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The White House press briefing began with a web meme on taxes and beer

The White House press briefing began with a web meme on taxes and beer
[Photo: Nicholas Kamm /AFP/Getty Images]

With Washington consumed by news that three Trump campaign officials faced charges in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders opened her daily briefing with a 15-paragraph-long parable involving reporters drinking beer.

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In the story, which she acknowledged comes from a popular conservative internet meme, journalists sharing a round pay bar tabs depending on their tax brackets. The moral, coming as the Trump administration promotes the upcoming Republican tax reform bill, is that taxing high earners too much could drive them to avoid paying taxes at all.

“Taxing them too much–attack them–and they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier,” she said. Among the critiques leveled at the current Republican tax plan was a recent Tax Policy Center analysis showing that 80% of its benefits would accrue to the top 1% of income earners in the US.

Part of Sanders’ story, according to official White House transcripts:

And so the fifth reporter, like the first four, now paid nothing. He got a 100 percent saving. The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3, a 33 percent saving. The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7, a 28 percent saving. The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12, a 25 percent saving. The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18, which was a 22 percent saving. And the tenth now paid $49 instead of $59, a 16 percent saving.

Sanders didn’t intend to encourage drinking by telling the story, she emphasized “mostly for my parents,” former Arkansas governor and Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee and wife Janet Huckabee.

The parable—which has been attributed to (and disowned by) various economists—began circulating in the early 2000s after a version of it was first published in the letters section of the Chicago Tribune, by one Don Dodson, according to Snopes. William F. Buckley Jr. even reprinted and discussed a version of the story in an April 2001 column for the National Review, noting that the “parable just came in from a friend, via the Internet.”

Many tweeted their befuddlement at Sanders’ parable—more befuddlement than usual. Naturally, reporters focused their questions mostly on the indictments, not on taxes and beer.

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