When Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl recently declared that “you should never have to offset” the cost of a tax cut, he wasn’t quite done embarrassing himself on the subject of tax cuts and the budget deficit.
Yesterday, he offered this timeless piece of helpful clarification:
The second highest ranking Republican in the Senate doubled down on a controversial statement he made this weekend, arguing in greater detail that tax cuts for wealthy people should never be offset by tax increases in other areas — but that unemployment benefits need to be fully paid for by either spending cuts or tax increases. In so doing, he claimed candidly that the very existence of unemployment insurance is a “necessary evil,” while tax cuts ought not be paid for by increases in order to make it easier to shrink the size of government.
“My view, and I think most of the people in my party don’t believe that you should ever have to offset a tax cut,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl told a handful of reporters outside the Senate chamber this afternoon. “That clearly reduced savings is a better way to offset increased spending than a tax increase is.”
The rationale, Kyl said, goes back to the fundamental conservative goal of shrinking the size of government. If tax cuts are offset by tax increases in other areas, then it’s hard to drown government in a bathtub.
First of all, o confused eminent personage of the Republican persuasion, the question wasn’t how to offset increased spending, the question was how to offset reduced tax collections.
Secondly, increased spending gets offset by reduced savings? If the government spends more and saves less, that’s a deficit-neutral plan? This entirely backward “reasoning” explains a hell of a bloody lot, doesn’t it, about why the deficit and the national debt got to where it is?
Thirdly, even if the master plan is to shrink government — in fact, especially if the master plan is to shrink government — the budget effect of a tax cut has to be offset. Kyl doesn’t even seem to realize that the deficit-shrinking tool kit includes spending cuts. Or that, if you want to shrink the government, it’s not enough to cut taxes, you have to bloody well cut spending too. Then, and only then, does the government shrink. And — this will probably come as a very rude shock to the guy, so as an act of Christian charity, we should make sure that Jon Kyl is sitting down when this is broken to him — the spending cut offsets the tax cut, to make it deficit-neutral.
In any reasonable adult universe, if you’re passionate about shrinking government, and you’re asked “How are you going to pay the $678 billion to keep Bush tax cuts for the wealthy?”, you answer: “By cutting spending, of course!”
In the universe that Congressional Republican leaders live in — that’s the one in which, the day you ascend to Republican leadership, they hand you a card which reads: “DRIVE THE CAR INTO THE DITCH! DRIVE THE CAR STRAIGHT INTO THE DITCH! DO NOT PASS GO! DO NOT COLLECT $200!” — you answer: “Why, by doing nothing at all, of course. Because, by golly, we mean to shrink government, we do.”