During an interview with CNN on Wednesday, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) sold the Republican tax plan by trying to make a case that every time the federal government has cut taxes, it has boosted the economy.
Pressed by a CNN reporter about how he can support a tax bill that would actually raise taxes on millions of Americans, Scalise said, “the good news is, you just look at history.”
“If you go back to when John F. Kennedy Jr. cut taxes, if you go back to the last time we transformed our tax code — 1986 when Ronald Reagan was president — you can go to the Clinton years,” Scalise said. “Every time we’ve cut taxes you’ve seen the economy take off.”
Later, Scalise added: “So if you look at history, every time this has been done it’s worked. Why not do it again, especially when you’ve got a slow economy?”
But Scalise conveniently overlooked the fact that the most recent time trickle-down economics was tried, it failed.
In 2001, President Bush shepherded tax cuts through Congress that mainly benefited high earners, as would also be the case under the current GOP plan. But as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities wrote in a recent look at the legacy of the Bush tax cuts, although Republicans said they would dramatically spur growth, “evidence suggests that they did not improve economic growth or pay for themselves, but instead ballooned deficits and debt and contributed to a rise in income inequality.”
The month that Bush left office — January 2009 — saw the worst job loss in America in 34 years, as employers slashed 598,000 positions and the unemployment rose to 7.6 percent. Conversely, President Obama let the Bush tax cuts expire, and left office with the unemployment rate at a nine-year low of 4.6 percent.
Republicans have had a hard time explaining why people should believe trickle-down economics will work this time when it didn’t under Bush. During a news conference earlier this month, a reporter asked House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) to explain why Americans should believe that the drastic cut in corporate taxes they’re pushing would translate into new jobs and raises that would benefit them.
Neither could provide a satisfying answer. Ryan deferred to Brady, who touted how Americans will be able to file their taxes on smaller pieces of paper — something Scalise also did during his CNN interview on Wednesday.
Brady concluded his response by asking Americans to trust him.
“I predict under this tax reform plan America will vault from 31st in the world among our competitors to the top three as the best places on the planet for that next new job,” he said. But prominent economics disagree.