Continuing to fund extended unemployment benefits will add an estimated $35 billion to the federal debt over the next 10 years, an expense that Republicans in Congress insist must be “offset” by spending cuts elsewhere.
Continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for taxpayers who make more than $250,000 a year will add an estimated $678 billion to the debt over the next 10 years — almost 20 times as much as the jobless benefits — yet Republicans insist that no offset be required.
“You do need to offset the cost of increased spending,” U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona told Chris Wallace Sunday. “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.”
That’s both very telling and very worrisome. It confirms that for many Republicans, it’s not really about the debt or the deficit and never has been. They didn’t take the deficit seriously when they held every branch of government, and despite their rhetoric, they still don’t. As Greece, Great Britain and other countries have demonstrated, any longterm effort to address a national financial challenge will require BOTH spending cuts and tax increases.
Politically, you can’t produce the votes for one approach without also embracing the other. Morally, the pain has to be spread across the economic spectrum rather than concentrated on those least able to bear it, as the GOP would prefer. And mathematically, you simply can’t attain the numbers necessary unless you attack the problem from both the spending AND revenue sides. It is impossible.
Remember, Ronald Reagan signed at least three major tax increases into law as president, and one of his first acts upon becoming governor of California was to sign a huge increase in state taxes. But with its pathological aversion to taxes, the party that claims Reagan as its intellectual hero has backed itself — and thus the country — into a terrible financial corner on this issue. It’s going to get even worse when the Republicans gain seats in both the House and the Senate this fall, making their cooperation even more essential, and even more impossible.
In fact, I’ll suggest that this is the issue that’s going to get Barack Obama re-elected president in 2012. He will be seen as willing and able to compromise on an issue that voters take seriously; the Republicans — caught in a trap of their own making — will not be able to respond.
Wait and see.