Boehner's Deficit Blather

by Jonathan Chait | August 9, 2010

If you're advocating permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts, and you get asked about the impact on the budget, you have a few options. The first is to insist that deficits don't matter. The second is to argue that tax cuts cause revenues to rise. #1 is tricky given that pretty much everybody who favors the Bush tax cuts has spent the last year and a half painting the national debt as a danger likely to destroy the American way of life. #2 is starting to draw intense skepticism from the national press crops. That leaves you with option three -- blather incoherently:

MR. GREGORY: Leader Boehner, he puts it right to you.
REP. BOEHNER:  The only way we're going to get our economy going again and solve our budget problems is to get the economy moving, get more people back to work where they can care for their own families and begin to expand the tax rolls to bring more revenue to the federal government.  And what we have to do is we have to get our arms around the spending spree that's going on in Washington, D.C.
MR. GREGORY:  But Leader Boehner...
REP. BOEHNER:  That's the only way we solve the budget problems.
MR. GREGORY:  ...I'm sorry, you're--that--you're not, you're not being responsive to a specific point, which is how can you be for cutting the deficit and also cutting taxes, as well, when they're not paid for?
REP. BOEHNER:  Listen, you can't raise taxes in the middle of a weak economy without risking the double-dip in this recession.  President Obama's favorite Republican economist, Mark Zandi, came out several weeks ago and made it clear that raising taxes at this point in, in the economy is a very bad idea.
MR. GREGORY:  But do you agree that tax cuts cannot be paid for...
REP. BOEHNER:  You cannot balance the budget without a...
MR. GREGORY:  But tax cuts are not paid for, is that correct?
REP. BOEHNER:  I am not for raising taxes on the American people in a soft economy.
MR. GREGORY:  That's not the question, Leader Boehner.  The question...
REP. BOEHNER:  And the people that the president wants to tax...
MR. GREGORY:  ...is, are tax cuts paid for or not?
REP. BOEHNER:  Listen, what you're trying to do is get into this Washington game and their funny accounting over there.  You cannot get the economy going again by raising taxes on those people who we expect to create jobs in America and to get the economy going again.  If we want to solve the budget problem, we've got to have a healthy economy and we have to get our arms around the runaway spending that's going on in Washington, D.C.
MR. GREGORY:  I just want to clarify this.  I mean, if you--I'm relying on what Chairman Greenspan said.  Maybe--if you're accusing him of funny Washington games.  He says that tax cuts that aren't paid for are not--they are not cutting the deficit, that they are not actually paid for, it's borrowed money.  And so do you believe tax cuts pay for themselves or not?
REP. BOEHNER:  I do believe that we've got to get more money in the hands of small businesses and American families to get our economy going again, and the only way to get that economy going again is to do that and to get our arms around the spending.

The most mind-boggling development of the Obama years is that the Republican party has gained an advantage on the issue of fiscal responsibility. It isn't just that Bill Clinton spent eight years building bulwarks of fiscal restraint and then the GOP spent the next eight years dynamiting them. It's that the Republicans continue to oppose any long-term fiscal restraint. It's true that they opposed the stimulus, which created a temporary bump in the deficit. But they also opposed the Affordable Care Act, which reduces the deficit, while demagoguing Medicare. Now they're proposing another massive tax cut.

I understand why they're getting away with this -- the deficit was projected to explode before Obama took office and now he's left holding the bag. They're the out party and they can be against all the bad stuff without taking any responsibility for the consequences of the alternative. But the full extent of the Republican political triumph on this issue is still, when you think about it, pretty staggering.

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