Last weekend, faux deficit hawk Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) proved that he’s not concerned about deficits at all by saying that spending $678 billion to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans does not need be offset. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) agreed, saying, “I tend to think that tax cuts should not have to be offset.” This comes just one week after supply-side guru Art Laffer claimed that eliminating all federal taxes would magically bring unemployment down to 2.5 percent and Wall Street editorial board member Stephen Moore advocated raising taxes on the poor in order to cut them for the rich.
But conservative tax craziness may have reached its apex yesterday, when Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that “there’s no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue.” McConnell’s claim is so demonstrably false that it’s almost laughable, but he is not the only one making it.
Today, The Wonk Room spoke with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) about the GOP’s position that tax cuts for the rich don’t have to be paid for. Ellison — who unlike most of his colleagues has proven his deficit reduction bona fides by voting against military spending that the Pentagon doesn’t want but that Congress continually approves — called the GOP’s claims “patently absurd and ridiculous.” He argued that such rhetoric proves conservatives don’t really care about deficits, but only about cutting taxes for rich people:
When reasonably intelligent people say something that is patently absurd and ridiculous, then you have to look to the hidden agenda, right? Judd Gregg, Sen. Kyl, these are not dumb people. They know what they’re saying is completely self-serving, but they’re looking at it strictly from the standpoint of personal gain and the gain of individuals directly connected to them and people who they regard as their base. They’re like ‘help my friends, and the rest, too bad.’ They are elitists. That’s what they are. What is an elitist? An elitist believes that those that have should have, those that don’t should not. There’s sort of a social or economic Darwinian concept behind their philosophy.
The fact that they would say that massive tax cuts for the wealthy shouldn’t be offset simply means that they think privileges for their friends and themselves should continue to flow and the unwashed masses, they don’t value their lives anyway. That’s basically the bottom line. That’s harsh reality, but it is reality.
“Their extra yacht is more important to them than your meal for your kids, and that is who you’re dealing with,” Ellison said.
Indeed, any lawmaker who says that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should be extended without any effort to pay for them should immediately lose all credibility when it comes to reducing the deficit, and they certainly shouldn’t get away with claiming that $33 billion to pay for extending unemployment benefits is too high a price. As Matt Yglesias put it, “the key element of conservative fiscal policy is that tax revenue as a percent of GDP should be made as low as possible. This isn’t a goal they pursue that stands in some kind of balance with concern about the deficit, it’s the only goal they pursue.”
During the interview, Ellison also addressed the use of Predator drones to assassinate suspected terrorists as a facet of America’s counter-terrorism strategy, saying “we haven’t really thought this thing through at all.” “The problem is not the drone, that is a piece of machinery. The problem is making a decision about a targeted assassination without the necessary legal, political, moral calculation in place. Which I see no evidence that we’re making,” he said.