Over the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency, GOP lawmakers and some Democrats turned a budget surplus into the $1.2 trillion deficit hot potato handed off to President Obama. Suddenly, having gotten fiscal religion, GOP lawmakers and some Democrats speak piously of sparing their grandchildren from crushing federal debt.
What we have here is the Potomac variant of the “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” virus: “Hypocrite, hypocrite, pants are lit!” Let’s look at some of the carriers and their symptoms.
Deficit hypocrite No. 1 is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who earned the top spot by introducing the Tax Hike Prevention Act. The co-leader is Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who joined McConnell in sponsoring the Act. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that legislation similar to the McConnell-Grassley bill would balloon the deficit by $3.9 trillion and raise the Treasury’s interest costs by $950 billion over the next decade.
Nos. 3-46 include Rep. John Adler (D-New Jersey) and 43 fellow Democrats who reportedly co-signed Adler’s letter urging House Speaker Pelosi to extend Bush’s tax cuts for the rich – not only the marginal rate cut, but the cuts on dividends and capital gains, too. Keeping just the marginal rate cut for those making $250,000 or more carries a 10-year cost of $700 billion. Adding the capital gains and dividend cuts would push the cost into the trillions, flowing overwhelmingly to the top brackets. (At 15 percent, the rate on dividends and long-term gains is roughly half the levy paid by middle-class Americans on their wages.)
No. 47 is the masquerading moderate from Maine, Senator Olympia Snowe (R). Reprising her famous role in the healthcare drama, Senator Snowe has hinted that she might join Democrats in supporting only a temporary extension of the tax cut for the well-off. Then again, she might not.
Nos. 48-53 are the six Republican members of Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a.k.a. the national debt commission. The commission’s job is to address America’s fiscal challenges, of which we seem to have quite a few. According to reports, the GOP members of the panel oppose tax increases, oppose eliminating loopholes, oppose eliminating tax breaks of any kind and want more cuts in corporate and capital gains taxes. It’s deja vu all over again, and proves there’s no escape from The Party of No.
That’s 53 deficit hypocrites and counting.
We need to add the 35 Republican Senate colleagues of McConnell, Grassley, Snowe and the GOP senators on the national debt commission. Republicans on taxes are bound by a code stronger than omerta. Minority Leader McConnell will be calling the tune, and we’ve already heard the song he’s singing. (In deference to will-she-or-won’t-she Snowe, make that 34.5 instead of 35).
Likewise, we need to add 174 Republicans in the House – the full GOP complement, minus three naysayers we’ve already counted on the national debt commission. Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Virginia) will deliver all 177 when the time comes, no matter his admission that extending the Bush tax cuts will certainly “dig the hole deeper.”
Finally, add Democratic Senators Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Kent Conrad and Evan Bayh. All oppose ending the Bush tax cuts for anybody.
Our new number is 265.5. The House and the Senate together have 535 seats, so we’re ready to make one last calculation.
On the issue of deficits, the Congress of the United States of America is 49.6 percent hypocritical. If that sounds low, you can be sure the number will break through to a solid majority on November 2.