Like the changing of the seasons, the front of Wednesday’s New York Times featured journalists suddenly rediscovering the national deficit, at least when Republicans are threatening to cut tax rates: “G.O.P. Senators Embrace Plan For Tax Cut That Adds to Deficit.” The jump headline: “G.O.P. Embraces Plan for a $1.5 Trillion Tax Cut.” Yet Sanders' budget-busting "Medicare for All" proposal didn't trigger the Times' delicate deficit sensibiliites.
Such sudden concern for deficits among journalists is reserved during Republican presidencies or whenever congressional Republicans threaten tax cuts.
Reporters Alan Rappeport and Thomas Kaplan led off by insinuating Republican hypocrisy:
Senate Republicans, abandoning a key fiscal doctrine, agreed on Tuesday to move forward on a budget that would add to the federal deficit in order to pave the way for a $1.5 trillion tax cut over the next 10 years.
The reporters selectively employed Republican rhetoric against the party (after ignoring the issue of the deficit during the Obama years). (Rappeport in July tweeted this heads-up to another of his similarly slanted articles: “Cutting taxes for the rich and aid for the poor is proving to be a politically toxic combo”):
The Republican lawmakers, under mounting pressure to score a legislative win on taxes, say a tax cut of this magnitude will stimulate economic growth enough to offset any deficit impact.
Yet critics say a deficit-financed tax cut is at odds with longstanding Republican calls for fiscal discipline, including that tax cuts not add to the ballooning federal deficit. The federal debt topped $20 trillion earlier this month and is projected to grow by another $10 trillion over the next decade.
The Times certainly wasn’t triggered last week when Sen. Bernie Sanders re-heated his single-payer government-run “Medicare for All” plan, which could explode the national debt to the tune of $32 trillion more over 10 years, according to a preliminary study from the left-leaning Urban Institute. Even Sanders’ sour promise of higher taxes on “the wealthy” would still leave a massive hole in the federal budget.
But the Times has yet to even mention the words “deficit” or “debt” in its recent batch of stories on the plan, after Sanders reintroduced it last week. Clearly the NYT’s concern over the deficit is selective depending on whether it’s a Democrat or Republican who threatens to blow a hole in the budget.
The Times found sudden respect for a moderate Republican:
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who considers himself a strict deficit hawk, said he remains deeply concerned about enacting tax cuts that add to the deficit. But he suggested that Republicans may not solely rely on traditional estimates of a bill’s costs. Republicans have recently voiced concern that some estimates, including those from the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office, undervalue the effect of economic growth.
In announcing the agreement, Mr. Corker insisted that he was not casting away his concern about the debt.
Even with Tuesday’s deal, there is still a tough road ahead. The full Senate would need to vote on the budget and it would then need to align with the House version, which was voted out of committee earlier this year.
That may prove a tricky task, since House lawmakers may be more reluctant to enact tax cuts that would add to the deficit.
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Financing tax cuts through deficit spending essentially means the government will borrow money to pay for tax reductions, rather than finding spending cuts to make up for the lost revenue.
Such a move would add to an already-hefty debt load that is only expected to grow as an aging population drives additional spending on retirement and health programs. The C.B.O. estimates that within 10 years, the federal debt will rise to its highest percentage of gross domestic product since just after World War II.
Republican lawmakers, who for years have complained about the country’s deteriorating fiscal situation, are now turning to arcane budget arguments and making the case that tax cuts will unleash enough economic growth to compensate for lost revenue.
Whether a big tax cut can stimulate an economy already saddled with debt is at best uncertain and many experts think it will actually stifle growth.
Anti-deficit groups say they plan to remind Republicans who railed against deficits during the Obama administration of their past criticisms.
And they will do so with the eager help of the Times – at least until another big-spending Democrat comes along, when the issue will conveniently vanish again:
Wary of any tax legislation that benefits the rich, Democrats have taken a firm stance against Republican policies that would add to the deficit and said they will not support a bill that does not pay for itself.
The reporters managed not to quote a single non-Congress source in support of the tax cuts, but found three to oppose the package.