC, an economist explains how GOP tax bill benefits real estate investors at the expense of the middle class
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Donald Trump was apparently “monitoring” the Amtrak derailment via Fox News
President Donald Trump tweeted that a train derailment stood as proof that Congress ought to pass his infrastructure plan just moments after a guest on Fox News made the exact same (and incorrect) point. Trump later claimed to be “monitoring here at the White House,” but it kind of seems like he was just watching TV along with the rest of us.
On December 18, a southbound Amtrak train derailed while crossing an overpass outside Dupont, WA. The incident resulted in several fatalities and sent dozens of riders to the hospital . While Fox News was covering the rescue and recovery efforts live on Outnumbered: Overtime, guest Oliver McGee (a civil engineering expert and anti-Obama political activist) suggested that the derailment was proof that America needed to upgrade its passenger rail infrastructure, adding, “This is what President Trump is calling for in that infrastructure bill” (emphasis added):
OLIVER MCGEE: We need positive train control because that ensures train separation and collision avoidance, ensures line speed enforcement, and that the temporary speed restrictions that are necessary for making wide turns and sharp turns. And more importantly our train system has to slow down at some points -- to as small as 30 miles per hour, and that’s required in order to negotiate the infrastructure itself. And this is what President Trump is calling for in that infrastructure bill. To just rehabilitate our crumbling infrastructure.
McGee’s comment, which he made at roughly 1:39 p.m. EST, was followed almost immediately by a tweet from Trump proclaiming that the derailment “shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly.”
The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly. Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2017
Another 10 minutes passed before Trump expressed condolences for those killed and injured in the incident, again just moments after Fox returned to mentioning casualties from the incident in its on-screen chyron:
My thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in the train accident in DuPont, Washington. Thank you to all of our wonderful First Responders who are on the scene. We are currently monitoring here at the White House.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2017
This is not the first time Trump has seemingly tweeted his thoughts and opinions in direct response to Fox programming. And, as is often the case, Trump’s tweets and retweets based on his consumption of Fox News are often misleading or inaccurate. In this instance, Trump’s budget request submitted earlier this year actually proposed drastically reduced investments in Amtrak and overall transportation infrastructure. Furthermore, according to transportation expert Russell Quimby who responded to Trump’s tweet on MSNBC Live, given that most of the railroad system in the United States is “private infrastructure” and “privately owned,” Trump’s proposed policy solution would probably not have affected this incident in any way:
The extraordinarily unpopular bill is built on lies and ignores what we know about economics
President Donald Trump and his Republican congressional allies are enjoying a round of praise from media commentators for finally getting a legislative “win” on the board as their tax bill closes in on passage before the end of the year. The budget-busting corporate giveaway will enrich the superwealthy and do little for Americans who have to work for a living.
Republicans finally unveiled the finished version of their tax legislation last Friday evening, and -- despite the public having just days to absorb its 1,097 pages -- both chambers of Congress plan to vote on the bill before the end of the week. If everything goes according to plan, the president will sign the bill into law just in time for members to head home for the holidays.
After a year plagued by self-destructive outbursts, failed policy changes, unprecedented legal troubles, embarrassing scandals, humiliating legislative defeats, and nationwide political upheaval, many in the press are framing the GOP tax proposal as a crucial “win” for Trump and his party.
