Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinMenendez, Rubio ask Yellen to probe meatpacker JBS The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan Mnuchin dodges CNBC questions on whether Trump lying over election MORE says in a new interview that it is "very hard" to avoid cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans when engineering tax cuts for the middle class.
In a Politico podcast released Wednesday, Mnuchin said avoiding a tax cut for wealthy Americans was impossible, due to how much the rich pay in taxes.
“The top 20 percent of the people pay 95 percent of the taxes. The top 10 percent of the people pay 81 percent of the taxes,” Mnuchin told Politico. “So when you’re cutting taxes across the board, it’s very hard not to give tax cuts to the wealthy with tax cuts to the middle class."
"The math, given how much you are collecting, is just hard to do,” he added.
The Trump administration has faced criticism for the GOP's plan to reform the tax code, which Democrats say is a thinly-veiled attempt to cut taxes for the wealthy on the backs of lower and middle-class Americans.
Mnuchin's comments on tax cuts for the wealthy came after the secretary was asked directly how he would reassure Americans that the GOP's tax reform plan is "not a tax cut for the wealthy and corporations at the expense of middle-income Americans."
"Well, let me just comment on the two priorities of this, [which] are one, creating a middle-income tax cut and two, making a competitive business tax system," Mnuchin responded.
"We have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, we tax on worldwide income, we have this concept of deferral where if you leave your money offshore you don't pay taxes," he added. "Not that surprising that there's trillions of dollars offshore."
During the interview, Mnuchin also defended the proposed end to the estate tax, with which he sees partly as a "philosophical" issue.
"The estate tax is somewhat of an economic issue. It's somewhat of a philosophical issue," he said. "People pay taxes once, why should people have to pay taxes again when they die?"