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Trump the populist? Not when it comes to his tax plan

The Senate tax plan Trump is selling is the exact opposite of economic populism.

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.

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WASHINGTON — When President Trump speaks on his tax plan at 3:30 pm ET today in St. Charles, Mo., it will no longer be accurate to describe him as an economic populist who pursues policies to benefit the poor and the middle class at the expense of the wealthiest Americans. The reason: The Senate tax plan he’s selling is the exact opposite of economic populism.

During the 2016 presidential campaign — and even in his first year as president — Trump portrayed himself as an economic populist.

  • SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Do you believe in raising taxes on the wealthy? TRUMP: "I do, I do, including myself. I do." (Today Show town hall, April 21, 2016)
  • “The thing I'm going to do is make sure the middle class gets good tax breaks. Because they have been absolutely shunned. The other thing, I'm going to fight very hard for business. For the wealthy, I think, frankly, it's going to go up [talking about the tax rate]. And you know what, it really should go up.” (“Meet the Press,” May 8, 2016)
  • “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who cannot defend themselves” (GOP convention speech, July 21, 2016)
  • “We are transferring power from Washington DC and giving it back to you, the American People ... The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” (Inaugural address, Jan. 20, 2017)
  • “I have wealthy friends that say to me I don’t mind paying more tax. And I’ll tell you what I sort of don’t like, is when they — you know, you’ll do your charts in The Wall Street Journal and they’ll be brilliantly done, very nice, and they’ll show that a rich guy who made, you know, $25 million last year is going to pay less than he was. In a certain way, I don’t like that. I’d rather take that difference and put it into the middle-income and put it into corporate.”(Wall Street Journal interview, July 25, 2017)
  • “Our framework includes our explicit commitment that tax reform will protect low-income and middle-income households, not the wealthy and well-connected. They can call me all they want. It’s not going to help. I’m doing the right thing, and it’s not good for me. Believe me.” (Speech on the GOP tax plan, Sept. 27, 2017)

But in reality:

  • Under the Senate tax plan, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the poorest Americans are worse off (due to no longer receiving tax credits because the bill eliminates the health-care law’s individual mandate), while the richest American are better off;
  • Even if you exclude the individual mandate from the analysis, the CBO shows the poorest will see their taxes go up by 2027, because the individual tax cuts are temporary while the corporate ones are permanent;
  • According to the Tax Policy Center, by 2027, the wealthiest get nearly 62 percent of all benefits under the Senate bill, while two-thirds of middle-class Americans would face a tax increase;
  • Per NBC’s own analysis, Trump and his family could save more than $1 billion under the House tax plan that passed two weeks ago;
  • And when it comes to the dispute over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Trump has sided with financial institutions, tweeting: “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, has been a total disaster as run by the previous Administrations pick. Financial Institutions have been devastated and unable to properly serve the public. We will bring it back to life!”

On matters of immigration and trade, Trump is still a populist. But you can’t say that about his policy on taxes or his position on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.


The New York Times: “Shortly after his victory last year, Donald J. Trump began revisiting one of his deepest public humiliations: the infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ tape of him making vulgar comments about women. Despite his public acknowledgment of the recording’s authenticity in the final days of the presidential campaign — and his hasty videotaped apology under pressure from his advisers — Mr. Trump as president-elect began raising the prospect with allies that it may not have been him on the tape after all.”

“Mr. Trump’s falsehoods about the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape are part of his lifelong habit of attempting to create and sell his own version of reality. Advisers say he continues to privately harbor a handful of conspiracy theories that have no grounding in fact. In recent months, they say, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. He has also repeatedly claimed that he lost the popular vote last year because of widespread voter fraud, according to advisers and lawmakers.”

Trump holds a weak hand heading into the looming shutdown battle

How do you know President Trump is holding a weak hand heading into the looming battle that could shut down the government in December? Just look at his reaction to when Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi were no-shows at the White House yesterday.

NBC's Ali Vitali: “President Donald Trump blasted top congressional Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer as all talk, no action and ‘weak’ on key issues like crime and immigration after the duo canceled a meeting with him on Tuesday. ‘They've been all talk and they've been no action, and now it's even worse — now it's not even talk,’ Trump told reporters at the White House as he sat sandwiched between two empty chairs — one for Pelosi and the other for Schumer.

Democrats played by Trump’s own rules — by bailing on the White House meeting after Trump’s offending tweet — and the president didn’t like it. The reason: He needs their votes to keep the government open. And that gives Democrats a stronger hand in these negotiations.

North Korea’s missile flew 10 times higher than the space station

“Kim Jong Un's latest ballistic missile test flew 10 times higher than the International Space Station and twice as high as any satellite in low-earth orbit, according to South Korea's military,” per NBC News.

“The North Koreans have now test-fired missiles 18 times since President Donald Trump took office in January. Tuesday's launch was the first in more than two months. Western officials agreed it appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, which flew further than any other demonstrated by the North. It was fired on what is called a ‘lofted’ trajectory, meaning it was aimed at a steep angle and traveled very high but landed relatively close to its launch site.”

That Super PAC Roy Moore touted? It’s a dubious group

From NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard, Mike Memoli and one of us: “Largely abandoned by the national Republican Party but eager to reinforce President Donald Trump’s tacit support for his candidacy, Alabama Senate hopeful Roy Moore on Tuesday touted the endorsement of a super PAC his campaign described as having been founded by ‘seasoned campaign veterans’ who helped power Trump’s victory in 2016.”

“But the organization now backing the controversial candidate ahead of the Dec. 12 special election was founded just weeks ago by a 24-year-old aspiring political operative who acknowledged to NBC News Tuesday that he’s trying to disassociate himself from white nationalist organizations he appeared to have affiliated with in the past.”

And: “The situation speaks to the degree to which Moore’s campaign is understaffed and underfunded, seemingly unable to perform a basic check of a previously unknown political entity, IndianaFirst, or its leader, Caleb Shumaker, who has had ties to a fringe party considered a hate group by leading civil rights organizations.”

There’s new pressure from Democrats for Conyers to resign

“Democratic pressure on Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., to resign from Congress mounted Tuesday as the number of sexual harassment allegations against him continued to grow and party leaders huddled in conversations about whether he should remain in the House, multiple sources tell NBC News,” per NBC’s Kasie Hunt, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Geoff Bennett. “A report in The Detroit News on Tuesday detailed allegations from a woman who said that the congressman engaged in aggressive sexual behavior toward her while she worked in his congressional office. Those allegations follow similar ones from other women and an admission last week from the congressman that he had reached a settlement with one of them.”