From the Left



Will John McCain leap into the breach?

E.J. Dionne Jr. on

Does our country face a big problem with deficits? Is it a mistake to add to them?

House Speaker Paul Ryan certainly thinks so. Or he used to. In 2010, he told Fortune magazine that the nation was "sleep-walking toward a debt crisis," and he foresaw calamity on a grand scale. "Within a few years, a sale of government bonds will fail," he said. "The capital markets will go crazy, and the Fed and Treasury will run to Capitol Hill demanding a giant bailout." Wow.

He offered much the same view in 2011. "We face a crushing burden of debt, which will take down our economy," Ryan predicted. "It will lower our living standards."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also once seemed to think it ill-advised to enact a whopping corporate tax cut when the deficit is such an enormous challenge. He said so as recently as last December.

"I think this level of national debt is dangerous and unacceptable," McConnell argued. "My preference on tax reform is that it be revenue neutral."

Yes, McConnell really said "revenue neutral," which usually means offsetting tax cuts with tax hikes elsewhere. He now says that miraculous economic growth will take care of everything.


One other thing McConnell used to believe: that it's a bad idea to advance far-reaching initiatives on a partisan basis. In March 2009, the Republican leader said he had hoped that the newly installed President Obama "would govern more to the middle." He assailed Democrats for instead intending to do as much as they could "on a strictly partisan basis."

"The danger of that, politically, is they end up owning the whole thing," McConnell said, warning of "blowback."

This week or next, McConnell will be pressuring Republicans in the Senate to pass a sweeping, 515-page tax bill on, well, a strictly partisan basis. The radical bill would shift taxes away from corporations and the rich to regular folks and would increase the deficit by at least $1.4 trillion.

When it comes to the middle class, by the way, this proposal doesn't even deserve to be called a tax cut. According to the Tax Policy Center, it would leave about half of taxpayers paying more by 2027.


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