Our guest blogger is Michael Linden, Association Director for Tax and Budget Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
There have already been two posts today calling out Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for his recent utterly ridiculous statements regarding the Bush tax cuts. I’m going to pile on a bit, because this is the kind of thing that really should be getting even more attention.
When the Senate Minority Leader says something like, “there’s no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue,” in a sane world, that would disqualify him from ever being taken seriously on economic issues again. This is not some disagreement among economists over the effects of a future tax cut. Nor is this a philosophical debate between the left and the right.
Instead, what we have here is McConnell making a clearly false claim about recent history. Even a casual glance at a graph of federal income tax revenues would confirm that, yes, the Bush tax cuts had a massive negative affect on revenues. There is no room for interpretation. Before the tax cuts, income tax revenues were 10.2 percent of GDP. Three years later, income tax revenues were 6.9 percent of GDP. 6.9 is smaller than 10.2.
But the point of this post is not that McConnell is colossally wrong – though he is – it’s that his willingness to make such a dramatically false statement reveals something really ill about the current state of our national economic debate. When someone so high-profile not only makes such an easily disproven statement, but bases his larger policy positions on that statement, it should call into question that person’s entire platform.
Indulge me an imperfect analogy. Say you have a friend who goes on and on about how great this certain restaurant is. So one night you and he go out to this place and you discover that what he thinks is a great restaurant is actually just a huge vacant lot. That would be odd, but maybe you’d think, “I guess my buddy was mistaken about the location of the restaurant.”
Now, imagine that the next day, your friend sidles up to you and says, “Wow, wasn’t that restaurant so amazing last night? Let’s go back there again tonight!” Why would you accept any recommendations from this guy ever again? Not only does his “favorite place” not exist, but he won’t even admit what’s clear to everyone else.
Mitch McConnell is your crazy friend. He sings the praises of tax cuts of rich people – even though we know they don’t work – and then pretends that the ones we already passed didn’t hurt the federal bottom line. And this kind of problem is rife throughout the conservative world.
For instance, last week Art Laffer wrote in the Wall Street Journal that unemployment benefits lead to higher unemployment. “Since the 1970s there’s been a close correlation between increased unemployment benefits and an increase in the unemployment rate,” he wrote. He even includes a graph to prove his point.
The rebuttal to this flimsy, feeble argument is so obvious that it should not even need to be made. Of course, jobless benefits are higher during periods of high unemployment, but saying the former causes the later is like blaming umbrellas for bringing on the rain. Laffer is making a mistake – confusing correlation with causation – so basic that it should call into question his overall grasp of fundamental mathematical concepts.
Sadly, I am very sure that conservatives will still find plenty of outlets to spout their economic gibberish. But the next time you hear someone like McConnell going on about taxes, try to remember that time he sent you to the vacant lot for dinner.