When Paul Ryan and Joe Biden take the stage for their debate, you're going to hear Paul Ryan be very serious and scolding about the national debt and the deficit. He will say with a great deal of unwarranted certitude that the Obama Administration has doubled the deficit while doing nothing about the debt. He will say that tax cuts are the only pathway to this nation's prosperity. He will say all of these things with an earnest look on his face as he speaks to the larger debate audience.
He will also be lying. Since we can't count on our pundits to actually pay attention to content, let's try rebutting Paul Ryan's claims in advance.
The chart at the top of this post was prepared by the Center for Budget Policy and Planning. It clearly shows that the primary contributor to the national debt we see today is the Bush tax cuts. And not just the tax cuts for the wealthy, but for everyone.
Paul Ryan will rebut this by saying that tax cuts do not have to be paid for, because they don't add to the deficit. Once again, Mr. Ryan will be wrong. Look at the numbers. They don't lie. Tax cuts and the wars alone account for nearly half of the total debt by 2019. What will that look like in numbers? $9 TRILLION dollars. For tax cuts and wars. Nine Trillion.
In the CBPP report, it's clear that any promises of tax cuts as a "pathway to prosperity" are simply bogus:
The deficit for fiscal year 2009 — which began more than three months before President Obama’s inauguration — was $1.4 trillion and, at 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the largest deficit relative to the economy since the end of World War II. At $1.3 trillion and nearly 9 percent of GDP, the deficits in 2010 and 2011 were only slightly lower. If current policies remain in place, deficits will likely exceed $1 trillion in 2012 and 2013 before subsiding slightly, and never fall below $700 billion for the remainder of this decade.
The events and policies that pushed deficits to these high levels in the near term were, for the most part, not of President Obama’s making. If not for the Bush tax cuts, the deficit-financed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the effects of the worst recession since the Great Depression (including the cost of policymakers’ actions to combat it), we would not be facing these huge deficits in the near term. By themselves, in fact, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will account for almost half of the $18 trillion in debt that, under current policies, the nation will owe by 2019. The stimulus measures and financial rescues will account for less than 10 percent of the debt at that time.
On the deficit, Mr. Ryan will make the claim that it has doubled over the past four years. Looking at some, but not all, of the components of the deficit, we see that over 50% of them can be attributed to the cost of the wars and once again, the Bush tax cuts.
The CBPP also concludes that letting the tax cuts expire at the end of 2012 would be a start toward reducing that deficit and the national debt, but they also point out that it would be better to simply reform the tax code to be simpler and fairer.
As one who works with the current tax code on a daily basis, I could not agree with them more. However, I don't trust this Congress or any Republican-controlled Congress to actually tackle that job in good faith.
But Paul Ryan will tell you that he will indeed tackle that job in good faith, that he is the only one with the credibility to do so and that he will faithfully execute that position on behalf of his party and the people. The CBPP has something to say about that, too:
Recent proposals from Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), Governor Mitt Romney, and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) illustrate the dangers. Their proposals would cut tax rates far below current levels — extending all of the Bush tax cuts and adding large new tax rate cuts on top — while supposedly offsetting some or all of the cost through unspecified cuts in tax expenditures. Various tax experts have concluded that policymakers would find it virtually impossible to enact enough tax expenditure cuts to come anywhere near offsetting the cost of the proposed big tax rate cuts of these plans.
So when you hear the old Ryan-Romney talking points during the debate, be sure to remind anyone you're watching it with that their native language is lies.
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