I guess there are never any real surprises when it comes to Republicans and tax policy, but still, it’s amazing how quickly Republicans seem to be re-forgetting the passion for fiscal hawkery they started proclaiming the moment they lost control of the White House. As 2016 presidential candidates begin to trot out their “tax reform” proposals, the one thing that is clear is that, to quote Dick Cheney from the last decade, “deficits don’t matter” again.
The dynamics are pretty simple. After the 2012 fiasco, Republicans have to do something to show they care about low-to-moderate income people, and the one way to do that without violating conservative ideology is to cut their taxes through some targeted way that rewards work or having children. In theory that could be paid for by cutting tax loopholes benefiting the wealthy or corporations. But it’s sacred dogma that such exercises should only be undertaken if it’s in conjunction with lowering income tax rates and/or removing investment income from the IRS’s purview altogether. There’s also the problem that most Republicans want to boost defense spending. But in any event, in a situation where something’s got to give, what gives is the GOP’s recently acquired green eyeshades. And it’s going to get worse quickly, as Bloomberg Politics‘ Richard Rubin foresees:
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida kicked off the competition with his plan to boost economic growth by slashing taxes on investments, wages and business income. Even the plan’s proponents concede it would reduce tax collections by at least $1.7 trillion in the first decade, largely favoring the top 1 percent of Americans over the middle class.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky says he will propose the biggest tax cut in U.S. history. Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, both considering repeat presidential campaigns, ran on reducing taxes four years ago and would be expected to do so again.
And everybody knows Jeb Bush has to protect his flanks on taxes thanks to the old man’s “read my lips” disaster. And surely Bobby Jindal won’t let anybody exceed him in fiscal irresponsibility, given the mess he’s made in Baton Rouge. And so on and so forth.
So maybe it’s good for the country to have John Kasich roaming around the campaign trail agitating for that great chestnut, the Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment. It likely won’t ever happen, and if it did it would be a swiss-cheese version. But somebody’s got to instill some accountability, if not shame, in this field.