Right-wing media are trying to hold President Joe Biden responsible for one of the effects of former President Donald Trump’s flawed tax cuts -- the scheduled expiration of the individual income tax cuts at the end of 2025. Right-wing media figures are dubiously arguing that Biden's budget proposal violates his campaign promise to not enact a tax increase on any Americans earning under $400,000 a year. Yet they're ignoring the reality that Republicans designed these tax cuts to expire -- so they could pass without Democratic support -- and the GOP failed to extend the cuts when it had the power to do so.
Republicans own the flawed Trump tax cuts
The Trump tax cuts -- officially known as the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act -- were passed on a lie that they would pay for themselves, and they have been a failure in that regard. Federal revenues have dropped, and the positive economic benefits quickly faded. And as NPR reported in 2019, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that “more than 60% of the tax savings went to people in the top 20% of the income ladder.” It was, simply, a tax cut targeted to the rich -- especially because it permanently cut corporate taxes, and the individual income tax cuts were temporary.
Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress passed the law on a party-line vote, ensuring that the GOP would own all of its effects -- including the scheduled expiration of the individual income tax cuts at the end of 2025. The GOP-controlled Senate in 2018 had the opportunity to make these tax cuts permanent, but failed to do so. Yet right-wing media would have people believe that Biden is responsible for these tax cuts ending in less than five years.
It’s of little consequence that Biden’s 2022 budget counts on revenue from Trump’s tax cuts expiring
First of all, it is widely accepted that presidential budgets have no actual effect on taxes and spending. Even media conservatives (when they’re being honest) will acknowledge this. As a February 2020 National Review article explained, “The fact of the matter is that the president does not set the country’s budget; spending and tax bills come from Congress. Congress is under no obligation to use the president’s suggestions as a blueprint.”
Second, even if this budget had some kind of force of law, the tax cuts don’t expire for over four more years, giving the president plenty of time to sign a tax extension into law if Congress passes one. While the budget proposal does count revenue from the Trump tax cuts expiring, as set in current law, Reuters reported that the Biden administration aims to have those tax cuts for low- and middle-income people extended in the coming years.
To claim this one document means Biden is breaking his campaign pledge is absurd -- it wasn’t Biden’s policy or legislation in any way, and there are still at least four years before the tax cuts expire. Yet that’s exactly what some in right-wing media, particularly Fox News, are saying.
Conservative media are dishonestly using Biden’s budget proposal to blame him for the scheduled Trump tax hike
- Conservative Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen claimed that in the budget, “Biden breaks his word” on not raising taxes on people earning less than $400,000.
- James Freeman, columnist and assistant editor of The Wall Street Journal editorial page, claimed that Biden “plans to support a direct tax increase on Americans who are not at all wealthy.” He also called the scheduled expiration of the Trump tax cuts “a Biden tax hike.”
- Sinclair Broadcast Group’s National Desk anchor Jan Jeffcoat asked, “The president promised not to raise taxes on those making $400,000 or less. Is that still true under this proposal?” Her guest, Brandon Arnold of the conservative National Taxpayers Union, replied “absolutely not” and faulted Biden, instead of Trump, for not extending the tax cuts. He then outright lied when he moved the conversation to certain business tax cuts which are also expiring after 2025 and said “those tax cuts would be repealed under Biden’s budget.”
- Fox News host and former Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Biden is “considering rolling back the Trump tax cuts, letting them expire in 2025,” and that’s “a direct contradiction to what he promised.”
- Fox Business anchor David Asman said of Biden’s budget: “What's the biggest promise that Biden made about taxes? It’s only going to affect the rich and corporations. Not true.” Asman also lied that Biden “is going to phase out the Trump tax cuts by 2025.”
- While guest hosting Fox News Sunday, Fox anchor Shannon Bream repeatedly framed the expiring Trump tax cuts as a Biden tax hike.
- Fox anchor Bill Hemmer introduced a report on Biden’s budget with a “Taxed to the Max” graphic and framed the segment as “Is President Biden going back on his pledge to avoid taxing the middle class?” He also claimed Biden is “setting up big rate hikes for low and middle income taxpayers” by letting the Trump tax cuts expire as scheduled.
- Fox anchor Sandra Smith said, “How can anyone, any economist, look at this any other way than a tax hike on the middle class?” Larry Kudlow, a Fox Business host who also served as the director of Trump’s National Economic Council, replied: “It will be. It absolutely will be.”
- Fox anchor John Roberts introduced a report on Biden’s budget proposal with a “Biden’s Tax & Spending Spree” graphic and said, “President Biden pledged not to raise taxes on the middle class, but that’s exactly what could happen if he lets the 2017 Trump tax cuts expire.”