Last month, Center for American Progress Associate Director for Tax and Budget Policy Michael Linden released a report on “how to spot a deficit peacock,” which he described as people who like to “preen and call attention to themselves” as deficit hawks “but are not sincerely interested in taking the difficult but necessary steps toward a balanced budget.” Linden wrote that those who “say that the solution is to simply freeze discretionary spending, are just peddling fiscal snake oil.” Critics across the political spectrum have since used the “deficit peacock” phrase to criticize the Obama administration’s proposed freeze. OMB Director Peter Orszag has pushed back against that characterization of the Obama plan, arguing that the freeze is “only one step” the administration is taking.
In his Human Events column today, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich embraces the term, claiming that it was created to describe “Washington liberals posing as budget cutters.” In fact, if Gingrich actually paid attention to what Linden wrote, he would realize that he fits the definition perfectly of a deficit peacock who prefers “scoring political points to solving problems. According to Linden, the number one way to tell that someone “isn’t taking our budget problems seriously” is if “they never mention revenues”:
Increasing revenues is going to have to be part of the solution for meeting the fiscal challenge. Any suggestion that we can solve this problem solely by cutting spending reveals an utter misunderstanding or ignorance of the budget numbers. Balancing the budget without raising any additional revenue 10 years from now would require cutting every program in the entire budget by more than 25 percent, including all defense spending, Social Security and Medicare benefits, air-traffic-control funding, veterans’ benefits, aid to schools, job training programs, agriculture subsidies, highway maintenance, and everything else.
In his column, Gingrich explicitly denounces “tax increases” to “pay for all that spending” in the federal budget and calls for spending cuts only. Linden also notes that deficit peacocks “support policies that make the long-term deficit problem worse.” In January, Gingrich released a “jobs first” plan consisting almost completely of proposals that would hurt the long-term deficit:
— Immediate Payroll Tax Relief. Allow workers and employers to keep more of their hard earned money through an immediate, two-year, 50% reduction of the payroll tax. […]
— Incentives for Small Business Investment. Allow small businesses to expense 100% of new equipment purchases each year to help them invest in new, more productive technologies. […]
— Abolish Taxes on Capital Gains. Match the Chinese capital gains rate of zero. […]
— Reduce the Business Tax Rate. America has the second highest business tax rate in the world. We should match the Irish business tax rate of 12.5%. […]
— Abolish the Death Tax. Inheritance is the most powerful accumulator of capital.
In an analysis of an early variation of Gingrich’s plan, the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo concluded that the tax changes would add trillions to the deficit over the next decade while “throwing money to mainly the well-off and hoping that it will have some positive effects.” In the January plan, Gingrich also called for balancing the budget by simply reducing spending and reforming government.