Trump aide debates tax center amid feud over analysis
A top economic adviser to President Trump slammed a research group’s analysis of the GOP’s tax plan during a visit to its headquarters Thursday.
“It’s inaccurate, it’s fiction,” Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said during an event at the Tax Policy Center (TPC).
The TPC produced a report last week estimating the Republican tax framework would cut revenues by $2.4 trillion over 10 years and produce a windfall for the rich.
“It is scientifically indefensible to say — as the TPC report of last Friday does — that the framework would have little macroeconomic feedback impact,” Hassett said.
The TPC analysis generated big headlines, and even Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) cited its estimate that the middle class would see a tax hike.
Republicans have come out fighting since, blasting the group as a left-leaning propaganda machine.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, questioned the credentials of the group.
Hatch said at a hearing Tuesday that “it’s odd … that the analysis came with a disclaimer that it was expressing only the views of the authors, not the think tank itself. Even more unusual, no specific authors were listed on the analysis, probably because no respectable academic or researcher was willing to have their name associated with something so haphazardly cobbled together.”
Hassett stuck to economic arguments against the analysis, noting that one of his former graduate school advisers used to work at the center.
The TPC has defended its analysis, saying it was built upon the tax plan that House Republicans released last year and the outline that the White House released in April.
“We feel pretty comfortable that we have something that’s consistent with the unified framework and that’s directionally correct,” TPC Director Mark Mazur said earlier this week.
Mazur also noted that there are Republican staffers at the center, a joint venture between the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute.
The former Obama administration tax official stood by the center’s analysis in a discussion with Hassett afterward.
“Demand from the public for an analysis is high,” he said, in response to criticism that they rushed out a study.
The group filled in the blanks of the nine-page framework with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)’s Better Way plan and Trump administration releases, he said.
Mazur asked Hassett what elements could be added to the plan to counterbalance all the changes that tend to benefit the wealthy — nixing the estate and alternative minimum taxes, for example.
Hassett would not go into great detail but did praise Republicans and President Trump on their flexibility to achieve equity.
“When was the last time you saw Republicans put the top rate on the table?” he asked. “I look forward to what they come up with.”
He also stood by the administration’s contention that the bulk of the benefits of corporate tax cuts flow to American workers.
The Treasury Department recently removed from its website a government study finding that roughly 18 percent of the benefits of a corporate tax cut would help workers — not the 70 percent cited by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“I don’t know anything about the decision to remove the study,” Hassett said, but noted that he disagreed with its finding.
Mazur, who led the Treasury’s tax unit under Obama, jumped in. “It’s really good,” he said.
This story has been updated.