Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Which DFH Wrote This?

The answer to the question posed by the header is Bruce Bartlett, who was a Treasury Department economist during the George H.W. Bush administration. His op-ed piece published in today's Los Angeles Times was a bit of a stunner. He actually took Republicans to the woodshed for their blatantly political maneuverings with respect to the tax cuts enacted in 2001.

It is an article of faith among Republicans that tax cuts are the cure for every problem the economy faces, and that tax increases are the equivalent of economic poison. Any hint by Democrats that the current administration's tax cuts should be revisited in light of changing economic or fiscal conditions is met with charges that they are proposing the largest tax increase in history.

The truth is that President Bush's tax cuts didn't do much good for the economy; they were mostly giveaways to GOP political constituencies and were little different conceptually from pork-barrel spending. Although there were some good elements to the tax cuts, such as the reduction in marginal tax rates, they were fatally undermined by their temporary nature.
[Emphasis added.]

While I'm not as certain as Mr. Bartlett that the fatal flaw of those tax cuts was that they weren't permanent, I certainly agree that they were little more than giveaways to the wealthier friends of the Republican party. What is so nice about this column, however, is the frank analysis of the GOP's cynical move to further the 2000 Year Reich:

The fact is that the massive tax increase Republicans claim the Democrats are proposing is entirely the result of the GOP's penny-wise and pound-foolish policies. Rather than expend the effort to make their tax cuts permanent in the first place, they attached expiration dates to every major provision. Most will expire automatically at the end of 2010. The alleged tax increase that would result is simply a consequence of the tax system returning to what it was before 2001, when the first tax cuts were implemented. ...

But this isn't even the worst of the Republican dishonesty. That goes to projections from the Congressional Budget Office showing a sharp reduction in budget deficits after 2010. But these lower deficits result largely from the expiration of the tax cuts and the higher revenues that would result. Thus, Republicans are trying to have their cake and eat it too. They get to blame Democrats for advocating higher taxes while implicitly using those higher taxes to make future deficits smaller. ...

There is little doubt that the economy would have been stronger with permanent tax cuts. But that would have meant fewer tax cuts and thus fewer opportunities to buy votes. It also would have forced Republicans to deal with the true budgetary consequences of their actions.

Well, those of us who don't exactly fall into the super-rich category of tax payers are already dealing with "the true budgetary consequences" of the GOP's creative gaming of the system, and at this point it looks like the next president and the next generation of Americans will also be dealing with them.

And not in a good way.

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