On the December 18 edition of CNN Newsroom, co-host Poppy Harlow wondered how anyone could argue the past year “hasn’t been a win for the president on some big fronts,” given a handful of recent accomplishments, including the new tax bill. Reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns agreed with Harlow’s assessment while noting that such favorable framing fits “the way that the White House has been messaging their own achievements”:
During an earlier segment on CNN’s New Day, guest A.B. Stoddard suggested that the Republican tax bill, which the Economic Policy Institute has labeled “a scam,” could count as “a great boon for Republicans” and “a win on the board,” if the bill actually fulfilled its over the top promises. (It won’t.) Commentary framing the expected party-line vote as a major victory for the GOP also cropped up in The Associated Press, Politico, The Hill, and The New York Times. Reporters have seemingly gone out of their way to pat Republicans on the back for endorsing legislation so historically unpopular it registers significantly less support than some previous tax hikes:
In a December 15 video, Eric Schoenberg of the activist group Patriotic Millionaires explained how the GOP tax bill overwhelming favors wealthy people like him (and the Trump family) while doing little for lower- and middle-class people. Trump and the Republicans continue falsely claiming that the bill will spur business development, boost wages, and stoke renewed economic growth, but the message is such a fantasy even Fox News had to admit there was nothing to it. Previous studies from the Congressional Research Service and the Brookings Institution have demonstrated little relationship between tax cuts for the wealthy and invigorated economic activity, which Trump and the GOP have promised will result from this tax bill.
The bill permanently cuts taxes for corporations while giving only modest, temporary relief for working people. It loosens tax structures affecting the wealthiest Americans while threatening funds for Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and other initiatives that guarantee basic economic security to low-income families. The bill promises to add another $1.5 trillion to federal budget deficits over the next decade despite years of hysteria about Obama-era revenue shortfalls. The bill also senselessly repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which will likely result in millions of Americans dropping out of the insurance market.
Rather than praising the Republican Party for ending a remarkably unproductive year by managing to cobble together a tax giveaway to the super rich, journalists should report on what is actually in the bill. Trump and the GOP have definitely enjoyed some "wins" this year, but reporters need to point out that the Republican Party's successes have often resulted in pain and suffering for millions of Americans.
Fox & Friends hosted Ivanka Trump to shill for the Republican Party’s tax bill without once asking her about any of the provisions that will directly benefit her. If the bill is passed, the Trump family, including Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, stands to benefit enormously from changes to business taxation and to the estate tax.
On the December 18 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, the hosts interviewed Ivanka Trump about her role in the GOP’s tax efforts, as well as some of the specifics of the current form of the bill. Co-host Brian Kilmeade spoke appreciatively of Trump for “getting her hands dirty through this entire process.” Co-host Steve Doocy exclaimed that there are “so many people this benefits.” But at no point did the hosts ask Trump about how the bill directly benefits her business, her eventual estate inheritance, her husband Jared Kushner's business, and his personal estate.
In addition to benefiting from the corporate tax cut, which will likely lower taxes for Ivanka’s clothing company, Trump and Kushner will benefit from a provision that particularly impacts those working in commercial real estate, where both President Donald Trump and Kushner have built their careers. The Republican bill lowers taxes on “pass-through income,” or money earned through partnerships or groups that is then passed on to the owner and taxed at the individual tax rate. As The New York Times reported, Kushner stands to benefit dramatically from this cut because he owns properties through “limited liability companies [LLCs] and other similar vehicles.” Over the weekend, as lawmakers clambered to gain necessary support for the bill, a last minute provision was added that could further benefit Kushner and Trump by allowing companies with no employees to deduct a percentage of their pass-through income (both Kushner and Trump have LLCs that could qualify).
In addition to likely increases in Ivanka’s and Kushner’s business earnings, both stand to gain from changes to the estate tax, which is a tax on the transfer of wealth from a deceased person. Members of extremely rich families, like Ivanka and Kushner, stand to benefit from the bill’s doubling of the amount of money that super-rich families can pass along tax-free.
Despite the clear financial advantages of the GOP’s tax bill for Ivanka and her family, the hosts of Fox & Friends failed to question whether her support for the bill is impacted by the benefits she stands to gain. From the December 18 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Ivanka Trump has been actually getting her hands dirty through this entire process, talking to lawmakers about the deal, and making sure it comes out. Ivanka Trump welcome back to the couch.
IVANKA TRUMP: Thank you. I love being here.
KILMEADE: Is this about -- do you feel as though you're across the finish line?
