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GOP Rhetoric on New Tax Plan Doesn't Match Reality

Republicans are making promises about their tax plan that they won’t be able to keep.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform at the Farm Bureau Building at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on Sept. 27, 2017, in Indianapolis.Alex Brandon / AP

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

WASHINGTON — Much like they did in the health care debate — More people will be insured! Pre-existing protections won’t be touched! Your premiums will go down! — Republicans are making promises about their tax plan that they won’t be able to keep, according to the details released Wednesday.

Claim #1: The wealthy don’t benefit under the plan: “Our framework includes our explicit commitment that tax reform will protect low-income and middle-income households, not the wealthy and well-connected,” President Trump said yesterday.

In fact, the estate tax repeal and the top rate declining from 39.6 percent to 35 percent all benefit the wealthy.

Claim #2: Trump won’t personally benefit under the plan: “I’m doing the right thing, and it’s not good for me. Believe me,” Trump said of the GOP’s tax plan.

In fact, per NBC’s Benjy Sarlin: “The clearest windfall [for Trump] comes from ending the estate tax, which only affects individual estates larger than $5.49 million and $11 million for couples. The estate tax is currently 40 percent. Trump has claimed in the past he is worth $10 billion. If his children inherit that amount, they’d save $4 billion in taxes.” Repeat: 4 BILLION dollars.

“In addition to a lower top rate on income tax, the proposal ends the Alternative Minimum Tax, which is designed to prevent wealthy filers from using deductions to wipe out their tax bill entirely,” Sarlin adds. “Trump has not released his taxes, but a leaked return from 2005 showed he paid $38 million in taxes on $150 million in income, $31 million of which was due to the AMT.”

Claim #3: Everyone’s taxes will decrease: “Every American at every income level – especially the poor and middle class – keeps more of what they earn,” House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily” yesterday.

But as Sarlin writes, taxes for middle-class and upper-middle class families could go UP in the GOP plan. “The most controversial deduction that's gone is for state and local taxes, which would disproportionately affect filers in states with higher taxes like New York, New Jersey and California. The deduction provides the most benefit to upper-middle-class and wealthy income filers, who could see their taxes go up as a result under the Trump/GOP plan.”

More: “On paper, the biggest beneficiaries of the individual changes are low- and middle-income single filers and childless couples who would see more earnings covered by the higher standard deduction. But some families might see a tax increase, since the proposal eliminates the personal exemption that filers currently claim for each taxpayer and dependent. Senior citizens and the blind currently also receive an additional deduction that could be affected by the proposal.”

“‘Based on the details of the plan that have been released, a married couple with two kids earning [under] $79,583 a year would pay more under the Trump plan than under existing law,’" said Daniel Hemel, an assistant professor of law at the University of Chicago.”

Our take: The Republican rhetoric set extremely high bars for their tax proposal. The wealthy don’t benefit! Trump and his family won’t benefit! Everyone’s taxes will go down!

But the details we have so far show that it will be almost impossible for Republicans to clear those bars.

House Republicans vs. Senate Republicans

Here’s the latest divide inside the GOP — House Republicans vs. Senate Republicans. “Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday said it was “extremely frustrating” that the Republican majority in the Senate had been unable to push through pieces of the GOP agenda that have passed in the House,” Politico writes.

“‘Is that frustrating for the House? You bet it’s frustrating in the House,’ Ryan told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, saying that 274 of the 337 bills that have passed in the House as of Sept. 22 have not made it through the Senate.”

“Ryan singled out the Senate’s inability to pass a bill for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act as a particular point of disappointment for House Republicans, while highlighting their successes on legislation for financial regulations and immigration. ‘The point is we’re on schedule in the House,’ he said. ‘We passed the health care bill back in May. We passed the repeal of Dodd-Frank. We did Kate’s law. We did sanctuary cities.’”

Dispatch from a focus group in Philly: African-American millennials pessimistic on politics

"Angry," "exasperated," "worried," "stressed" and "scared" were the responses from back-to-back focus groups of a combined 20 African-American millennials from Philadelphia, who were asked to describe how they feel about American politics.

These young voters also expressed deep pessimism about the political process and their voice in it. "I feel like I can't the make the impact I want," said a 25-year-old male who recently got his college degree.

"I'm outnumbered," said a 33-year-old female payroll analyst.

"I feel like Trump is tearing everything down," added a 24-year-old female who's a front-desk supervisor.

"I don't think what I have to say really matters," said an 18-year-old female community college student. "I am a minority."

The focus groups were conducted by Hart Research — the Democratic half of the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll — for the Democratic Super PAC group Priorities USA Action. And the participants were a mixture of older millennials (25 to 33) and younger ones (18 to 24) who either voted in 2016 or didn't.

"Clearly we have a lot of work to do to motivate and mobilize these voters," said Patrick McHugh, Priorties USA's executive director.

But many of the focus-group participants said that Trump's presidency had motivated them to become more politically active. "A lot of black people don’t vote," said an 18-year-old male who's a community college student. "It is important — you got to get out and vote."

And asked if President Donald Trump endorsed a particular candidate, almost all of the participants immediately said they'd back the other candidate.

Russia’s influence campaign in 2016 used Twitter more than Facebook

"[T]here is evidence that Twitter may have been used even more extensively than Facebook in the Russian influence campaign last year. In addition to Russia-linked Twitter accounts that posed as Americans, the platform was also used for large-scale automated messaging, using “bot” accounts to spread false stories and promote news articles about emails from Democratic operatives that had been obtained by Russian hackers,” the New York Times says.