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.”
Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) had a nearly identical performance on MSNBC last week, where he couldn’t name one single solitary program that he would cut to rein in the deficit. The inability of Republicans to propose just one idea for dealing with the long-term deficit proves that they are fundamentally disinterested in actually grappling with the problem. They’d prefer to extend tax cuts now while making the long-term structural deficit someone else’s problem.
In fact, just yesterday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) proposed a measure (which was ultimately defeated) extending all of the Bush tax cuts, with instructions “to offset as necessary through spending reduction.” As Charlie Eisenhood put, that’s “Senate-speak for ‘we’ll worry about the cost later.’”
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. See here for a list of programs that could be cut and revenue increasing steps that could be taken to begin addressing the long-term deficit.