Donald Trump uses Hurricane Irma to argue for tax cuts

The Trump administration doesn't want to link hurricanes and climate change. But tax cuts? That's different!

By Matthew Sheffield

Published September 11, 2017 1:00PM (EDT)

 (AP/Jae C. Hong/Salon)
(AP/Jae C. Hong/Salon)

As Hurricane Irma tore a path through the Caribbean, EPA chief Scott Pruitt argued that Americans shouldn't talk about the storm being a possible effect of climate change, given that "helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm" was a more pressing concern.

With the hurricane barreling down on Florida on Saturday, however, President Donald Trump decided that the subject of tax cuts was worth talking about in the context of the tropical storm.

"Tax cuts and tax reform. I think now with what's happened with the hurricane, I'm going to ask for a speed up," Trump said at a news conference. "I wanted a speedup anyway, but now we need it even more so."

The administration's plans regarding taxes are still hazy, but based upon the details released thus far, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimated in July that more than 60 percent of the reductions would go to the top 1 percent of taxpayers.

The president's argument that the devastation of Irma is actually an argument in favor of large tax cuts for higher-earning Americans is in keeping with the Republican Party's general enthusiasm for tax reductions — no matter what the reasoning is. During the presidency of Barack Obama, conservatives frequently worried that federal spending increases would explode the nation's budget deficit.

With Trump in office, the GOP has become much less interested in the budgetary effect of tax reductions, even though at the beginning of Trump's term, several GOPers had asked for any tax reductions to be revenue neutral.

As the difficulties of passing a tax cut bill that would not add to the deficit have become more clear, however, several members of the GOP have begun to back off on their desire to make tax cuts revenue neutral.

In June, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, one of the members of the conservative "Freedom Caucus," argued that Congress should focus on spending cuts along with tax reductions.

"We shouldn't operate in this revenue-neutral tax policy world, because that's just a fancy way of saying the tax burden is going to stay the same. We're going to shift around who pays what," Jordan said in a CNBC interview.

"Let's cut spending" instead, he said.

Mark Meadows, the leader of the Freedom Caucus, argued in March that lower income taxes did not have to be offset with higher taxes elsewhere because tax cuts would pay for themselves through economic growth.

“When we start to grow the economy at 4, 4.1 percent, it actually not only increases wages but it puts more money in American's pockets each and every day,” Meadows said. “And so tax reform and lowering taxes will create and generate more income, and so we’re looking at those, where the fine balance is. But does it have to be fully offset? My personal response is no.”

Despite those claims, however, there is no evidence that reducing taxes invariably results in higher revenues for the government.

Matthew Sheffield

A writer, web developer, and former tv producer, Matthew Sheffield covers politics, media, and technology for Salon. You can email him via or follow him on Twitter.

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Hurricane Irma Jim Jordan Mark Meadows Tax Cuts Taxes