TRUMP: So in business until it's done, it's not done. But we feel very, very confident. So the momentum is there. We're very excited. When the vote is done, we'll be done. But we're going to deliver historic tax reforms, and it's going to happen before Christmas. It’s going to be the fulfillment of an enormous campaign promise, and something that's just tremendously important for the American people. We feel it. This is something the people of this country want. They want simplification. They want a tax code that they can understand. They want lower corporate taxes and understand the benefit if the companies they work for can invest in their workforces, invest in new equipment, and ultimately lead to wage growth. And I think what we've done on the individual side by doubling the standard deduction, by doubling the child tax credit and increasing refundability to $2,000 a child. By creating a dependent care tax credit for those in -- for those many Americans who take care of adult dependents who aren't children, who are above the age of 18, but who are still dependent on them.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): There are so many people this benefits. You would think that there would be some Democrats who would say you know what? I'm for tax cuts for the middle class. I'm for helping small businesses. Why aren't there any Democrats?
TRUMP: One would think that and there are a lot of Democrats and they're all across this country. So the voters --
DOOCY: But what about the ones in the Senate?
TRUMP: Well, we've had a lot of very productive conversations with Democrats who I believe are intellectually there. Their hearts are there but the party is not there and the leadership's not there.
KILMEADE: Leadership's not letting them.
TRUMP: And that is unfortunate. But I'm hopeful with this really enormous and historic win for the American people, we come into 2018 with such tremendous momentum that we galvanize support and cohesion -- not only within the party because I think one of the amazing things is how the party has come together, worked together to accomplish with what they know the American people want.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Ivanka, we keep hearing [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer [(D-NY)] and [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi [(D-CA)], we had some guests on this morning, they keep saying it's going to hurt the middle class. But when you look at the tax brackets, everyone's numbers go down. Where are they getting that? Is that just a sound bite, a narrative that they want you to believe? Or is it actually true?
TRUMP: Well, keep in mind that the vast majority of Congress in advance -- of Democrats -- signed a letter in advance of knowing what was in the tax bill saying that they wouldn't be for tax reform.
EARHARDT: Before they read it.
TRUMP: Before they read it and before any of the details, even the principles, had been released. So I think we are in a very partisan climate, in that regard. But the core principles of tax reform, the president and all of Congress has been very, very articulate of since day one. The president said that he wanted to deliver middle income tax relief. Targeted middle income tax relief, and he also wanted to cut corporate rates to enable our businesses to be competitive and to thrive in a global economy. And this bill does exactly those things.
KILMEADE: I mean, [President Ronald] Reagan went from 50 to 28 [percent], that was substantial. You go down 2 [percent], and they are saying this is tax cuts for the rich. But possibly the thing that's going to be the most outstanding about this and it's permanent is the corporate tax rate. So it goes from 35 to 21 [percent]. Now, if these CEOs and these corporations decide to invest in their own dividends and buy their own stock, that would not make it an effective corporate tax cut. It will make make all those naysayers say I told you so. Have you reached out to any of these CEOs and said what do you plan on doing with the tax break? And even though you can't make them do anything, do you let them know what is at stake if they don't?
TRUMP: One hundred percent. And we've been working very, very closely with the whole business community. Businesses large and small. So from day one, their voices have been represented at the table. If you think about it, small businesses will have the lowest taxes since 1931. So think about how that gives them the latitude to be able to invest in growth. So, when you look at the developed world, the reality is that over the decades that have passed since the last major comprehensive tax reform under Reagan, the rest of the world realized that cutting taxes enabled them to be competitive and their rates dropped dramatically below ours. So this puts us on par or below. It's going to enable us to be competitive, and then it's going to enable these big companies and small companies to grow. And when you grow, you create jobs, you create wage growth, and we're seeing that. And that combined with the administration's aggressive deregulatory actions is really fueling tremendous growth.
DOOCY: The one-two punch.
Former Sen. George Allen (R-VA) regularly appears in the media to push the interests of the manufacturing industry on issues ranging from the environment to taxes. What’s frequently left unsaid is that the Republican works for a leading manufacturing trade association.
Allen is a former Republican Senator and governor who now heads George Allen Strategies LLC, which works for clients “on a range of issues including energy, technology, domestic, and international business development.”
