As the August debt ceiling deadline looms and Republicans continue refusing to consider revenue increases, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks excoriated the GOP for its intransigence. Writing yesterday that it “may no longer be a normal party” but rather a movement of “fanatic[s]” with a “sacred fixation” on tax cuts, Brooks slammed the GOP for rejecting a “no-brainer” compromise with Democrats, which would include closing tax loopholes for things like corporate jet ownership:
On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.
This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.
But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.
But Brooks’ plea for sanity was lost on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who responded to the column on conservative radio host Laura Ingraham’s show this morning. Ryan said that if Republicans gave up the loopholes now without securing a deal to lower marginal tax rates overall, they would lose an opportunity to demand new tax cuts in the future:
RYAN: What happens if you do what he’s saying, is then you can’t lower tax rates. So it does affect marginal tax rates. In order to lower marginal tax rates, you have to take away those loopholes so you can lower those tax rates. If you want to do what we call being revenue neutral … If you take a deal like that, you’re necessarily requiring tax rates to be higher for everybody. You need lower tax rates by going after tax loopholes. If you take away the tax loopholes without lowering tax rates, then you deny Congress the ability to lower everybody’s tax rates and you keep people’s tax rates high.
Ryan is arguing that raising taxes on corporate jet owners and others is only acceptable if the money raised is plowed back into new tax cuts, not to paying down the deficit. He is clearly more interested in cutting taxes than dealing with the deficit, and is willing to let these egregious loopholes stay in the tax code until he can best exploit their removal to lower taxes sometime in the future.
Given the conservative preference for cutting taxes on high-income earning “job creators,” its conceivable Ryan would use the new taxes on corporate jet owners to help fund a new tax cut for people who happen to own corporate jets. Ironically, just moments earlier in the interview, Ryan attacked President Obama for wanting to close the loopholes, saying doing so would generate an insignificant about of revenue to pay down the deficit. But when it comes to tax cuts, closing those same loopholes would apparently generate plenty of revenue.