Jon Kyl doubles down

JON KYL DOUBLES DOWN…. Over the weekend, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) was asked on Fox News how he’d pay for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, at a cost of $678 billion. After initially dodging the question, Kyl said what he really believed: “You do need to offset the cost of increased spending, and that’s what Republicans object to. But you should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans.”

It was a classic concession. For all the talk about how desperate Republicans are to lower the deficit, Kyl stated what is clearly true: the GOP doesn’t even want to try to pay for tax cuts. This, of course, from the party that won’t even allow a vote on extended unemployment benefits because of alleged deficit concerns — and from the party that made the deficit so high in the first place.

Brian Beutler caught up with Kyl yesterday to explore this in more detail.

[Kyl] claimed candidly that the very existence of unemployment insurance is a “necessary evil,” while tax cuts ought not be paid for by increases in order to make it easier to shrink the size of government.

“My view, and I think most of the people in my party don’t believe that you should ever have to offset a tax cut,” said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl. “That clearly reduced savings is a better way to offset increased spending than a tax increase is.”

The rationale, Kyl said, goes back to the ultimate conservative goal of shrinking the size of government. If tax cuts are offset by tax increases in other area, then the government can only grow.

When reminded of overwhelming evidence that unemployment benefits are a very effective stimulus, Kyl said he didn’t care about the economic studies. Aid for the jobless, he said, is “a necessary evil” that’s “a bad thing for the economy” when the costs are added to the deficit.

There are a few angles to consider here. The first is that anyone who thinks $30 billion added to the deficit is “a bad thing for the economy,” but $678 billion in tax cuts added to the deficit is fine, shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Second, Kyl’s argument is effectively a philosophical one — government is bad, tax cuts shrink government, ergo tax cuts must be good under any and all circumstances. There’s no intellectual integrity to any of this, but it’s nevertheless the driving force behind the Republican approach to governing.

Third, unemployment benefits aren’t a “necessary evil.” As Annie Lowrey explained, “Unemployment insurance … is a federal insurance program, which helps guarantee that working Americans maintain a decent quality of life for themselves and their families during spells of joblessness. Virtually all Republicans support having an unemployment insurance system.” Well, at least they used to.

Finally, I think there’s an easy way to consider the bigger picture here. The question for policymakers from both parties is almost always the same: can we afford it? Kyl sees $30 billion in benefits for the unemployed and says, “No, we can’t afford it.” He sees $678 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy and says, “Yes, we can afford it.”

It’s roughly the equivalent of a family going into Costco, and a parent insisting that they don’t have the money for produce, but they do have the money for the giant, flat-screen television.

Kyl not only thinks this makes perfect sense, he expects voters to reward his political party for thinking this way. And if the polls are any indication, Kyl may very well be right.