He most recently penned a December 12 Washington Times op-ed claiming that American manufacturers are facing “a formidable new threat: a cabal of activists, cunning lawyers, ambitious politicians and a network of well-heeled benefactors,” which includes philanthropist (and former Media Matters donor) George Soros and environmental activist and philanthropist Tom Steyer.
Allen also wrote a May 24 Washington Times op-ed in which he encouraged lawmakers to reduce the corporate tax rate. In the piece, he cited a “recent National Association of Manufacturers study [which] indicated that smaller-sized manufacturers (under 50 employees) pay $34,671 per employee each year to comply with regulations. The regulatory burden, coupled with the high rates of our outdated tax code, are not the recipe for unlocking positive entrepreneurial growth in Virginia or anywhere in the United States.”
Neither of those pieces disclosed that Allen works for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). NAM is a trade association that had revenues of roughly $60 million in 2015, according to its IRS 990 form. The group, which describes itself as “the largest manufacturing association in the United States,” frequently works to oppose regulations against the industry and is now working to pass the GOP’s wildly unpopular tax bill. It is headed by Jay Timmons, a veteran Republican operative who worked as Allen’s chief of staff when he was in office.
In October 2013, the group appointed Allen as the co-chair of its “Manufacturing Competitiveness Initiative.” He has done events this year in which business groups have identified him as working for NAM. His corporate biography states that he still works for NAM and he said in a June 2017 interview that he’s “working with the National Association of Manufacturers on their competitiveness initiative.”
NAM’s Manufacturers’ Accountability Project, which is part of NAM’s Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action, tweeted out Allen’s op-ed twice on December 13. Allen’s piece closely resembles the stated purpose of the NAM project, which claims to “set the record straight and highlight the concerted, coordinated campaign being waged by trial lawyers, public officials, deep-pocketed foundations and other activists who have sought to undermine and weaken manufacturers in the United States.”
The Washington Times, George Allen Strategies, and NAM did not respond to requests for comment.
Allen has written other op-eds about the government's involvement with the manufacturing industry in which his ties to NAM were not disclosed.
He has also appeared on television and mentioned the manufacturing industry without noting his ties. For instance, during the June 11 edition of CNN’s New Day Sunday, Allen claimed that President Donald Trump “has done a great job on a lot of regulatory reform issues” and “I think that you see a lot of optimism, for example, amongst manufacturers that this president is going to deliver. Now, the members of Congress need to act too.” He also appeared on Fox Business in March where he mentioned NAM when discussing taxes but didn’t say he worked for the organization; NAM subsequently promoted his appearance and posted video of it.
By contrast, a November 22 op-ed for the Washington Examiner disclosed that Allen works for NAM.
Similar policies have been found unconstitutional and wasteful
Fox & Friends guest co-host Pete Hegseth called Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan to drug test food stamp applicants a “no-brainer.” Hegseth argued that “taxpayers matter as well,” adding, “even if it's 0.03 percent -- whatever percentage it is -- [does] it not make sense for the government do their due diligence?”
In fact, similar proposals in other states have been found to be an unconstitutionally unreasonable search. Moveover, such programs are costly and rarely find many drug-positive findings. And, as segment guest Taryn Rosenkranz pointed out, Wisconsin, which already has budget shortfalls, expects only 0.03 percent of people who receive benefits to test positive.
From the December 7 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): Wisconsin could soon become the first state to drug test food stamp applicants.
Well, those who fail the drug test would receive treatment if they couldn't afford it. Shouldn't this plan be a no-brainer? Here to debate it is Democratic strategist Taryn Rosenkranz and Republican strategist Chris Prudhome. Taryn, I will start with you. So, to a lot of our viewers, it’s going to make common sense. If you want to receive support from the government, let's make sure you’re clean in doing so. Where does that logic go wrong?
