News Brief: Trump's Tax Plan, California's Raging Wildfires

Oct 11, 2017
Originally published on October 11, 2017 8:43 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Trump visits Harrisburg, Pa., today, where he expects to promote tax cuts.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Yeah, he's talking before a hand-picked audience - politicians, businesspeople, workers from local companies, including many truckers. And we can expect to hear this kind of message, which the president has often repeated, beginning with a false claim.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're the highest-taxed nation in the world. People want to see massive tax cuts. I'm giving the largest tax cuts in the history of this country. In addition to that, there will be reform. So I think that it's politically - it's very positive.

GREENE: OK. So the president very often makes that false statement that the United States is the highest-taxed nation. Our White House correspondent Scott Horsley reports at least 30 other advanced economies have higher taxes. The White House clarified this. They say the president's false claim was basically talking about highest corporate tax, which Scott reports is also not quite correct.

INSKEEP: One thing is not in doubt, though. Republicans hope they can unify behind tax cuts after struggling to unify on other issues. So who would benefit from this emerging plan? Let's talk about it with NPR's Geoff Bennett.

Good morning, Geoff.

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Has the White House given enough detail to be clear what the tax plan really is?

BENNETT: No, and that's by design. What the White House has released so far is merely a framework, and they're relying on the tax-writing committees in Congress to fill in the details. And that's really what accounts for so many of the conflicting claims around this tax plan. When you hear outside analysts, like the Urban-Brookings Institute say that the - the Tax Policy Center, rather, say that the Republican plan would cause taxes to go up for 30 percent of Americans who make between $50,000 and $150,000. You hear Republicans discount that as fiction. The reason is because they don't have the actual numbers, and so they're going back to the GOP tax blueprint from 2016 to fill in the details.

INSKEEP: Although - wait a minute - that's quite a thing to have at issue here. You said between 50,000 and...

BENNETT: For families making between $50,000 to $150,000.

INSKEEP: So these are, like, middle-income to kind of middle/upper-income people. If those people are paying more, that is not going to be politically very popular.

BENNETT: That's right. And the Trump administration makes the case that this plan is focused on the middle class, although they can't guarantee that every middle-class family would get a tax cut. And they really highlight sort of speculative, indirect gains that are supposed to result from economic growth that will essentially pay for all of this. But outside analysts have said that this tax plan, by and large, benefits the wealthiest of Americans.

INSKEEP: Even though the president said he himself would not benefit.

BENNETT: Right. But of course, we don't know that for sure because he hasn't released his taxes.

INSKEEP: Hasn't released his taxes. But if we presume that he's a higher-income person, we would presume that he's the kind of person who would get a tax cut here for sure.

BENNETT: For sure, especially with the proposed elimination of the estate tax, the so-called death tax.

INSKEEP: So this would be something that, if it passes, would have to pass with Republican votes. Republicans have campaigned strongly against big deficits. They were profoundly against deficits during the Obama administration. What would this tax plan do to the deficit?

BENNETT: Well again, according to outside analysts, it would add something in the ballpark of $3 trillion to the deficit over a decade. And that's actually where this debate, this feud between President Trump and Senator Bob Corker comes in - because Corker is a member of the budget committee in the Senate. And he's a crucial vote for tax legislation. And he's said that if this tax legislation adds even a penny to the deficit, there is no way in hell - these are his words - that I'm going to pay for it.

INSKEEP: Wow.

BENNETT: So it certainly doesn't help that the president is antagonizing someone who is so crucial to the fate of his tax plan.

INSKEEP: Going on for another day, the president yesterday referring to Bob Corker on Twitter as liddle Bob Corker, L-I-D-D-L-E, the message from the president of the United States. Geoff, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

BENNETT: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That is NPR's Geoff Bennett.

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INSKEEP: OK. So last night, David, I ran into a neighbor who had just been in San Francisco and reported fog rolling over the bay, except she realized it wasn't fog. It was smoke.

GREENE: Yeah, it was smoke probably coming from just north of the bay in wine country, although right now it's kind of like fire country. Wildfires have been spreading through populated areas. They have spread so quickly they have killed at least 17 people. Many others are missing right now. Ken Moholt-Siebert of the Ancient Oak Cellars winery says he and his wife just had very little time to get out.

KEN MOHOLT-SIEBERT: You know, I was being blasted by the heat, by the smoke. The cinders and embers were all around - and just debris - flying down on us. And, you know, a lot of heat, just radiant.

INSKEEP: We've got KQED's Mina Kim on the line. She lives in Napa, Calif., there in wine country.

Good morning.

MINA KIM, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: How's your house?

KIM: Well, last night, more evacuations were ordered around me. And now the evacuation zone is about two main streets away, or basically one housing development away from me.

INSKEEP: Oh, gosh.

KIM: So I definitely feel a sense of the fires closing in a little more. But as long as the winds don't shift dramatically or get significantly stronger, I should be OK.

