True Colors

In my meditation on Jon Chait’s fine evisceration of the Paul Ryan Legend yesterday, I noted that for all the endless talk about Ryan being a Very Serious debt-fighter willing to make “touch choices,” deficit reduction has always been a third-order priority for him, far less important than high-end tax cuts and spending reductions as an end in themselves (aimed at the gross immorality of aiding the unsuccessful). In this respect he’s very representative of his fellow House Republicans, as evidenced by their lack of interest in identifying “offsets” for the trillions it will cost to extend the Bush tax cuts. Here’s the latest on that issue from The Hill’s Russell Berman and Bernie Becker:

House Republicans say they have no plans to pay for the extension of the Bush-era tax rates, a move that could erase the deficit reduction they have achieved since winning their majority in the chamber in 2010.

The income and investment tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 are set to expire at the end of the year and are at the center of a thicket of fiscal decisions that Congress must make in the next several months….

The political problem for Republicans comes from the system used by congressional score-keepers, which projects that extending the 2001 and 2003 cuts and other income tax provisions included in the 2010 tax deal would cost roughly $2.4 trillion over a decade. Republicans lawmakers have long expressed frustration with that system and want the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation to score tax proposals more dynamically — that is, more fully take into account economic growth.

Yes, Republican lawmakers have long express frustration with arithmetic. So they’ll ignore it, knowing full well that if and well deficits swell, they’ll just blame it on “runaway spending,” and/or on Democratic governance that has frightened job-creators into hoarding their tax cuts or sending them overseas instead of investing them in the U.S.

It’s a nice, closed system that is intended precisely to avoid “tough choices.” The problem, though, is that nearly all of them have voted for Ryan’s budget, which may be intentionally vague when it comes to the “tax reform” initiatives that will supposedly offset still lower rates on high earners and businesses, but is pretty specific in hammering programs affecting the poor and elderly.

In any event, by asserting once again that tax cuts are eternally a free lunch, House Republicans shown their true colors, and their ultimate loyalties.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.