TARYN ROSENKRANZ: Sure. And I'm going to take the moral argument out of it for a second, about protecting the most vulnerable in our country and in that state and just look at the example of what Wisconsin is actually doing. So, self-admitted by the governor, there is about 0.03, that’s less than a half a percent, of people they expect to test positive. That means this is not a widespread problem. It's not rampant.
The state, just so you know, so the state of Wisconsin has actually had terrible budget shortfalls and shortages, and they’re having all kinds of issues. So to spend like scarce resources on less than half of one percent, which isn't a rampant problem, it’s actually not going to encourage the jobs and more drug-free workers in the workplace. It's really not going to have much of an impact at all. But it is going to take much-needed resources away from prevention programs, job trainings, education. The schools are already having budget shortfalls there. I mean, what we really care about is educating our children and making sure our families have what they need. Aside, like I said, the moral argument that this is a safety net for the most vulnerable. So, keeping all of that in mind, I don't think it's a no-brainer at all.
HEGSETH: Well, Chris, I mean, taxpayers matter as well. I’ll put up a statistic here. The amount of food stamp enrollees in Wisconsin, 670,000 of a population of almost six million. So, even if it's 0.03 percent -- whatever percentage it is -- is it not make sense for the government to do their due diligence and make sure, if they're giving out taxpayer dollars, they’re giving it to people who will use it responsibly?
CHRIS PRUDHOME: Absolutely, Pete. Look, one is too much. One dollar is too much. One person is too much. We have to start cutting down on wasteful spending. And look, Gov. [Scott] Walker is absolutely right. It is not unconstitutional to go get a job to take care of yourself. We -- welfare is not designed for you to stay on top of and to be a crutch. There are people who are career welfare recipients. We have to stop that. It’s time to stop enabling people to be on the welfare system. This is not a plan to target the low-income. This is a plan to target what's wrong. And what is wrong is being on welfare, is doing drugs. And that 0.3 percent (sic), I'm certainly sure there are many other individuals who may do low-level drugs or other things. This is about a much bigger picture.
HEGSETH: Sure. Taryn, I mean, you can't be on drugs and be in the military. Why should you be able to be on drugs and receive my taxpayer dollars? And this program provides for follow-up treatment for those who are testing positive. So, is this not a way for government to evaluate efficiency in their services, but also take care of people who are addicted?
ROSENKRANZ: Well, the part that no one’s mentioning is that this has been deemed unconstitutional. So I know you said that. It has been deemed unconstitutional, not for the reasons you said, which are -- everyone would agree with that, that you don’t -- you certainly don't. But why it's unconstitutional is that it's been deemed that way for an unlawful search. So if we’re looking at this just from the law of the land --
HEGSETH: So I can’t vet --
ROSENKRANZ: -- which we all like to uphold the Constitution, right? We all want to uphold the Constitution --
PRUDHOME: But that was actually before -- but that was before they inserted the new policy, which is a drug-testing aspect.
ROSENKRANZ: But the Trump administration has not acted on that yet. So right now, this is Gov. Walker acting alone with scarce budget resources focusing on something that's not going to be helpful. I agree with you that welfare reform, and I think the Democrats in Wisconsin agree that welfare reform, is something that we want to look at. But more importantly we want to look at how we can prevent drugs in the first place. And that’s after-school programs, education, and job training in the workforce.
PRUDHOME: But we also should not be enablers.
HEGSETH: Last word briefly. Chris, last word briefly. Very briefly, Chris.
PRUDHOME: But we also don't need to be enablers of people.
ROSENKRANZ: No one wants to be an enabler, sir.
PRUDHOME: And look, this is a certainly -- certainly it was a federal [INAUDIBLE]. This is why the governor put a new piece of the policy in place, which is this aspect of it to actually drug test. That was not originally in it before the federal appeal.
After years of hyping declining labor force participation rate, Fox & Friends points out that the statistic isn’t useful for measuring economic activity
This morning, Fox & Friends pointed out that the labor force participation rate, a favorite statistic cited by Fox News during the Obama administration to dismiss economic successes, can be a misleading indicator of the health of the job market. Fox spent years using a declining labor force participation rate to portray the job market in a negative light while hyping grossly exaggerated claims about the so-called “real unemployment rate.” And President Donald Trump also used the network’s purposeful distortion of the labor force statistic during the 2016 election campaign.
