Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 12, 2010

KYL DROPS THE PRETENSE OF SERIOUSNESS.... Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) spoke to Fox News' Chris Wallace yesterday, and spoke with unexpected candor about the foolishness of his fiscal attitudes.

Wallace, to his credit, raised a good point -- the "Republican growth agenda" is predicated on keeping "the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy." Wallace said this would cost $678 billion over 10 years, and asked Kyl how the GOP would pay for them. Kyl dodged the question, and talked about how great those tax cuts were.

So, Wallace asked again how the cuts would be paid for. Kyl responded, "You should never raise taxes in order to cut taxes. Surely Congress has the authority, and it would be right to, if we decide we want to cut taxes to spur the economy, not to have to raise taxes in order to offset those costs. 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."

At that point, the discussion moved on, and there was no follow-up.

To my mind, Kyl's remarks were every bit as ridiculous as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) comparing the financial crisis to "an ant," or Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) apologizing to BP. Kyl's entire defense was sheer nonsense.

Bush's tax cuts, which failed miserably in their stated goal of producing robust economic growth, also failed to keep the balanced budget Clinton left gift-wrapped on Bush's desk. Kyl insists we should keep the failed policy in place, which in and of itself is a reminder of how truly bizarre the Republican approach to the economy really is.

But for all the talk about how desperate Republicans are to lower the deficit, when asked how the GOP would pay for $678 billion in tax cuts, Kyl said what he actually believed: he wouldn't pay for them at all. Spending requires budget offsets, tax cuts don't. Indeed, in Kyl's confused mind, one should "never" even try to pay for tax cuts.

It's quite a message to Americans: Republicans believe $30 billion for unemployment benefits don't even deserve a vote because the money would be added to the deficit, but Republicans also believe that adding the cost of $678 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy to the deficit is just fine.

The lesson couldn't be any more obvious: the GOP's economic agenda is a pathetic charade. Kyl and his cohorts failed with Bush's tax cuts, failed to prevent massive deficits, and failed when given a chance to set things right. That one of the Senate's most powerful Republicans wants to go right back to the policies that didn't work, and put the tab on future generations, is, as Jay Bookman put it, "both very telling and very worrisome."

Steve Benen 10:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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"That one of the Senate's most powerful Republicans wants to go right back to the policies that didn't work..."

Wait... only one?

Posted by: Perspecticus on July 12, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Car. Ditch. No keys.

Posted by: Hmmmmm on July 12, 2010 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Analogies between the federal budget and a household budget focus on spending too much. Lately, some have suggested equating the revenue side with household income. In that case, Kyl is scratching his head saying, "How do I pay for quitting my job? That doesn't even make sense!"

Posted by: Grumpy on July 12, 2010 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

It should be a crime for them to financially destroy us in order to save us ...

Posted by: Dredd on July 12, 2010 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

He is only reflecting the way Republicans think. Tax money comes from the poor, as it then constitutes the transfer of their many meager individual wealths to their much smaller number of pots of aggregated wealth.

The poor are there simply to have whatever they've got--know-how, creativity, and yes, a few paltry dollars -- transferred directly to the pockets of the wealthy few.

How, Kyl wonders, could anyone even question these values?

Posted by: jjm on July 12, 2010 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

The lesson couldn't be any more obvious:

And that is why the party of either bad or no ideas is set to score big this November.

Posted by: qwerty on July 12, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Bush's tax cuts, which failed miserably in their stated goal of producing robust economic growth

Actually the macro economy grew quite robustly through much of the zero years. The stock market did great (anybody else remember predictions of DOW 30,000). The financial sector grew to encompass close to 45% of the GDP.

And that was the problem. All that 'growth' was concentrated in the financial sector. Only the top 5% or so of the population ever saw any of that money.

That vast majority of us watched our real incomes fall, our benefits grow more expensive while covering less, inflation in home costs, food, fuel and education strip away what little money we did make.

Posted by: thorin-1 on July 12, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

I feel so sorry for Steve Benen, who actually seems to think that the obvious insanity of Republican policies well be enough to prevent the GOP from retaking Congress, despite ineptitude and moral cowardice of the Obama Administration and the Blue Dogs. The day after the election in November, I expect a column in which Steve expresses his amazement at the results: "I don't even know anyone who voted for Rand Paul."

Posted by: Alan on July 12, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Steve - Your shock is just sarcasm, right? Because if it isn't, I have to pause to understand why a political player such as yourself would be shocked by Kyl's response. It is so much garden variety dog-bits-man story.

