Friday, April 28, 2017

The Press Destroying Good News

I hope you were able to see the press conference held on Wednesday to introduce President Trump's new tax reform proposal as worked through congressional leaders and his staff of experts.  Led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, the Director of the National Economic Council, the presentation consisted of  the summary of the proposal, and included a time for questions by the always-helpful press.

Or, as we often call them, the pack of dogs.

If you did listen, you would have heard the presentation by the two officials, a couple guys who were pretty high-powered financial people before coming to Washington.  In other words, they took huge pay cuts to go there and try to fix an impossibly difficult tax code.  Like the president, they are plenty rich, and also understand the code and how bad it has become.

You would have heard them describe a proposal that would have slashed the corporate rate to 15% from an absurd 35%, a big reason our products are noncompetitive abroad.  It would have had a provision that would have allowed the repatriation of trillions of cash assets stashed by companies in banks overseas, again, a provision for the betterment of the nation.

For individuals, the first $24,000 in income is to be taxed at zero, with only three rates beyond that -- 10%, 25% and 35%.  The standard deduction is doubled, a huge benefit to middle and lower-income taxpaying families and people.  And deductions are effectively eliminated except for the politically-impossible-to-remove mortgage interest and charitable contribution deductions (we assume that 401(k) and IRA accounts remain similarly tax-deferred, but that was not addressed).

I would think that it should be pretty simple to look at that and say that we should be able to see this go through the House and Senate as an actual bill.  You have to hope that the two houses' leadership will see this as vital to return growth to the country's economy, and get a bill passed.

And you might think that the press would be most interested in the details of the plan when asking each of the modest number of questions for which time was provided.  Some did.  John Roberts of Fox News tried (unsuccessfully) to get a bit of detail in regard to the marriage penalty that President Trump had vowed to eliminate, doing his job.  And since this was a framework, some details are yet to be worked out in the negotiating process.

But ... but ... but ... this is really important stuff for you and me.  If the press, representing us, has only a handful of questions allowed in this rare and vital session, do you not think that the questions would be about how the proposal affects you and me, or even how it affects normal folks like, you know, reporters?

Well, you would think that and so would I.  But apparently several of the questioners didn't.  Jonathan Karl (of ABC News, duh) actually -- I'm not making this up -- asked the Treasury Secretary if President Trump would release his tax returns so "we" could see how the plan would affect him.

I don't know what the implication was supposed to be.  Jonathan Karl couldn't decipher a tax return that complex if he had a month to try.  Shoot, he should have asked how many fewer pages President Trump's return might be under the new plan, that at least we could relate to.  But is Karl even trying to imply that the reason for fixing the byzantine tax system was so that Donald Trump could pay less in taxes?

Really?  The guy who is forgoing $1.6 million in pay (donating it all) rather than take a paycheck from the government is going to rig the tax system to help himself?

And Karl wasn't the only one.  Some other reporter asked about the alternative minimum tax, that its proposed elimination would have saved the president X number of million dollars in the leaked 2005 return.  Huh?  The Secretary of the Treasury is supposed to be privy to the hundreds of pages of Donald Trump's 2005 tax return, those that were not leaked and which would have been necessary to make any assumption on how the AMT would have affected it?  He is supposed to know that?  We're supposed to care?

This is our press corps in 2017.  A major announcement comes out on a proposal we have all been waiting for for decades, and trying to discern how it affects us, the economy and the nation.  The press cares about how it affects a president they don't like.  What utter jerks.

I'm going to go try to find details somewhere.  I should have known them from the questions and answers, but I guess the press is not out for me.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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