The 2016 election introduced a number of Americans to national politics and the rigors of a presidential campaign: President Trump, for one, as well as thousands of his supporters. It was also the first major political effort for Brad Parscale, who was quickly upgraded from creating Trump’s campaign website to running his digital campaign operation. Parscale’s deployment of Facebook’s targeting tools helped raise a ton of money — an important edge in a race that Trump won on the strength of 78,000 votes in three states.
Parscale got another upgrade after the 2016 election. He’s now Trump’s campaign manager for the 2020 effort. So far, things have been on track, with the campaign raising $30 million last quarter.
There’s a lot less for a campaign manager to do now than there will be in a year, so Parscale fills some of his time running a sort of ad hoc communications effort in the style of Donald Trump Jr.: pushing out pro-Trump talking points on social media and disparaging the president’s perceived opponents.
That’s a group that includes the media. So, on Monday afternoon, Parscale offered this.
(Trump Jr. quickly favorited it.)
Parscale’s tweet has the structure of the sort of political tweet we see a lot these days, with requisite disparagement of the press and a link meant to bolster the case. But for several reasons, his tweet simply makes no sense.
The first and most obvious internal contradiction to the tweet is that Parscale claims that “many in the media just doesn’t [sic] want you to know” that “tax cuts are real,” proving his point by linking to the New York Times. The Times, we will note, is part of the media. Perhaps he sees it as one of the unusual ones, not part of the “many” trying to hide the existence of the tax cuts.
But, then, he'd be hard-pressed to identify media outlets that said the tax cuts weren't happening.
There was a surge of conservative outcry a few months ago when people began discovering that their tax refunds were smaller than expected. In mid-February, the average refund was down 16 percent from the 2017 filing year. When the average was up slightly soon after, it was touted by some as proof that the media was lying about the effects of the tax bill signed into law by Trump in late 2017.
As of the most recent IRS update, the average refund is down 1.1 percent compared with last year.
A refund is not the same thing as tax cuts, of course. The point of the Times story — and stories by Bloomberg News and Politico — is that the method by which the tax cuts were implemented meant that they were less likely to be noticed by consumers. Many Americans saw the amount withheld from their paychecks reduced early last year, a change that was often subtle, particularly for lower-income Americans. When President Barack Obama approved a stimulus plan that similarly boosted take-home pay in 2009, most Americans missed that it happened then, too.
That was the point of the Times article — that, yes, you did get a tax cut, but you may not have noticed it. In fact, as we reported last year, Republicans were much more likely to notice it than Democrats.
That may have overlapped with the fact that wealthier Americans got much bigger (and much more noticeable) cuts. Party membership often corresponds to income, and in a Fox News poll in September, 22 percent of those earning under $50,000 a year and 20 percent of Democrats said they’d seen a cut. Forty-two percent of those making more than $50,000 a year said they’d seen a cut, as did 55 percent of Republicans. That maps to the benefits. In March 2018, The Washington Post reported that the richest Americans would get an average tax cut of $33,000. The poorest saved $40.
Parscale would rather argue that the media denied that tax cuts were happening as part of its “destructive narrative.” Unlike for the media, there’s little occupational risk for Parscale to intentionally mislead people.
Quite obviously. The Trump 2020 campaign has repeatedly offered misleading information in its fundraising efforts, from lying about statements made by Attorney General William P. Barr on the FBI investigation into Russian election interference to sharing vastly out-of-date poll data to falsely presenting a Democratic agenda rooted solely in very little that is even remotely connected to reality.
Like Trump, Parscale came into the world of politics from the world of business, sales and marketing. He worked with Trump for years; Trump’s salesmanship style probably rubbed off. And Parscale appears to be delivering on his most immediate task as campaign manager: bringing in the dough.
So why let a little misrepresentation of reality interfere with that?