For Republicans it is really quite simple. Government should not be involved, in any way, with the economy, either as a regulator or stimulator. Government's sole role is to secure property rights and privide a common defense. The deficit only matters when it reflects priorities different from that narrow role. Because Democrats believe goverment can have a positive impact, they are tarred with every governmental "failure," gulf disaster or the economy. Republicans not so much, because they never claimed government could do anything, so when it doesn't, the Republicans aren't to blame.

From a logical point of view, Kyl is absolutely true to form, and not in the least hypocritical. I know you know this, so I have to ask. Is the dualing campaign press release the best way to use your talents and the power of this blog. Maybe that is what WM hires you to do, but it seems like rather than professing shock (which I know your not), we should be spending our time figuring out how to make Kyl (along with the rest ofthe Republicans) look like an insufferable ass as well as an unacceptable and risky alternative to the status quo for the independant voter.

Posted by: Scott F. on July 12, 2010 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Just got through listening to the tea bagger groups on public broadcasting, came to the conclusion that they are stupid, one woman wanted social security reformed & no health care bill, turns out she was 67, draws social security and has health care, but she insists she worked all her life and deserves it.Wants the govt to stop spending money - no-one mentioned the wealthy repubs who draw hundred of thousands in farm subsidies like Bachman. Wants the federal government out of education, thinks parents are better educating their kids (wow - we would have some well educated kids in southern states e.g. Miss, Kentucky, South Carolina!!

Posted by: J.Sykes on July 12, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK
turns out she was 67, draws social security and has health care, but she insists she worked all her life and deserves it.Wants the govt to stop spending money

Again, this is how you can tell that supposed concern about "the deficit" really means concern that Other People are getting free stuff they don't deserve. Unlike her, of course, who totally deserves it. That's what she's worried about: the government spending money on people who don't deserve it. It's the core of the tea party nonsense and pretty much the common ground on which all Republicans can agree. And it's the reason why tax cuts don't count towards "the deficit," because they're not conceptually the same as spending money on people who don't deserve it.

The nice thing is that the people who hold these views most strongly are old and getting older, and sheer attrition should improve American politics immensely.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 12, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Kyl's beliefs are a feature, not a bug.

Posted by: Andrew on July 12, 2010 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

If there's a group more possessed of a touching, almost childlike faith in the notion of money that comes from nowhere than the American electorate, I've never heard of it. Perhaps it springs from having been fed a steady diet of American exceptionalism, interspersed with servings of "Great Society" and "World's Last Superpower" that have led to a belief that Americans don't have to obey economic laws that others must.

With that attitude, it's not surprising that attempts to get an explanation for how the government will pay for extravagance like tax cuts are met with baffled annoyance. The electorate wants to move on, and if somebody says they can have tax cuts as well as war, plenty of jobs and no deficit, all these lines on the chart coming together in a small box that's labelled, "balanced budget", that's good enough for them. After all, this is America, where a man's word is still his bond.

Never before have place and time come together so perfectly in a situation whereby the automatic rejoinder to "I don't understand how this will work" is, "Best not to ask too many questions".

Posted by: Mark on July 12, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

I just read an article about the unemployment benefit disaster. According to the AP writer, it's all the Democrats fault. They insist on combining unemployment benefits with pet pork projects forcing the wonderful Republicans to reluctantly vote against the unemployed.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 12, 2010 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

There is no long-term budget deficit. The CBO says the long-term budget is now in a rough balance. So if Senator Kyl or anybody else wants to cut taxes, then he should include specific long-term spending cuts in the same bill, to balance the budget. No more long-term deficits. Tax cuts do not pay for deficits!

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on July 12, 2010 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

"Tax cuts do not pay for deficits!"

Except history has shown that increasing taxes does not increase tax revenues. Cutting taxes, across the board, does increase tax revenue.

It's called the Laffer Curve, and it's evidence goes back all the way to the 1300's.

Posted by: Noah on July 12, 2010 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

@ Noah: Hopefully you're joking or role-playing or something. Because that's just ridiculous.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on July 12, 2010 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Noah? The Laffer Curve is theoretical. And it began in the 1970's based on muslim teachings in the Middle Ages. 'During the Reagan presidency, the top marginal rate of tax in the US fell from 70% to 28%. Whilst revenue continued to increase during his tenure,[11] the US deficit increased as government spending, particularly defence spending related to the Cold War, continued to rise.' David Stockman said that even tho he personally advocated tax cuts he did not ascribe to the Laffer Curve and that it never was intended to be taken literally.

Posted by: SYSPROG on July 12, 2010 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK



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