WaPo's Ezra Klein Pulls Out Tired 'Bush Tax Cuts Cost Us Trillions' Graph

August 30th, 2012 8:35 AM

Ezra Klein, the "former" head of the Journolist news coordination conspiracy (given the evidence of coordination seen during the Republican convention, it's hard to believe it hasn't continued in some form), rolled out a graphic yesterday at the Washington Post which he touted as "the one graph you need to see before watching" the Republican convention.

To show would be to give it more attention than it deserves. Its core contention, delivered via the lefty-driven Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, is that "Tax Cuts, Wars Account For Nearly Half of Public Debt by 2019." They could have changed the title to "we're going to blame Bush for eight more years." Some of Klein's clanking follows the jump; I'll deal with the "Blame Bush's tax cuts" mantra after that (the "wars" claim has been addressed several times before, and is just as dumb):

... the Republicans will end up blaming Obama for the policies they pushed in the Bush years, and the recession that began on a Republican president’s watch, and a continuation of tax cuts that they supported. They’ll have to. Because if they took all that off the debt clock, there wouldn’t be much debt there to blame him for at all.

... There is no single policy we have passed that has added as much to the debt, or that is projected to add as much to the debt in the future, as the Bush tax cuts, which Republicans passed in 2001 and 2003 and Obama and the Republicans extended in 2010. To my knowledge, all elected Republicans want to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Democrats, by and large, want to end them for income over $250,000.

To be clear, Klein is referring to every dime of "the Bush tax cuts," which at this point really means "the federal income tax system we've had in place for nine years," from the highest to lowest taxable incomes. Solely based on eyeballing the graph (it really isn't worth digging further), the CBPP claims that the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 are responsible for about 20%, or over $2.2 trillion, of the current $11.2 trillion of "debt held by the public."

What the CBPP won't address is how tax collections managed to go up so quickly after 2003 tax cuts, which were the ones which affected marginal income-tax rates and investment decisions, leaped after they were passed:

- Fiscal 2003 -- $1.782 trillion
- Fiscal 2004 -- $2.880 trillion
- Fiscal 2005 -- $2.154 trillion
- Fiscal 2006 -- $2.407 trillion
- Fiscal 2007 -- $2.568 trillion (four-year increase of 44%)

To believe the CBPP, you have to believe that collections would have been higher in every year presented by the amount people would have willingly paid in extra taxes without changing their spending or economic behavior in any way -- which is obviously sheer fantasy.

This year's collections are on track to come in at about $2.4 trillion. That's because economic activity is still low thanks to Obama administration policy decisions and moves which haven't led to a legitimate recovery. That's not Bush's fault.

What isn't fantasy is the the budget deficit in fiscal 2007, driven by the final budget passed by a Republican Congress, was $163 billion -- within striking distance of balancing. After that, a Democratic Congress took over and the chickens of the CRA-, Freddie Mac- and Fannie Mae-driven housing bubble came home to roost. That was followed by Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid ramping up annual federal spending from about $2.9 trillion to $3.6 trillion, and then claiming that the higher level should be the new baseline from which any cuts proposed (except to the military) are heartless, cruel and unacceptable.

The graph in question and Klein's commentary are useless, agenda-driven, incoherent wastes of readers' time.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.