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By Sahil Kapur and Michael C. Bender, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump revealed a tax reform plan Monday that, like many of the proposals put forth by his Republican rivals, contains a dubious assumption: that tax cuts will generate rapid economic growth.

Trump’s proposal is similar to the one Jeb Bush unveiled in early September. Both slash the top individual tax rate from 39.6 percent (Trump to 25 percent, Bush to 28 percent), the corporate tax rate from 35 percent (Trump to 15 percent, Bush to 20 percent) and would eliminate the estate tax. Both provide the largest share of benefits to upper income earners.

To address the trillions of dollars in lost revenue, both Trump and Bush point to “dynamic scoring,” a method controversial among economists, and popular with congressional Republicans, that assumes that tax breaks spur economic growth. While Bush assumes 4 percent growth under his plan, Trump said his plan could boost it as high as 6 percent.

“We’re going to have growth that will be tremendous,” Trump told reporters Monday.

Leonard Burman, the director of Tax Policy Center in Washington said a projection of 6 percent growth is “completely implausible.”

“It’s faith-based revenue scoring,” Burman said in an interview.

But Trump is not alone in making that ambitious calculus when proposing large tax cuts.

A paper by four economists, including Jeb Bush adviser Glenn Hubbard, estimates that Bush’s plan will cost $1.2 trillion over a decade under dynamic scoring — and $3.4 trillion without it. That is despite the fact that Bush calls for limiting several specific tax expenditures, most notably by eliminating the state and local deduction, one of the largest in the federal code.

Dynamic scoring assumes that tax cuts will generate economic activity, an idea conservatives broadly embrace. Many mainstream economists avoid that assumption because they prefer not to make projections about macroeconomic impacts of fiscal policy, as economic behavior is difficult to predict and dependent on many factors. Critics note that tax cuts haven’t always been a panacea for growth in the past; progressive economist Jared Bernstein has labeled dynamic scoring “fairy dust.”

On Fox News Sunday, Bush said the tax policies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush “didn’t (add to the deficit) as greatly as the static thinkers on the left think. They created a dynamic effect of high growth, and that’s what we need.”

The Tampa Bay Times‘ fact-checking website PolitiFact rated Bush’s claim “mostly false,” noting that tax cuts under George W. Bush led to the second-lowest rate of average annual inflation-adjusted GDP increase, economic growth among the last five presidents, a rate of 2.1 percent. By contrast, tax increases under Bill Clinton led to an average growth rate of 3.9 percent.

“At this point, the prevailing view among economists is that you’d have some economic benefits but not nearly the amount that (the Trump and Bush plans) assume,” said Roberton C. Williams, a tax expert with the Urban Institute.

Bush’s father, former President George H. W. Bush, questioned the wisdom of relying on tax cuts as an economic driver. As a presidential candidate in 1980, he referred to Ronald Reagan’s plan to do just that as “voodoo economics,” although he embraced the plan after he joined Reagan on the Republican presidential ticket that year.

The concept has gained support in the GOP since then, and many Republicans have invoked dynamic scoring to argue that tax cuts wouldn’t be as costly as traditional budgetary forecasting models predict.

Sen. Marco Rubio’s tax-cut plan — which would slash individual and corporate taxes and repeal taxes on capital gains and investment income — is similarly premised on the promise of growth. “The goal of this plan is to generate growth,” Rubio said at a news conference in March.

The Tax Foundation, which advocates for tax cuts, found that Rubio’s plan (which is co-authored by Sen. Mike Lee) would cost $1.7 trillion under dynamic scoring, and upwards of $4 trillion over a decade without growth assumptions. The Tax Policy Center said it “blows a huge hole in federal finances” as it doesn’t say how it would be funded.

Some Republican contenders — such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — have proposed wiping out the federal tax code and installing a simple flat tax. Paul has endorsed a 14.5 percent flat rate, which Williams said was “just too low” to make up for lost revenue.

While taxes do have an impact on the economy, measuring that impact is a matter of debate, said Matt McDonald, a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies, a Washington-based firm that advises companies on economic policy.

“It’s like trying to measure the exact location of an atom; whenever you measure it, it moves,” said McDonald, a former assistant communications director in the George W. Bush White House.

Apart from rosy assumptions about economic growth, the most detailed Republican tax plans — those by Bush and Trump — both grant disproportionate breaks to high income earners. Democrats will be keen on highlighting that fact in a general election.

“The Trump plan and the Bush plan clearly benefit the wealthy because that’s where the biggest tax cuts are coming from,” Williams said.

(c)2015 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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