Donald Trump sold his tax plan as entirely for the middle class. Now he has admitted that he will, in fact, benefit from his own plan.
The tax plan that Donald Trump and his Republican cronies in Congress have brewing is already a disaster.
To make up for this gap, Trump’s plan cuts deductions for middle-class home mortgages, and charitable donations, double-taxes income in blue states, and potentially slashes a collective $1.5 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid.
Incredibly, Trump sold this regressive farce as a payoff for the middle class, and promised he and the 1 percent would not benefit at all. "It’s not going to help. I’m doing the right thing, and it’s not good for me. Believe me," he said at a speech in Indiana while describing the plan.
Now, however, Trump is starting to admit that this is not true. In his interview this week with Forbes’s Randall Lane, Trump took a somewhat different line.
"Last week you said twice, both on the South Lawn and in Indiana, that you won't personally benefit from this new tax reform," Lane noted. "Do you still hold to that?"
"Well, what I say is that the, this whole concept, everybody benefits if the country does well. We all do. You guys benefit. Everybody benefits if the country does well," Trump rambled in response.
He continued, "We're the highest-taxed nation in the world — now some people like to say "developed nation," but I haven't found too many that are higher. We're the highest-taxed developed nation in the world, probably the highest-taxed nation in the world."
Putting aside the fact that Trump’s claim that we are the "highest-taxed developed nation in the world" is not even close to true, this is a pretty amazing admission. Trump has gone from promising he, personally, will not benefit, to "everybody benefits if the country does well," which is absurdly ambiguous.
When Lane asked about his plan to repeal the estate tax, which would benefit Trump directly, and specifically how he could "square that and being able to sell that to the American people," Trump similarly hedged.
"Well, we're going to have to see what happens. We're going to have to see what happens," he demurred.
"The estate tax is for many, many family companies where people are forced to sell their businesses. That includes farms. But it includes a lot of businesses, any business — not even small businesses only," he continued in confusing fashion. "Large businesses also, where the estate tax is so onerous that families are forced to sell and some cases have fire sales and not get proper pricing."
The Republican claim that the estate tax affects "family farms" is a fiction that refuses to die. Any estate worth less than $5.49 million is completely exempt. And given Trump’s reference to "large businesses," he seems aware repealing the estate tax would confer at least some benefit to the super-wealthy, he is once again walking back his promise.
Lane was not deterred. He continued to press Trump for a straight answer on how the bill would affect him:
LANE: Again, between your business success and then this big tax bill, do you think the American public has a right to know how you will personally fare with this new —
TRUMP: Yeah. Yeah, I think so.
LANE: And then to that —
TRUMP: You see, you have to understand, if what I do is good for the middle class, that's also good for me, and then if I do what's good for the upper class, that's good for me. Don't forget — the companies that we're talking about — many people own some of these companies. And sometimes wealthy people own them, and sometimes poor people own them. But when we make life and business better for companies, that's a great thing for everybody, including me. But people are dying to know if I have any benefit.
Once again, Trump refused to reiterate his promise and simply said the bill would be good for "everybody."
In essence, Trump’s promise that he would not receive any benefit from his own tax plan is shaping up to be like his promise that Mexico would pay for the border wall — a snappy catchphrase which flies in the face of any reasonable view of reality, and which quickly falls apart under scrutiny.
American taxpayers are not going to get anything remotely resembling a coherent or honest idea out of this administration on taxes — one more reason why Trump is cratering in polls all around the country.