Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin acknowledged in comments published Wednesday that tax cuts under the GOP's plan for tax reform are likely to benefit wealthy people who pay most of the taxes, a shift away from his past remarks that the plan would not cut taxes for high-income earners.
"So when you're cutting taxes across the board, it's very hard not to give tax cuts to the wealthy with tax cuts to the middle class," Mnuchin said in a podcast with Politico, noting that top earners pay the vast majority of taxes. "The math, given how much you are collecting, is just hard to do."
Mnuchin had previously claimed that President Trump's intent was not to cut taxes for high earners. Instead, he said, any tax cut for the wealthy would be offset by the elimination of tax breaks.
His early comments led Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to coin the term "the Mnuchin Rule," meaning that tax reform wouldn't include net tax cuts for high earners.
But Mnuchin and the White House have struggled to keep this rule in effect as a tax plan framework has been laid out that appears to include several major tax breaks for the wealthy. Those include lower tax rates for business income that flows straight through to owners' tax returns, the elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and ending the estate tax.
Last week, in a speech to a gathering of international bankers, Mnuchin acknowledged that eliminating the estate tax "disproportionately helps rich people." The tax only kicks in for bequests of around $11 million for married couples.
"That's more of a philosophical thing," Mnuchin said in Monday's comments.