Sen. Mitch McConnell: "When did [tax cuts] all of a sudden become something that we, quote, 'pay for?'"
The news out of D.C. today is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is going to announce a
compromise on the payroll tax cut
. At least that's according to Sen. Kent Conrad, speaking on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday. Meaning that Reid is searching for another way to pay for this tax cut.
The big question for today is "why?" Since when do tax cuts have to be paid for in order to get GOP support? Let's take a trip back in time to the expiring Bush tax cuts of last year. Here's House Speaker John Boehner on "Meet the Press" in August 2010:
GREGORY: You’re not being responsive to a specific point which is how can you be for cutting the deficit and also cutting taxes as well when they’re not paid for?
BOEHNER: Listen, you can’t raise taxes in the middle of a weak economy. […]
GREGORY: But tax cuts are not paid for is that correct?
BOEHNER: I am not for raising taxes on the American people in a soft economy.
GREGORY: That’s not the question. Are tax cuts paid for or not?
BOEHNER: Listen, what you’re trying to do is get into this Washington game and their funny accounting over there. […]
GREGORY: Do you believe tax cuts pay for themselves or not?
BOEHNER: I do believe that we've got to get more money in the hands of small businesses.
That's quite the dance on Boehner's part, but note the failure to acknowledge that tax cuts need to be paid for.
And then there's Sen. Jon Kyl on "Fox News Sunday" in July 2010.
WALLACE: We’re running out of time, so how are you going to pay $678 billion just on the tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year?
KYL: You should never raise taxes in order to cut taxes. Surely congress has the authority and it would be right, 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.
"You should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans." That. Right there.
And, finally, here's Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, also on "Meet the Press" in August 2010 dismissing the whole idea of tax cuts being paid for.
McConnell repeatedly declined to say how Republicans intend to pay for extensions of Bush-era tax cuts set to expire next year. "You're talking about current tax policy," McConnell said. "When did it all of a sudden become something that we, quote, 'pay for?'"
Unless, of course, you're talking about cutting taxes for middle-class Americans. Don't forget what Grover Norquist told Republican lawmakers last week: "Opposing the extension of the payroll tax cut—which would provide many families an extra $1,000 a year—would not amount to supporting a tax increase."
In other words, it's not a tax increase unless it's hitting the 1 percent, and it doesn't have to be paid for unless it's helping the 99 percent.
So why are Democrats playing along? Yes, the optics of taxing the rich to help the rest of us are good, but offering a compromise to Republicans to pay for tax cuts, when tax cuts have never had to be paid for before, doesn't make sense.
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