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Opinion Time to end the happy talk and grill the tax-plan salesmen

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) spoke about the Republicans' push to pass a tax overhaul on Sept. 26. (Video: Reuters, Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters)

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and other Republican proponents of the tax “plan” released on Wednesday will fan out on the Sunday talk shows. Rather than allow them to spout talking points, interviewers should grill them on the particulars and on the ludicrous assumptions and promises the White House has been making. Pleading ignorance won’t work for Ryan, who surely has studied the numbers and run all sorts of analyses.

Trump’s tax ‘miracle’: Cowardice and dishonesty

Here’s a list to get them started:

  • National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said, “We have also said that wealthy Americans are not getting a tax cut.” The president said the rich wouldn’t get any reduction. Is this true?
  • Aren’t rich people going to take advantage of the 25 percent pass-through rate rather than pay the 39.6 percent rate? If you are going to stop that, tell us how.
  • President Trump was required to pay $30 million additional tax in one year due to the alternative minimum tax. When you eliminate it, won’t many rich people pay less?
  • You reduce the top rate to 35 percent. Won’t that benefit rich people? Tell us the exemptions, deductions, credits, etc., that will make up the difference. Please be specific.
  • If you wanted to keep the wealthiest Americans paying what they do now, why not leave the code alone for those taxpayers?
  • Tax-cut proponents are tossing around all sorts of growth numbers for the tax plan. The treasury secretary at one point said he wanted 3 percent growth. Aren’t we there already? Does any reputable economist think we can attain 6 percent? Five percent?
  • There is considerable economic evidence that tax cuts may create a momentary bump in economic growth but in the long run don’t affect growth rates. What evidence to the contrary do you have? President Barack Obama and the Congress raised the top rate to 39.6 percent, and yet we are growing faster now. How do you explain this?
  • There is no evidence that tax cuts pay for themselves. Why is the administration saying otherwise? Do you believe that, and if so, what evidence do you have?
  • How much debt are you willing to add with this tax plan? What programs will you cut to pay for them? Because part of the cuts go to the rich, aren’t you proposing adding to the debt and cutting programs so the rich get a tax break?
  • Do you think we have an income-inequality problem in this country? Do you agree inequality has increased? Is that a bad thing, and if so, won’t this increase that disparity?
  • If you are a modest-income person who doesn’t itemize, won’t your taxes go up? If you live in a high-tax state but don’t own a home (no mortgage deduction) would your taxes go up?
  • The biggest exclusion by far is for employer-provided health-care coverage. (The Tax Foundation explains that it costs about “$260 billion in income and payroll taxes in 2017 making it the single largest tax expenditure.”) Will you touch that?
  • Why aren’t you proposing to tax carried interest as ordinary income? (The Post reports: “Hedge fund and private-equity managers earn most of their money from their investments doing well. But instead of paying income taxes on all that money at a rate of 39.6 percent, the managers are able to claim it as ‘carried interest’ so they can pay tax at the low capital gains rate of 20 percent.”)
  • For years, you talked about deficits and the need for entitlement reform. Is the debt not important when a Republican is president? If the Obama administration had proposed spending an additional $2.2 trillion that would have no revenue source (and therefore add to the deficit), wouldn’t you have said this was fiscally reckless?
  • You said you did all the hard work before rolling this out, so why won’t you tell us the dollar amounts for brackets, which deductions are at issue, etc.?
  • Have you determined if the changed tax code would be more or less progressive under your plan?

These are hardly the only questions of interest, but Ryan should be pressed to answer at least these. Frankly, even for the Trump team, the salesmanship had been hugely disingenuous. It’s time to put their feet — and Ryan’s as well — to the fire.