INSKEEP: There must be a lot of people who are on edge as you are. And of course there are also a lot of people who have had to flee for their lives. What is it like moving around your area right now?

KIM: Well, until yesterday afternoon, the power was completely out. And so it felt apocalyptic actually (laughter). A lot of the street lights were out. They weren't even flashing. And so it was very easy to just miss and drive through intersections completely. There's also, during the day, a very thick, gray smoke haze that's sort of settled on the valley. But for those of us who still have our homes, we feel incredibly fortunate. I actually went out, Steve, shortly after the fires broke out on Monday morning. And I met people who fled for their lives with literally nothing on their back - not even a shirt on their back. I met a man named John Campbell (ph) who fled his home in Sonoma because he was awakened from the glow of the fire that was burning his backfield.

INSKEEP: Wow. You know, I want to make sure we understand the landscape here. Isn't this an area where you have lots of neighborhoods that are essentially in nature - they're surrounded by mountains; they're surrounded by forests or grasslands - which is the attraction, I guess, but also the danger?

KIM: Yes. The city of Napa is nestled between two, you know, lovely mountains. And there are people who have small vineyards and homes up there as well as the wineries that are there. And it's really a lovely place to live but also populated. And so it made for an operation right now that is really just a life-saving operation, and it remains that way. I think one thing that people need to understand is that this is still not a fire suppression operation. They're still just trying to save lives as much as possible and allowing the fire to move and just trying to stay ahead of it by evacuating the people who are now in the direction of the fire. So that's what has made this so volatile.

And there isn't rain expected in the forecast. It's going to be still quite windy here. And so you know, I just don't think we're out of the woods at all.

INSKEEP: KQED's Mina Kim in Napa, Calif., thanks very much.

KIM: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Take care.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: OK. So the U.S. soccer team called this a perfect storm. The New York Post called it one of the most sickening days in U.S. soccer history. And USA Today went for the biggest embarrassment in U.S. sports history.

GREENE: Yeah, this was a big deal. A spot in the World Cup was on the line. All the U.S. needed was a win or even a tie against a team that had already been eliminated, Trinidad and Tobago. Well...

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UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR: Jones into the corner...

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UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR: ...The whistle - it's done. It's over. It is over. Trinidad, with nothing to play for, has dethroned the United States.

GREENE: All right, dethroned - Steve, you could argue over whether the U.S. ever really had a throne in soccer. But...

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

GREENE: ...This loss does mean that the team is going to miss the first World Cup since 1986.

INSKEEP: And Sebastian Salazar has been up all night after this disaster for the United States. He was covering the game for ESPN.

Thanks for joining us.

SEBASTIAN SALAZAR: Great to be with you guys. I haven't slept a wink. I've got notes all over my paper. It's like the scene in "A Beautiful Mind." We're still really trying to wrap our heads around what we just saw.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) Well, what happened?

SALAZAR: The best I can describe it is this - in one of the most important nights - right? - in U.S. soccer history, the 11 starters chosen by the head coach, Bruce Arena, not only produced one of the worst results but one of the worst performances in the history of the program. We can go big-picture in a second but just focusing on the game.

And I'll tell you exactly how bad it was, but let me acknowledge this. Before the game, there was a lot of talk about the field out at Boldon Stadium. And yes, parts of it were flooded the day before the game, and the U.S. couldn't really practice. That might not have been ideal. But I did get the chance to walk the field just a few hours before kickoff yesterday.

INSKEEP: It was OK?

SALAZAR: It had been completely drained.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

SALAZAR: And it wasn't perfect, but it was more than good enough. So there's no excuse there. Here's the reality. This Trinidad and Tobago team had won 1 of 9 games in this round of qualifying. They played so poorly they were already on their third coach of this qualification process. They were already eliminated. They had nothing to play for. One of their top players was suspended. They got no player over 29 years old on this roster because they were already looking ahead to qualifying for the next World Cup. So they even left some key veterans off the team for this game.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

SALAZAR: On top of that - on top of that, the Trinidad and Tobago federation moved this game 45 minutes outside of Port of Spain, so nobody showed up.

INSKEEP: OK.

SALAZAR: There was no hostile crowd.

INSKEEP: No hostile crowd...

SALAZAR: And yet the first half hour of the game...

INSKEEP: ...No...

SALAZAR: ...The American players...

INSKEEP: OK.

SALAZAR: ...Were listless with their ticket to the World Cup on the line.

INSKEEP: No hostile crowd, no overwhelming situation, no horrible field and still a defeat, which is raising questions about the future of U.S. soccer (laughter). Wow. Sebastian Salazar, try to get some sleep. OK?

SALAZAR: I will. I will.

INSKEEP: Sebastian Salazar of ESPN.

(SOUNDBITE OF NOAH AND THE WHALE'S "INSTRUMENTAL II") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.