On Friday, as his Republican allies in the senate forced a flurry of votes to pass their unpopular tax bill, President Trump tweeted a very official looking video touting “137 Economists” who had purportedly endorsed the legislation.
Economists on the TAX CUTS and JOBS ACT:
“The enactment of a comprehensive overhaul – complete with a lower corporate tax rate – will IGNITE our ECONOMY with levels of GROWTH not SEEN IN GENERATIONS…” pic.twitter.com/2vCBDtLh3C
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 1, 2017
The video took its substance from a letter released earlier in the week by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and other prominent Republicans. That letter was signed by those same 137 economists.
Most of his fawning followers on Twitter and his fan-boys in the right wing media took the video at face value, and went along their delusional days believing the president’s reassurances that their taxes would be cut, despite the mountain of reporting and, you know math, that proved the exact opposite.
Investigative journalists at The Intercept, however, decided they would take a closer look at the credentials of those supposed ‘economists,’ and what they discovered is shocking.
“…A review of the economists listed on the letter reveals a number of discrepancies, including economists that are supposedly still academics but are actually retired, and others who have never been employed as economists,” The Intercept’s Lee Fang write. “One might not even exist.”
When The Intercept contacted the University of Georgia, for example, the institution the letter lists as the employer of one ‘Gil Sylvia,’ they were told, “no one with the name Gil Sylvia is employed here.”
More troubling perhaps are the details surrounding another of the so-called economists the letter extols as compelling authorities on the matter. A Mr. John P. Eleazarian is listed as an economist from the very official sounding American Economic Association. It turns out, however, that AEA membership is open to anyone willing to pay the membership fees. There are no credentials required to join, and the prime benefit appears to be discounts to group functions and publications.
But it gets worse. More from The Intercept:
“Eleazarian is a former attorney who lost his law license and the ability to practice law in California after he was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison for forging a judicial signature and falsifying other documents. His current LinkedIn profile lists him as a paralegal at a law firm.”
The letter lists a further 13 economists it claims are currently employed as academics, but who have all, in fact, retired. Others are employed by corporations or have strong ties to lobbying and advocacy groups, including those funded by known anti-tax crusading millionaires like the Koch Brothers.
We now know, for example, that the letter itself was written, or at least coordinated, by one of those groups, the RATE Coalition, a corporate lobbying group that has pressured Republicans to pass this tax bill.
Truth has never been high on the list of the president’s standards when it comes to vetting material he tweets, so there’s little reason to believe he’ll retract the video now that so many of its supposed experts have been exposed as frauds. And now that the bill has cleared the senate, and should become law absent a miracle turn of events in conference committee, the video has served its cynical purpose – truth be damned.