While most Republicans on Capitol Hill have signaled support for the tax cut deal that their leadership brokered this week with President Obama, a small minority are opposed. Tea Party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) said he is against the deal because it includes a provision to extend unemployment benefits for 13 months. “We can’t just keep paying people to stay at home,” he said.
Last night on Fox News, DeMint expounded on his concerns about the deal. “This is a perfect example of how we got 14 trillion in debt as a nation,” he said. But then his reasoning quickly turned contradictory. “Republicans have something we know is good for the country, such as extending these tax rates.” Later in the interview, DeMint solidified his inconsistency. He said the measure should not increase the deficit; but, in his very next breath, he added that the deal should make the tax cuts permanent:
DEMINT: Rather than support something that is a bad deal, I think I would put my bets on a republican house fixing this thing the second week in January, when we are back in session. But I’d like to get the deal done now. But it should, in my mind not increase the deficit. And we should at least have a vote on making these rates permanent. If we do that, I think it will really help the economy the way it is structured now, I think it could actually hurt the economy by expanding the deficit. So, you know, I’ve heard countless times since I’ve been in Congress, this is the best deal we can make but frankly, with $14 trillion in debt, this is not what we need to do. We need to fight a little bit harder before we let this thing go.
DeMint did not say that there should be spending cuts to offset the federal revenues lost from the tax cuts, which for the wealthy alone, account for more than $800 billion over the next 10 years. Cutting taxes will increase the deficit; they are mutually constitutive. Yet, DeMint thinks the tax deal should decrease the deficit and make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent.
While the President’s priorities in the deal would help about 150 million more Americans than the GOP’s priorities would (and at less cost per person), the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation said that the tax deal would cost the government $801.3 billion over 10 years. While the 13 month unemployment benefit extension would cost $56 billion, the JCT said the two year extension of the tax cuts would cost more than $400 billion.
“This feels more than a bit surreal,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, about the tax deal’s cost. “On the heels of the work of the White House Fiscal Commission last week on how to get control of the national debt, the White House and Members of Congress choose to engage in a negotiation that involves adding increasingly larger amounts to the debt? It’s utterly exasperating.”