Earlier this week, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) admitted what many of his Republican colleagues will not: that extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans will “dig the hole deeper” when it comes to the deficit. But that hasn’t changed Cantor’s desire to spend $830 billion to extend the cuts anyway. But if the tax cuts were actually extended, how would Cantor go about reducing the deficit? Today, Robert Barbera, chief economist of Mount Lucas Management — who seems sympathetic to extending all of the Bush tax cuts himself — asked Cantor three times what he would do to get the long-term budget deficit under control if the cuts were extended. “Excuse me, do you have any proposals about out-year cuts in entitlement expenditures?” he asked. The results were predictable:
CANTOR: First of all, let’s just talk about these so-called tax cuts. If you look at the entrepreneurs and small and large businesses out there, nobody’s getting a tax cut. One of two things is going to happen in January. Taxes go up or they stay the same.
BARBERA: No, no, no, I agree. I want my taxes to stay the same. I agree with you. I’m just saying if the contention is that we have a large expenditure problem, can’t you attach to this, and end the debate, some cuts in out-year entitlement spending? You’re saying we need to cut spending, so let’s cut spending.
CANTOR: Absolutely, listen, we’ve got spending to cut in the short-term, and what we’ve got is a huge problem in the long-term, where we’ve got to get serious about it. You’re absolutely right.
BARBERA: We could get serious about it now. In other words, there’s nothing preventing you from saying ‘I would propose that we cut, ten years out, expenditures on Social Security by blank.’ You could do that today. You could put out a press release.
Cantor finally came to the eloquent conclusion that we need a “commitment to long-term address these situations.” As the Wonk Room explains further, the GOP’s collective inability to name any solutions for the deficit shows that they’re fundamentally disinterested in serious budgeting. Of course, considering that Cantor’s “big idea” for job creation is “to get, to get, to produce an environment where we can have job creation again,” his performance really isn’t surprising.