After months of working diligently on the tax reform package that markets have anxiously awaited since inauguration day, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Trump economic advisor Gary Cohn stepped out in front of a crowd of political journalists Wednesday and pulled off the most flawless practical joke in White House history.
After handing out a maddeningly vague and curiously formatted one-page bullet-point list to the room, Mnuchin and Cohn went on to assure the assembled press that they could say basically nothing about the plan that the administration has teased all week, other than the fact that it would slash taxes on families and businesses (15 percent for corporations and pass-throughs), lower the debt-to-GDP ratio and spur economic growth beyond 3 percent. And they said all this without breaking a smile.
Here are some of the details they tossed into the hastily prepared joke document:
- Reducing the 7 tax brackets to 3 tax brackets of 10%, 25% and 35% [no cutoffs given]
- Providing tax relief for families with child and dependent care expenses [no further details]
- Eliminate targeted tax breaks that mainly benefit the wealthiest taxpayers ["]
- Territorial tax system to level the playing field for American companies [no idea]
- Eliminate tax breaks for special interests [uhh]
Reporters seemed to take the bait, asking serious questions of Mnuchin and Cohn as the duo dissembled and ad-libbed. After all, Mnuchin had said that morning, “We’ll get into details when we release the plan later today.” When pressed for specifics at the press conference, Mnuchin said, “When we have agreement we will release the details.” And all with a straight face!
The Tax Foundation fell for it too. “Sorry, friends,” the group's director of federal projects tweeted. “We cannot model this. Definitely not enough detail.” Citi analysts chimed in: “Buy the rumor, sell the news.”
Though it would have been excruciating to watch two deeply experienced Goldman Sachs alumni actually, seriously stand behind a plan one-seventh of the length of Trump's purely speculative campaign proposal and too vague for even the most tax-cut-friendly think tank to analyze, we're glad to see them do so for comic effect. SNL couldn't come close to touching such a perfectly deadpan performance.
We look forward to seeing an actual plan.