In 2010, the Pew Research Center reported that “10,000 Baby Boomers” will reach retirement age “every day for the next 19 years,” and, as The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler pointed out in 2014, “The composition of the labor force has been affected by the retirement of the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation.”
On the December 5 edition of Fox & Friends, when co-host Brian Kilmeade mentioned the lagging labor force participation rate during a discussion of the health of the economy under Trump, co-host Steve Doocy was quick to point out that the statistic was misleading because “a lot of those people are retired.” The about-face is yet another example since Trump's inauguration in which Fox has abandoned its conspiratorial portrayals of the labor market, often going out of its way to put a positive spin on numbers they would have trashed during the Obama administration:
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): There’s two things I'm looking at, the trade deals and the workforce. So only 60 percent of the workforce is working right now. How do we get those people into the game?
STUART VARNEY: I don't have an answer to your question. I do believe, however, that when you restore prosperity and you've got real growth, people will be enticed back into the labor force because there’s a decent job available. It makes sense to go back into the labor force, if that’s the case.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): But also, a lot of those people are retired.
VARNEY: Yes, a lot of the people are retired, that’s very true.
KILMEADE: Yeah, I don't want to make them work again. I mean they’re fine.
DOOCY: Move to Florida.
VARNEY: I should be retired.
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This is exactly how journalists need to treat the Republicans’ messaging nonsense on their giveaway to the rich
MSNBC hosts Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle thoroughly debunked conservative talking points about the Republican Party’s pro-corporate tax policy during an interview with an ill-prepared member of Congress, who was attempting to build support for his party’s proposed tax changes that overwhelmingly favor the wealthy.
During the December 4 edition of MSNBC Live with Velshi and Ruhle, Velshi presented a detailed outline of the many ways in which Republican tax bills in the House and Senate will fall short of GOP promises and commitments. Velshi noted that numerous independent analyses have shown the GOP plans will add upwards of $1 trillion to the national debt, and pointed out that despite “huge changes made to our tax code … we’ve seen no observable shift to long-term growth rates in the last 150 years.” Velshi also pointed to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which found that none of the 42 leading economists surveyed believe the plans will be able to boost economic growth rates by enough to make up for lost revenue. He concluded the segment by pointing to a recently-released Goldman Sachs analysis of the Senate tax bill, which concluded that economic growth stemming from the tax bill will be lower than Republicans have claimed, and, as Velshi stated, “possibly even … negative” after a few years:
Immediately after outlining all the problems in the GOP tax plans, MSNBC invited Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) on the program and gave him an opportunity to defend his party’s policy priorities. Stewart’s performance did not go as he might have anticipated, with co-hosts Velshi and Ruhle taking turns debunking GOP talking points and pillorying Stewart’s excuses for the tax plan.
The co-hosts rebuffed Stewart’s repeated assertions that tax cuts for profitable corporations and wealthy individuals will boost economic growth (a 2012 Congressional Research Service study found no correlation between income tax rates and economic growth, and a 2014 study from the Brookings Institution argued the relationship between tax cuts and growth was “theoretically uncertain”), they corrected his false claim that the United States has the world’s highest corporate taxes (effective corporate rates are the same as other developed countries), and they called out his false claim that “the American people want us to do this” (the GOP tax plans are actually extremely unpopular). When Stewart claimed the GOP plans are effective in simplifying the tax code, Ruhle challenged him over and over to name a single corporate loophole that is being removed (he couldn’t), and both co-hosts stung Stewart over how Republican plans fail to address the so-called “carried interest” loophole, which helps extremely high-income individuals avoid paying taxes on some of their income.
By the end of his nearly 11-minute grilling, Stewart was actually defending the discredited theory of “trickle-down economics” by name, which Velshi correctly noted was such a disaster in Kansas that the state’s Republican-dominated legislature had to abandon their conservative tax agenda.
