A handful of Republicans, at the same time that they’re trying to seize the high-ground when it comes to fiscal responsibility, have scoffed at the notion that extending the Bush tax cuts should be considered a cost to the federal government. “I disagree with the premise that in order to keep tax rates where they are and not increase taxes, somehow we need to pay for that,” said Sen. David Vitter (R-LA). “You’re talking about current tax policy. Why did it all of a sudden become something that we, quote, pay for?” asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
The latest Republican to join this parade is Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), who is slated to take over the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, the committee charged with writing tax legislation. “I don’t think you have to pay for extensions of current law,” Camp said on CNBC last night:
I don’t think you have to pay for extensions of current law. Look, the idea that people have to pay to keep more of their own money, I think makes no sense, and particularly as we really need some long-term economic growth in this country, we need a pro-growth agenda, and all the talk of tax increases makes that less likely to occur.
Of course, if we applied Camp’s logic to all federal tax and spending initiatives, nothing would ever “cost” anything. Want to extend Food Stamp benefits for another year? It’s current law, so it’s free!
Back in the real world, extending the Bush tax cuts will cause federal revenues over the next ten years to be nearly $4 trillion lower than they would have otherwise been. $830 billion of that will be spent to finance tax cuts for the richest two percent of Americans alone. And foregoing that revenue makes reducing the deficit, which Camp also professed a deep concern about, that much harder.
Now, Camp likely feels that deficit spending is totally acceptable, so long as it lowers the marginal tax rates of the rich. But instead of admitting that, he’s trying to have it both ways, complaining about the deficit while simultaneously advocating steps that make the deficit worse.