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This Is the Crazy Tax Math Trump Must Master, Fast

Congress may have to resort to some slick budget tricks to get the job done—or half done—by the end of the year.
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Illustration: Tomi Um

President Trump vows to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent. Suppose Republicans could raise $2 trillion to pay for cuts (not an easy task). That would require hiking other taxes or ending popular deductions. And it can’t all go to corporate giants, so let’s say $1 trillion goes to individuals and $500 billion goes to business owners taxed as individuals. That leaves $500 billion, enough to slash the corporate rate all the way to … 30 percent.

The math makes clear that Trump’s 15 percent rate is impossible. But by putting out an extreme number, the president has shifted the terms of the debate, making everyone proposing smaller cuts look timid. At the same time, he’s reaching out to Democrats; on Sept. 12, he invited three key senators to dinner at the White House. It’s the art of the deal as Trump prepares to embark on a multicity tour to sell a tax plan that doesn’t exist yet.