Putting Cantor’s talking points to the test

If the Treasury collected a nickel every time a Republican said the federal government doesn’t have a revenue problem, the claim might actually be true. Alas, the bogus GOP talking point is simply at odds with reality.

But after hearing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) repeat the mistake, the Boston Globe‘s Scot Lehigh decided to ask Cantor to defend the argument. (thanks to reader R.L. for the tip)

To his credit, Lehigh was thorough in his inquiry, and provided the Majority Leader’s office with detailed analyses, documenting reality, including studies from the nonpartisan Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative, the highly respected Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and even materials from the conservative Heritage Foundation. All of the evidence pointed to the same facts: if there’s a fiscal mess, the nation’s revenue problem has a lot to do with it.

Lehigh didn’t hear back from Cantor directly, but he talked to the Majority Leader’s chief spokesperson, who produced an American Enterprise Institute analysis that purportedly offered evidence that Cantor is correct.

The Majority Leader’s office apparently didn’t read it.

If only [Cantor] had focused on Table 6, where the authors note that in deficit packages they “and the literature” — that is, other evaluators — judged successful, an average of 80 percent of the deficit reduction had come through spending cuts, while 20 percent had resulted from new revenues.

Or that he’d taken seriously the deficit-reduction plan proposed by the three AEI authors themselves. They call for accomplishing 85 percent of the deficit reduction on the spending side, but doing 15 percent on the revenue side. How? Through a 2.5 percent payroll tax on all earned income.

That’s right: The principal document Cantor’s office produced to backstop his cuts-only approach actually calls for more revenues.

So, let me get this straight. In March, House Republicans said 15% of the ideal debt-reduction agreement should come from new revenue. In July, the House Republicans’ leader embraced a think tank report calling for a deal with 20% new revenue.

And yet, when it comes to negotiating a deal to avoid a disaster of their own making, these same House Republicans insist on an agreement featuring exactly zero new revenue.

Can’t anybody here play this game? If Eric Cantor can’t defend his policy position, he should simply say so. Why provide evidence that makes the Democratic approach look better and the Republican approach look more ridiculous?