The Republican Party, Tim Pawlenty often lectures, "should be the party of Sam's Club, not just the country club." If so, the GOP White House hopeful miserably failed his own Sam's Club test this week. Unveiling his economic plan draining $7.8 trillion from the U.S. Treasury in order to give millionaires a 41% tax cut, Tim Pawlenty made George W. Bush look like Karl Marx.
To be sure, the "Better Plan" from the man who calls himself "T-Paw" was greeted with sidesplitting laughter. His claim to that he could achieve to 5% economic growth over ten straight years - a feat never performed in modern American history, was righty mocked across the political spectrum as "fantasy", "magical", "wishful thinking" and "fuzzy math." His demand for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget and capping federal spending at 18% of GDP would have made lawbreakers out of Ronald Reagan as well as the 235 House Republicans and 40 GOP Senators who just voted for the Ryan budget plan. Perhaps most comical is Pawlenty's insistence that "If you can find a good or service on the internet, then the federal government probably doesn't need to be doing it."
But the most jaw-dropping aspect of Tim Pawlenty's economic hallucination is the unprecedented upward income redistribution it would produce.
Reviewing an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, Bloomberg explained that "the top 0.1 percent of U.S. taxpayers would save an average of $1.4 million in taxes under the economic plan of Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty," while "almost half of the benefits would flow to taxpayers in the top 1 percent of income distribution, or those earning more than $593,011 in 2013." As Citizens for Tax Justice concluded, the 400 richest Americans - whose incomes doubled and tax rates were halved over the past decade - would enjoy a 73% reduction in their tax bills. And it turns out, the merely well-off and the fabulously rich would join the unimaginably wealthy in reaping the T-Paw Payday for the gilded class:
Taxpayers with incomes in excess of $1 million would enjoy an average cut in personal income taxes of $288,822, a 41.4 percent cut.
Taxpayers with incomes in excess of $10 million would enjoy an average cut in personal income taxes of $2.4 million, a 46.3 percent cut.
The cost of the personal income tax cuts just for taxpayers with incomes in excess of $1 million would be $141.8 billion.
Pawlenty's windfall for the wealthy would make George Bush and Paul Ryan blush. While the corporate tax rate would be slashed from 35% to 15%, Pawlenty would create two tax brackets of 10% for those earning up to $50,000 and 25% above. (As with the Paul Ryan plan, the loopholes Tim Pawlenty would close remain unnamed.) At a time of when the federal tax burden is at a 60 year low and income inequality at an 80 year high, Pawlenty insists "we should eliminate altogether the capital gains tax, interest income tax, dividends tax, and the death tax." (It is worth noting that less than one-quarter of one percent of U.S. families pay the estate tax, while George W. Bush's last round of capital gains and dividend tax cuts in 2003 delivered 70% of their savings to "top 2 percent of taxpayers, those making more than $200,000.")
All told, Tim Pawlenty's budget-busting blueprint would cost a staggering $7.8 trillion over the next 10 years. In comparison, the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 emptied the Treasury of $2.5 trillion over their first decade, and if made permanent, would drain roughly $4 trillion more. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained, the savings from Paul Ryan's draconian budget cuts (three quarters of which are extracted from the poor and elderly) endorsed by 98% of Republicans on Capitol Hill are almost completely offset by his $4.2 trillion in tax cuts. It's with good reason that ThinkProgress concluded:
Pawlenty's plan wins the triple crown: it's more radical than Ryan, costs three times more than the Bush tax cuts, and still means a tax increase on the middle class.
Unveiling his absolutely fabulous plan for the fabulously rich, the former Governor and friend of Morgan Stanley used his humble roots as cover:
"I come from a working class background. I didn't grow up with wealth. But I've never resented those who have it."
In contrast, President Obama, Pawlenty charged, is "a champion practitioner of class warfare."
And with that, the would-be Sam's Club Republican Tim Pawlenty gave away the game. After all, the side decrying the class war is usually the one winning it.
(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)