Why pay for the tax break?

As the debate over extending the payroll tax break shifts on Capitol Hill, reader F.B. flags an amusing moment from MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier today.

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Host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican member of Congress, noted that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he would block the extension of the tax break unless it’s fully paid for. And that’s when the mockery began: “[I]f Mitch McConnell is saying that, and it looks like he is saying that, he would appear to be the first Republican in the history of Washington D.C. to say they don’t want a tax cut unless it is ‘paid for,’ because we Republicans generally believe that tax cuts pay for themselves. The economy grows; daisies bloom in the backyard; male-pattern baldness is reversed.”

For the record, if tax cuts cured baldness, I would have to reevaluate my commitment to my political/policy beliefs.

As for the substantive point, Scarborough’s sarcasm is more than fair. Republicans never met a tax they didn’t want to cut — until now, that is — and have argued repeatedly that even trying to pay for tax cuts is a mistake. And yet, now GOP officials have not only argued against a tax break for American workers, Republicans have even given up the “tax fairy” belief about cuts paying for themselves.

It’s almost as if GOP leaders aren’t principled at all, and will oppose Democratic efforts to help the economy just for the sake of doing so.

For the record, at least one Republican yesterday raised the prospect of simply giving up on financing. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) said of extending the payroll cut, “It wasn’t paid for before, so why is it paid for now? Through economic activity, it will pay for itself.”

Brown’s understanding of economics is wrong, but if the GOP decided to simply skip trying to pay for the extension, I suspect Democrats would go along.