Alan Simpson ‘Not Smoking the Same Pipe’ as Anti-Tax Republicans
The two central theories behind the deficit commission created yesterday by President Obama are (1) Congress is too dysfunctional to make these tough choices on its own, and (2) everything must be left on the table as a possible solution to runaway deficit spending. That means that liberals might have to swallow some cuts to popular government programs and conservatives might be forced to accept a tax hike or two.
Don’t hold your breath. Proving that their calls for bipartisanship are bunk, GOP leaders are already lashing out at the possibility that the commission would recommend that someone, somewhere pay higher taxes. “Americans know our problem is not that we tax too little, but that Washington spends too much,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said yesterday in a statement. (That’s the same Mitch McConnell who once called a deficit commission “the best way to address the [budget] crisis,” then voted against the proposal anyway.)
That’s also the message coming from the headliners at CPAC this week. Florida GOP Senate candidate Marco Rubio yesterday told the conservative faithful assembled in Washington that his plan for balancing the budget features an across-the-board tax cut, including an abolition of taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest.
“While we’re at it, let’s eliminate the one on death, too,” he said.
The implication from McConnell, Rubio and a host of others is that they can slash federal revenues and balance the budget by simply taking a hatchet to government programs. They must have forgotten what happened when the White House recently proposed to cut some spending in GOP Sen. Richard Shelby’s Alabama. Or the Republican outcry that accompanied the Democrats’ proposal to cut some payments to the private insurance plans operating under Medicare. Or the inconvenient fact that conservative states have historically received a good deal more federal funding than their residents have paid in federal taxes.
Into this picture, enter Alan Simpson, former GOP senator from Wyoming. Simpson — who, along with University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles, will head Obama’s deficit commission — told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff yesterday that those who think deficits can be controlled solely with spending cuts are, well, dazed and confused. From the transcript:
Woodruff: Some people, mainly Republicans right now, are arguing, what’s really needed are tax cuts, that, even if it raises the deficit in the short term, that this would get government out of the way of business, business could grow, and the deficit will take care of itself.
Simpson: Well, I’m not smoking that same pipe. …
Everything is on the table. But, if we’re just going to use flash words like cutting children’s benefits or cutting veterans or raising taxes, it will be a tougher struggle.
Everything is out there. We [know] how people use emotion, fear, guilt, and racism. I have been through that old stuff with immigration. … I don’t use those. I use facts. And we’re going to do a lot of facts.
Whether facts mean anything in an election year is another question altogether.