Sean Spicer is the head of public relations for the most powerful government on planet Earth. And yet, he has proven himself incapable of defending a missile strike against the Assad regime without praising the restraint Hitler showed in refusing to deploy weaponized gas against “his own people” — or of answering a simple question about the president’s tax package without sowing panic in a seven-trillion-dollar industry.
The tax “plan” that Trump just unveiled is a long, detail-free list of opulent gifts to the affluent with virtually no offsetting tax increases. The only significant revenue-generating mechanism that National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn offered on Wednesday was the elimination of all tax deductions besides those for mortgage interest, charitable giving, and retirement savings.
Perhaps, because abolishing such deductions would not be nearly enough to defray the cost of Trump’s proposed tax cuts, CNBC’s Eamon Javers asked Spicer Thursday whether the White House’s plan might do away with the tax exemption for contributions to 401(k) retirement accounts.
JAVERS: “Can you lay out what the president’s vision is for 401ks and specifically tax deductions surrounding those, does the president imagine removing those deductions entirely, or is he going to protect them?”
SPICER: “So the Secretary of the Treasury and director Cohn yesterday both talked about that the current plan both protects charitable givings and mortgage interest and that’s it.”
This would be huge news. More than 90 million Americans have a tax-advantaged retirement account. The tax exemption for 401(k) contributions is the lifeblood of a large swath of the retirement investment industry. To do away with that exemption would be such a disruptive change to the tax code that it was hard to believe that the White House would casually reveal it in the middle of a daily press briefing. But then, it had previously been reported that the White House was considering removing pretax benefits from retirement accounts. And it was hard to believe that the White House press secretary could be careless enough to erroneously make such a radical suggestion.
Or, rather, it was hard to believe that if one failed to remember that Sean Spicer is very, very bad at his job.