Recently, a spate of faux deficit hawks have put forth the notion that, while any steps to alleviate the effects of the Great Recession for the lower- and middle-class must be paid for, extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should simply be added to the deficit. “You should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). “Continuing the [Bush] tax cuts isn’t a cost,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) agreed. “That’s where we are today. That’s the baseline. It doesn’t score anything to continue them.”
Today, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), who has previously said “I tend to think that tax cuts should not have to be offset,” explicitly dismissed the notion that extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich should be paid for. “I just don’t subscribe to that view,” he said:
I don’t subscribe to the view that when you cut taxes, when you maintain a tax situation like we have today — what we’re actually taking about is whether the Obama administration is going to increase taxes — that you basically have to pay for keeping taxes at their present levels. I just don’t subscribe to that view.
Coburn and Gregg are conveniently forgetting that President Bush and Republicans in Congress purposely designed the Bush tax cuts to sunset in ten years, to reduce their long-term cost. The baseline assumes a full expiration, so an extension most certainly does count as a cost against it.
Furthermore, Gregg is one of the loudest self-styled deficit hawks in Congress, continually warning that the U.S. is going to become a “banana republic.” Earlier this year, he refused to support an extension of unemployment benefits unless it was fully paid-for, saying that those who wanted to extend the benefits “basically keep spending money like drunken sailors.”
But when it comes to $830 billion — all of which will be spent on the richest two percent of Americans — Gregg’s concern about spending and the deficit suddenly evaporates. As Michael Linden pointed out, “$830 billion is enough to pay for all veterans’ hospitals, doctors, and the rest of the Veteran’s Affairs health system, plus the United States Coast Guard, plus the Food and Drug Administration, plus the operation and maintenance of every single national park for the entire 10-year period — with more than $100 billion left over.” So who, again, has more disregard for the deficit?