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Trump's tax cut: Not 'the biggest' in US history, and considerably smaller than cuts by Reagan, Truman, Obama

Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

More than 20 times since he became president, President Trump has claimed that the tax plan under consideration in Congress was the largest tax cut in the history of the United States.

He made this claim even before many details were set, but from the beginning it was nonsense. It was so easily debunked that we just tossed it in our ongoing database of false and misleading Trump claims, rather than do a full-fledged fact check.

On occasion, the White House has suggested Trump is talking only about the corporate-tax component of the tax plan. But that's never how the president himself frames it. So we have to examine his claim as he states it.

Now that the House and Senate have approved the parameters of the tax cut - $1.5 trillion over 10 years - we have numbers we can evaluate. So, for the record, here's how his plan stacks up - assuming it gets passed into law.

The Facts

The best way to compare tax cuts (or spending plans) over time is to measure them as a percentage of the national economy. Inflation-adjusted dollars are another option, but a percentage of gross domestic product helps put the impact of the bill into context.

The Treasury Department has regularly compared tax cuts and increases using both methods, most recently in 2013. The Treasury analysis goes back to 1940, using either the first year of the tax legislation for tax bills between 1940 and 1968 or a four-year average of the bills between 1968 and 2012.

The budget blueprint approved by Republicans indicates that tax cut would reduce revenue by $167 billion in 2018; it also averages out to $167 billion a year in the first four years. We'll use a gross domestic product of $19.5 trillion in 2018, which assumes the kind of growth Trump expects.

That means the tax cut would be nearly 0.9 percent of GDP.

Compare that to:

Economic Recovery Act of 1981 (Reagan): 2.89 percent

Revenue Act of 1945 (Truman): 2.67 percent

Revenue Act of 1948 (Truman): 1.87 percent

American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (Obama): 1.78 percent

Revenue Act of 1964 (Johnson): 1.6 percent

Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2010 (Obama): 1.31 percent

In other words, Trump's tax cut would even be smaller than two tax cuts passed by Congress under President Barack Obama. We're sure that must be a source of irritation. In fact, Trump's tax cut would even fall behind Obama's tax cuts when measured by inflation-adjusted dollars, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

This analysis was written by Glenn Kessler for The Washington Post.

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