This takedown from Velshi and Ruhle is not the first time the MSNBC duo has discredited the GOP’s hollow economic message. Both Velshi and Ruhle have spent considerable time over the past several months pointing out that the Republican agenda favors wealthy individuals, profitable corporations, and the Trump family at the expense of lower- and middle-income Americans. This important work in correcting purposeful misinformation about the GOP's right-wing agenda is all the more important as Republican lawmakers prepare to enact tax policy changes that could affect millions of Americans for years to come.
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As Republicans prepare to vote on a bill to drastically alter the tax code by slashing corporate rates and creating carve-outs for the wealthy at the expense of some of the most vulnerable, some Republican senators took to cable news to hype the proposal. The lawmakers relied on debunked myths to encourage voters and their colleagues to support the historically unpopular legislation. In some cases, journalists pushed back on these talking points. But in the future, reporters must be quick to immediately debunk this onslaught of misinformation and deception.
Several Republican lawmakers pitched the plan by claiming that every income group would receive a tax cut. On the November 30 edition of Fox News’ The Daily Briefing, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) stated that “everybody does get a tax cut” from this plan in response to questioning from host Sandra Smith.
In an interview with Fox News’ Bill Hemmer on the November 29 edition of America’s Newsroom, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) claimed that “every income group is going to get a tax cut,” to which Hemmer offered no push back.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) went a step further on the November 29 edition of CNN’s New Day, asserting that “every income bracket will benefit and the lower income brackets … will benefit the most.” Cornyn’s comments came after CNN’s Chris Cuomo pointed out that “this was billed as a middle-class” plan, but “there is no analysis that shows them being helped disproportionately to the top tier.”
These claims are not true. According to The Washington Post, Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that the bill would “give large tax cuts to the rich while raising taxes on American families earning $10,000 to $75,000 over the next decade.” Additionally, The New York Times found that “two-thirds of middle-class households would get a tax increase in 2027, and none — zero percent — would get a tax cut.”
In a November 29 interview on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed that Republicans are “not touching Medicare at all in this bill” with no pushback from host Laura Ingraham.
This claim was also made by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who, according to The Wall Street Journal, asserted that the bill includes “no cuts to Medicare.” But the Journal correctly noted, “Medicare would be cut by $25 billion in fiscal 2018 as a result of the bill because it would trigger automatic spending cuts under a pay-as-you-go budgeting law.”
Additionally, according to Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) essentially admitted that the tax bill “is the prelude to a larger attack on Social Security and Medicare.” During a November 29 interview forum hosted by Politico, Rubio said tax cuts would help with “instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future.” Rubio’s claim is also backed up by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which found that to offset deficit increases, automatic cuts would be made to Medicare of up to $25 billion next year.
Also in his interview with Laura Ingraham, McConnell claimed that the tax bill “is not going to be a deficit producing effort.” Once again, Ingraham did not give any pushback to McConnell on his claim.
This, of course, is false. According to The New York Times, the JCT found that “the legislation would add $1 trillion to federal budget deficits over a decade, even after accounting for economic growth."
In an attempt to defend the Republican tax bill, Fox & Friends hosts purported to debunk “myths” about the proposal, but actually just pushed a number of falsehoods and misleading statements themselves. For the segment, they hosted Rosemary Becchi, a tax attorney and lobbyist who previously worked as the Republican tax counsel on the Senate Finance Committee.
Claimed the plan won’t add $1 trillion to the deficit just one day after congressional committee found that it would. Becchi asserted that it was “completely false” that the bill would add $1 trillion to the deficit. Co-host Brian Kilmeade cited so-called “dynamic scoring” to allege that the bill could “actually reduce the deficit.” But, according to The New York Times, an estimate from Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) found that “the legislation would add $1 trillion to federal budget deficits over a decade, even after accounting for economic growth” through dynamic scoring.
