Despite his turtle-like appearance and seeming Ambien-induced demeanor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell can tell a gripping tale. And yesterday on the Senate floor, he told some tall ones. Republicans, it turns out, supported unemployment benefits for the victims of the Bush recession all along. And just days after he joined the Republican Tax Cut Fairies by laughably claiming "There's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue," Mitch McConnell blamed Democrats for the flood of red ink that windfall for the wealthy actually produced
Ignoring the claims of his GOP colleagues including Jon Kyl and Judd Gregg (not to mention Rand Paul and Sharron Angle) that jobless benefits are a "disincentive for them to seek new work" which leads those without work "to stay on unemployment" or just "sit there," McConnell insisted:
"Everyone agrees we should help people struggling to get back on their feet and keep food on the table….Republicans support extending benefits to the unemployed…There's no debate in the Senate about whether to pass a bill. Everyone agrees that we should."
Then, in a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black, Senator McConnell blamed President Obama for the mushrooming national debt George W. Bush and his Republican enablers in Congress helped produce:
"If Republicans have done anything wrong in this debate, it was to underestimate how committed Democrats are to spending money we don't have…The President likes to point out that Congress has added to the debt in years past. What he doesn't mention is that we weren’t in the middle of debt crisis then. We weren’t be lectured by the French about the need to cut back on our spending. People weren't rioting in Greece. And we didn't have a President who came into office with a list of legislative priorities that would double the national debt in five years and triple it in ten."
That the national debt tripled under Ronald Reagan and doubled again under George W. Bush long ago gave lie to the myth of Republican fiscal discipline. As it turns out, of course, the Bush tax cuts didn't come anywhere close to paying for themselves. And making them permanent is the very worst thing the so-called deficit hawks could do to reduce the U.S. debt.
As Ezra Klein pointed out, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the 2001 Bush tax cuts "increased the deficit by $539 billion in 2005." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities similarly found that the Bush tax cuts accounted for almost half the deficits during his tenure.
If the Bush tax cuts are made permanent beginning next year, as Mitch McConnell and his Republican Party demand, the fiscal devastation will be multiplied. A budget calculator from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget put the price tag at $3.28 trillion between 2011 and 2018. And as another recent CBPP analysis revealed, over the next 10 years, the Bush tax cuts if made permanent will contribute more to the U.S. budget deficit than the Obama stimulus, the TARP program, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and revenue lost to the recession - combined.
Mitch McConnell's grandstanding notwithstanding, the GOP was never serious about extending the unemployment benefits for suffering Americans. After all, they could have paid for it by simply reinstating the estate tax for multi-millionaires the GOP let expire for this year. Regardless, given the current economic crisis, John McCain's 2008 economic adviser Mark Zandi repeatedly insisted not only that unemployment benefits provide "the biggest bang for the buck," but that "it would be counterproductive to try and offset it this year or the next."
As for Mitch McConnell and the new Republican alchemists who believe tax cuts magically turn the government's revenue losses into gains, the chairman of George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers Gregory Mankiw was incredulous. "I did not find such a claim credible, based on the available evidence. I never have, and I still don't." Those making it, he insisted, are "charlatans and cranks."
Now, McConnell's Republican tax cut fallacy is being accompanied by a new GOP talking point. The looming expiration of the Bush tax cuts which the GOP voted for and Dubya signed is a "Democratic tax hike."