Supporters Of $1.3 Trillion Bush Tax Cuts In 2001 Now Call $900 Billion Recovery Plan Billion ‘Too Much’

As the senate version of the economic recovery package makes its way through Congress, a significant (though misguided) criticism of the package from Senate Republicans is that it is “too big.” For example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed, “from the very first moment of this debate, there’s been strong bipartisan agreement on one thing: the original version of this bill was too big.”

Similarly, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) lamented, “[T]his bill spends far too much,” while Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said, “It’s very wasteful…if you throw in the interest it’s about $1.3 trillion.” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) called passing such a large package this week “just unthinkable.” Watch a compilation of these and other complaints about the size of the package:

Such objections are indeed ironic coming from some of the greatest advocates for President Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax cut package in 2001. Indeed, when Bush introduced his tax cuts he declared, “A warning light is flashing on the dashboard of our economy, and we just can’t drive on and hope for the best. We need tax relief now.” The Republicans who now call the $800 billion recovery package “too big” jumped on the Bush bandwagon claiming his $1.35 trillion in tax cuts were just what was needed to jump start a sluggish economy:

Kyl: “I was there when the president signed into law the tax cut. … [I]f that isn’t one of the best things we can do to get this economy going again, then it seems to me that the American people might well lose confidence in what we’re doing, which would be the worst thing to do for the economy.” [Finance Committee Hearing, 10/3/2001]

Ensign: “Well, I don’t know that we’re going to get to the — you know, the total $1.3 trillion tax cut. I do think the tax cuts are necessary right now.” [CNN, 1/3/2001]

Graham thought the cuts were so effective he wanted to make them permanent. But the tax cuts they championed proved to be extremely ineffective, leading to the slowest period of economic growth in decades.

If you compare the condition of the economy in 2001 to the current state of the economy, the numbers show that those who now call the recovery package too big, were willing to spend far more when the economic situation wasn’t nearly as precarious:

2001 2009
Cost of package: $1.35 trillion $900 billion
Unemployment: 4% 7.6%
Percent of Population Living In Poverty: 12.7% 17%
Foreclosure Rates: .48% 1.19%
Americans Relying On Food Stamps: 17 million Over 30 million