Falsely claimed the plan won’t hike taxes on middle-income people. Becchi also insisted that the tax bill would cut taxes “at all levels. It cuts at the high-income earners, as well as middle- and low-class taxpayers, as well.” But, according to The Washington Post, the JCT estimated that the bill would “give large tax cuts to the rich while raising taxes on American families earning $10,000 to $75,000 over the next decade.” Additionally, The New York Times found that “two-thirds of middle-class households would get a tax increase in 2027, and none — zero percent — would get a tax cut.”
Whitewashed the harm the plan will do to Americans’ health care. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked Becchi whether a potential “health care tax hike” under the proposed law will happen, which Becchi dismissed. Becchi correctly noted that the proposal includes a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate, which would not lead to a tax hike. But Becchi and the hosts did not explain that as a result of repealing the mandate, as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated, 13 million more people would lose their insurance and premiums would rise by about 10 percent in the ACA’s individual market.
Admitted that tax cuts will help the rich the most while claiming to be “debunking” the “myth” that tax cuts help the rich most. When asked about the impact the bill would have on the wealthiest Americans, Becchi noted that “these tax cuts will disproportionately help upper-income taxpayers,” but suggested that that was just because “most wealthy Americans pay the most taxes in this country.” This is a drastic understatement; based on the initial framework of the Republican tax bills, the Tax Policy Center found that “about 80 percent of the total benefit would accrue to taxpayers in the top 1 percent, whose after-tax income would increase 8.7 percent.”
From the December 1 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): First off, we hear about the deficit, and we hear that it’s going to add $1 trillion dollars to the deficit.
ROSEMARY BECCHI: And that's just completely false. There’s so much in this bill that will generate an economic growth. And that economic growth will put us on a path to fiscal responsibility. So, there’s a lot to be in this bill for everybody.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): OK, to chew on, and that's why we are looking at it, we just heard from [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi [(D-CA)]. She called it a “scam.” What about the fact that so many Democrats, Rosemary, have said it's going to be a tax hike on the middle class?
BECCHI: And that's just not true. This bill will give benefits to both the low-, middle-, and high-income earners. It provides tax cuts straight across the board.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): She also said health care tax hike. Is that going to happen?
BECCHI: No. Not at all. What the bill includes is the repeal of the [individual] mandate. And if you recall, the mandate is simply a penalty for not purchasing health care. All it does is eliminate that penalty. That's not a tax.
EARHARDT: So it saves people money if they don't want to do it.
BECCHI: Exactly, exactly.
KILMEADE: Right. And disproportionately it hurts people who make $50,000 and less, because they’re the ones who have to make the decision, do I have to pay the fine on the mandate for health care, or I do actually buy a plan --
KILMEADE: -- which, sadly, the Obamacare plans are not what they promised -- the high premiums, high deductibles. Therefore, these people are in a conundrum. This would help them.
BECCHI: That's absolutely correct.
KILMEADE: Moving on to what I said before about the deficit. It would add $1 trillion to the deficit, if you don't put a -- factor in the fact that the economy is supposed to grow, bringing in additional revenue called dynamic scoring. If you feel as though the economy is going to stay the same, it would blow a hole. But if you’re betting that it’s going to grow, it would actually reduce the deficit.
BECCHI: Right, that’s right. This bill will put more money into the pockets of both Americans, as well as businesses. And people will reinvest that money. And as a result of that reinvestment, we will have economic growth. And economic growth will generate more taxes.
EARHARDT: Now what about the wealthy? Because when the president was running he said I'm going to decrease taxes for everybody. He said in a press conference yesterday or the day before that he -- he said I'm going to pay the penalty. I'm going to pay more in taxes because I'm one of the wealthy.
BECCHI: Right. Most Americans, most wealthy Americans, pay the most taxes in this country.
EARHARDT: That's the way it is now, right?
BECCHI: Exactly. That's the way it is. So, as a result, these tax cuts will disproportionately help upper-income taxpayers. And that's just the reality. But, what this tax bill does, it cuts at all levels. It cuts at the high-income earners, as well as middle- and low-class taxpayers, as well.