Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is one of a growing number of Republican lawmakers who are unhappy with the recent tax deal struck between the White House and the GOP, because, in their mind, the compromise contains too few tax cuts and too much money spent to help unemployed Americans. But discussing her stance on Fox News yesterday with host Megyn Kelly, Bachmann also took issue with the inclusion of President Obama’s cuts in payroll taxes for the middle class, complaining that they will increase the deficit. Employing an egregious double standard, however, Bachmann simultaneously denied that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy will increase the deficit:
BACHMANN:[W]e’re pleased to see that we’re looking at a two percent reduction in the payroll tax, what we normally call the Social Security tax for employees. … What this will mean is a decrease in revenue for the Social Security Trust Fund. That will, again, add to the deficit going forward. So both of these measures that President Obama is proposing will actually have a cost towards increasing the deficit.
KELLY: Is it worth it to you though, to give the president the things that he’s asked for, like the extension of unemployment benefits, in order to preserve tax cuts for all Americans? [...]
BACHMANN: It’s curious to me that they say there’s a cost involved when people are allowed to keep their own money. And they’re talking about Americans being able to keep $700 billion of their own money. The cost is to the Treasury, but really it’s a cost out of the American peopeles’ pockets. So that’s a definition of terms.
The real cost will be in the outlay of unemployment benefits and in the reduction to the treasury in the Social Security taxes.
Of course, both the Obama payroll tax cuts and the Bush tax cuts will increase the deficit, but why does Bachmann only acknowledge this reality when it comes the middle-class cuts? Bachmann says “it’s curious” to suggest the Bush cuts cost money because they merely let people “keep their own money.” But this is exactly what the Obama payroll tax cuts do as well. Bachmann, who was for a practicing tax attorney for years, litigating “hundreds of civil and criminal cases,” should know better (and likely does).
Last night, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) offered the same double speak to Fox News host Greta Van Susteren. “The idea of cutting the payroll tax temporarily has been a Republican idea, as well as a Democratic idea. The problem is it costs money.” Nowhere in the interview did Alexander worry that the Bush cut for the wealthy also “costs money.”
And on Monday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) resorted to same cynical tactic on conservative radio host Laura Ingraham’s show, distorting the payroll tax cut as government “spending,” while ignoring the cost of the Bush cuts.
Tax cuts are a core component of conservatives’ governing agenda, and they have spent the last six months constructing a fantasy world in which cutting taxes does not increase the deficit. But it appears that when those tax cuts are for the middle class, and not the wealthy, those cuts suddenly become vilified as “spending,” and as costing too much money.