Last week, I noted that Republicans were deriding President Obama’s plan for a $50 billion infrastructure investment as unaffordable, at the same time that they were promoting a roughly $800 billion tax cut for the richest two percent of Americans. For months, though, Republicans have scoffed at any additional federal spending aimed at boosting the economy, including extensions of unemployment benefits.
Today, MSNBC’s Savannah Guthrie tried to get to the bottom of this contradiction with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). When it comes to extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, Guthrie asked “is this deficit spending that Republicans support?” McConnell refused to answer, so Guthrie followed up: “But you don’t dispute that we’re all going into debt for these tax cuts, you don’t dispute that that would require more debt?” McConnell again didn’t deny it. Watch it:
McConnell finally tried to justify his position by asserting that “tax revenues have grown over the years at the current tax rate.” Of course, he failed to mention that, as a percentage of GDP, revenues have never come back to the 2000 level since Bush began slashing taxes indiscriminately. McConnell also refused to respond to Guthrie’s question regarding whether or not the tax cuts will pay for themselves, but he has in the not-too-distant past erroneously claimed that the Bush tax cuts increased revenue.
McConnell is part of the cadre of Republicans doing damage control following House Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-OH) assertion on Sunday that, if it was the only choice, he would vote to adopt President Obama’s plan to extend middle class tax cuts while allowing those for the rich to expire. So far, McConnell, House Budget Committee ranking member Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) have all come out and disavowed Boehner’s statement (which Boehner himself has been trying to walk back since it occurred).
But this is the crux of the issue. Republicans oppose the most effective forms of government spending when it comes to boosting the economy, yet want to turn around and borrow $830 billion to cut taxes for the richest two percent of the country, after they set the 2011 expiration when they passed the Bush tax cuts in the first place.
Not only that, but as evidenced by McConnell’s Tax Hike Prevention Act of 2010, the GOP also wants to adopt a cut in the estate tax that gives $91 billion to the richest 0.25 percent of households. So Guthrie was spot-on: deficit spending in order to benefit the wealthy is something Republicans unequivocally support.