Boehner’s Tax Madness

I was talking to some summer interns earlier this week and said that in my view it was disappointing to see that in many ways new media has been aping the pathologies of traditional media. I probably should have added that it’s also exciting that in other ways that’s not happening at all.

For example, take how TPM’s Brian Beutler covers a John Boehner press conference:

The fight over the stimulus, he said, “was all about more government spending, not more about allowing American families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn, because when it’s all said and done they’re the ones who are gonna have to get the economy going again,” Boehner said, ignoring that about one-third of the stimulus bill’s cost came from tax cuts.

Material factual misstatements are flagged clearly and appropriately and not treated as just ineffable elements of the discourse. And in addition to basic facts like that, it’s also possible to work substantive policy analysis into the piece:

“You equate the idea of lowering marginal tax rates with less revenue for the federal government,” Boehner cautioned. “We’ve seen over the last 30 years that lower marginal tax rates have led to a growing economy, more employment, and more people paying taxes. And if you look at the revenue growth over those 30 years, you’ve got a prime example of what we’ve been talking about.”

This is practically the reverse of the truth. In the years after the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush tax cuts, economic growth and employment were significantly lower than they were after Bill Clinton’s 1993 tax increases. According to Michael Ettlinger and John Irons of the Center for American Progress, “Over the seven-year periods after each legislative action, average annual growth was 3.9 percent following [Clinton’s 1993 tax increase], 3.5 percent following [Reagan’s 1981 tax cut], and 2.5 percent following [Bush’s 2001 tax cut].”

Boehner also attempted to say that Bush’s policies didn’t lead to budget deficits, which as my colleague Pat Garofalo pointed out yesterday is total nonsense:


Somehow I get the sense that it’s still not understood exactly how nutty the modern American conservative movement is about basic economic policy. When conservative politicians in Germany say smaller deficits is the right solution to today’s economic problems, I think they’re mistaken. But I also think that when they say “smaller deficits” they have in mind policies that reduce the deficit. The American right’s idea is that you get into office and then you enact large, permanent tax cuts. No matter what. If there’s a surplus, you need large, permanent tax cuts to get rid of it. And if there’s a deficit you need large, permanent tax cuts to get rid of that. I don’t know if anyone actually believes this nonsense, but the way the mechanism works you need to govern as if you believe it which is just as bad.