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Vox Sentences: Donald Trump floats a tax-shaped trial balloon over the wall

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated by Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

Trump's latest idea to pay for the wall; what is and isn't normal about the Trump administration's orders to science agencies; election shake-up in France.

Making economists bang their heads against the wall

Trump Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump (via press secretary Sean Spicer) floated the idea Wednesday of paying for the border wall with Mexico by introducing a 20 percent corporate tax on imports. [BuzzFeed News / Matt Zeitlin]
  • Trump (via Spicer) subsequently walked that back, saying it was just one of many options on the table. [Zeke J. Miller via Twitter]
  • The plan Trump is talking about is not a tariff. It would change how companies are taxed — allowing them to write off any revenues they make from products they export out of the US, while prohibiting companies that import things into the US from writing off the cost of those imports. Think of it as putting a tax on the trade deficit. [Vox / Dylan Matthews]
  • It's a plan that House Republicans have been floating as a way to offset lowering the corporate tax rate across the board (which is to say, it wouldn't end up making the US more money to pay for the wall or anything else). [WSJ / Richard Rubin]
  • It would also, almost certainly, mean that imports from Mexico would cost consumers more. But you didn't really need cars or tomatoes anyway, right? [Observatory of Economic Complexity]
  • All of this is, to a certain extent, scrambling. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced Thursday he was canceling his planned meeting with Trump next week, so the Trump administration is looking for ways to make Mexico pay for the wall that don't require Mexico's involvement. [BuzzFeed News / Karla Zabludovsky]
  • Suffice to say the US/Mexico relationship is looking very bad right now. And that's a problem, since the US needs Mexico's assistance (for example, in preventing Central American migration to the US). [FT]
  • And the anti-Trump backlash is powering a populist candidate in Mexico's upcoming presidential elections. [National Review / Jose Cardenas]

Is there a war on science?

EPA plaque ohn Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • There's a lot of alarm over the Trump administration "muzzling" the social media and public communications presences of several key science-related agencies.
  • To a certain extent, the alarm is overblown — this is just something that happens during presidential transitions. [NYT / Coral Davenport]
  • It's just getting dramatized, this time, by "rogue" Twitter accounts (including a former Badlands National Park employee who hacked into the park's Twitter account to post facts about climate change Wednesday). [Washington Post / Daryl Fears and Karla Epstein]
  • But there is some cause for concern about the Trump administration's approach to informing the public. After all, his nominee to direct the Office of Management and Budget has openly questioned the need for government funding to research Zika and other diseases. [Mother Jones / Pema Levy]
  • And reports indicate that the administration may be planning to decide which EPA reports to publish on a "case by case basis." [Engadget / Andrew Tarantola]
  • The EPA case is instructive. The Bush administration was a terrible steward of the agency, and did lasting damage. [Vox / Brad Plumer]
  • It's a good reminder that the criticism of the Trump administration's "abnormality" obscures things that are precedented or predictable, and just very bad. [Vox / Dara Lind]

Crucial French election update (really)

Emmanuel Macron Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images
  • As France looks toward its presidential election in April, the Socialist Party is holding its runoff Sunday — choosing between moderate establishmentarian and former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and fiery "outsider" Benoit Hamon — who once left Valls's government, and who finished first in the primary. [Forbes / Marcel Michelson]
  • Neither choice looks likely to get elected. The Socialists, once dominant, are polling fifth in the general election. [The Guardian / Angelique Chrisafis]
  • The top spot, in a poll this week from Le Monde, goes to nativist Marine Le Pen; slipping to the second spot is conservative François Fillon. Fillon would almost certainly beat Le Pen in a head-to-head runoff. [Bloomberg / Mark Deen]
  • Except that he's now under investigation, due to allegations that he paid his wife 500,000 euros over eight years for a job she never actually did. [NYT / Adam Nossiter]
  • (Complicating things — or at least trying to complicate things — are a bunch of American alt-rightists trying to drum up online support for fellow traveler Le Pen.) [BuzzFeed News / Ryan Broderick]
  • You may not think you care about all this. But you should. France's is the first of several national elections in the EU this year. If it goes to an EU opponent like Le Pen, the union could crumble. [Bloomberg / Esteban Duarte and Patrick Donahue]


  • a history of the internet's most adorable domain name. [Tedium / Ernie Smith]
  • Dow 20,000 is a stupid, arbitrary marker. If you don't believe me, check out what happened when the Dow hit 1,000. [Bloomberg / Justin Fox]
  • On the ethics of creating hybrid pig-boys (awwww Pigly). [STAT / Lori Marino]
  • Christo has spent more than $15 million of his own money over more than two decades to create a miles-long new piece of art in Colorado. Now he's abandoned the project, because of Trump. [NYT / Randy Kennedy]
  • 6-year-old girls are less likely than 6-year-old boys to describe people of their own gender as "really really smart." [Washington Post / Nick Anderson]


  • "Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) spoke during the meeting, and said the intelligence community lied about what happened in Benghazi, Libya. Sources in the room said it was hard to follow, but Pence politely thanked him and suggested he and Trump would look into it." [Politico / Rachael Bade]
  • "Stories of children locked in cars adjacent to factories, chained to temporary trailer homes,and left in movie theaters quickly filled newspapers and eventually became the subject of Congressional hearings." [Chris Herbst via Elle / Bryce Covert]
  • "I feel like a lot of of men want this pat on the back for correctly identifying how they feel about feminism, how radical they’re being and how much they 'get it.' That is just really gross to me." [Allison Crutchfield to A.V. Club / David Anthony]
  • "Overall, the response to different genres was mixed, highlighting the possibility that like humans, our canine friends have their own individual music preferences." [Neil Evans to BBC]
  • "Elon Musk is pressing the Trump administration to adopt a tax on carbon emissions. … A senior White House official said Musk floated the idea of a carbon tax at the meeting but got little or no support among the executives at the White House." [Bloomberg / Kevin Cirilli]

Watch this: This jet fighter is a disaster, but Congress keeps buying it

Trump says the F-35 is too expensive, and he's not wrong. But this is what he's up against. [YouTube / Sam Ellis]

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