Addressing reporters in the White House on Wednesday, President Trump tried to explain how he plans to shepherd his tax cut plan through Congress. As was the case during his failed push to repeal Obamacare, Trump couldn’t do it.
Trump began with a painfully obvious reminder — legislation is a result of a collaborative effort between the two chambers of Congress.
“In the House, I must tell you, they’ve been working really hard, and they’re coming up with a great plan,” Trump said. “And the Senate is coming up with a great plan. And they’re going to be put together and something is going to come out of that that will be, I think, really, really something very special.”
Without mentioning a single specific things he wants to accomplish with tax reform, Trump went on to insist that the end product will be “beautiful” and “special.”
“Again, we’re doing Senate, we’re doing the House, it’s put together, and then we have our beautiful new tax cuts and reform,” Trump said. “And I think it will be very special.”
On one hand, the lack of specificity in Trump’s comments is understandable, given that there still isn’t an actual tax bill to talk about. House Republicans were supposed to release their tax bill on Wednesday, but on Tuesday night, caucus leadership announced that’s being delayed.
House Republicans may be seeing the writing on the wall, as the details that have trickled out indicate most Americans won’t regard the bill as “beautiful” as Trump seems to think it will be. According to ABC, one “key area of compromise” agreed upon by House Republicans and the White House will involve lowering the amount of tax-free contributions workers can put in their 401ks. With Trump’s plan shaping up as a corporate tax cut paid for with borrowing and possibly increasing taxes on some middle-class Americans, new polling indicates a plurality of Americans already regard it as a bad idea.
Not only are people leery of Trump’s plan, but so are key industry groups. Over the weekend, the National Association of Home Builders, which had previously been supportive, announced its opposition, citing concerns the bill will weaken incentives that encourage people to buy homes.
But if history is any indication, there’s a more fundamental reason Trump struggled to say anything substantive about his tax plan.
The president has repeatedly shown himself to be unable to discuss policy in any depth. For instance, asked by a reporter to explain his health care plan last month, Trump responded with a lengthy, incoherent diatribe against insurance companies. Those comments came weeks after Trump did an interview where he revealed profound confusion about how the national debt works.
When he was pushing Obamacare repeal over the summer, Trump did an interview where he indicated he thinks health insurance cost $12 annually. Following a June meeting during which Trump tried to persuade Republican senators to vote in favor of a repeal bill that provided huge tax breaks to the wealthy, one supportive senator told the New York Times that Trump “did not have a grasp of some basic elements of the Senate plan — and seemed especially confused when a moderate Republican complained that opponents of the bill would cast it as a massive tax break for the wealthy, according to an aide who received a detailed readout of the exchange.”
While Trump offers word salads in support of tax cuts, other administration officials are serving lies. As ThinkProgress detailed last Friday, over a one-month period, administration officials repeated the talking point that the Republican tax plan will benefit middle class Americans 84 times. There’s just one problem — the talking point isn’t true. Analyzing a framework of the plan, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that when the plan is fully implemented, 80 percent of the benefits would go the top 1 percent of earners.