Before our economy blew up in 2008 and before George W. Bush invaded Iraq under false pretenses, a guy named Paul O’Neill, who you might remember as Bush’s first Treasury Secretary, was shut down by Vice President Cheney when O’Neill attempted to throw cold water on another round of tax cuts the Bushies were plotting for 2003. According to O’Neill, Cheney brusquely observed that “Reagan taught us deficits don’t matter.” The tax cuts got enacted and O’Neill was shitcanned shortly after his face-to-face with Cheney.
But a funny thing happens any time a Democrat is handed the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Suddenly, those profligate Republicans who gladly starve the government of actual money and borrow it instead, become very concerned about budget deficits and debt. It happened when Bill Clinton was President and came back with even greater force once Barack Obama took office.
Once Republicans took over the House, and continuing when they assumed power in the Senate, any time Obama wanted to do something like extend unemployment insurance to people who were out of work because of the crippling effect of the Great Recession, there was a demand for a so-called “offset” - a dollar for dollar removal of funds from place A to fund priority B. It got so bad that emergency funding for New Jersey and New York after Superstorm Sandy was held up for weeks while Congress quibbled over the small details. That tens of thousands suffered needlessly seemed of no moment. Of course, none of this was required when George W. Bush was spending hundreds of billions in Iraq, Medicare was expanded to provide a prescription drug benefit, or when tax cuts were enacted in 2001 and 2003 that drained the Treasury of needed money just as we were embarking on that grave error of an invasion in the Middle East.
There were few voices louder in demanding austerity and cuts to social programs, while simultaneously cutting taxes even more than Paul Ryan. While his economic view was roundly panned when he was made Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential running mate in 2012, Ryan never gave up the ghost. Now that he has risen to the third-most powerful office in the land, you would think a journalist such as Chuck Todd would devote a significant portion of time when interviewing now-Speaker Ryan about the recently enacted federal budget and a companion bill that cut taxes by nearly $700 billion over ten years. Yes, you read that right, SEVEN HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS - but you would be wrong. Here is their entire exchange:
What does this even MEAN? “by keeping taxes where they are that means we’re keeping them where they are.” Yes, yes you are, sir. “Not raising taxes is not cutting taxes.” WHAT? This is the same guy who helped block a $9.7 billion unemployment extension in 2014 because it did not have offsets and the same guy who voted against the emergency relief bill after Superstorm Sandy, but is totally fine with handing almost $700 billion in tax cuts, mostly to corporations and businesses, without cuts elsewhere to make up the difference. No mention of how this will require more borrowing and increase the deficit over time. No questioning of why it is suddenly okay to increase the deficit when it was supposedly such a huge problem less than five years ago. Nope. Nada. Nothing.
Unsurprisingly, this steaming pile of horse manure got no follow-up from the guy who hosts the top rated Sunday morning talk show in America. The media literally spent months not too long ago obsessing over the need for a “grand bargain” that would rein in the supposedly swollen deficit that risked destroying the nation. Of course, as the budget deficit has receded, less and less time has been spent reporting on it and even less interest in calling out shameless politicians who are happy to stick it to people without jobs or a home so long as the bill being signed has a whiff of bipartisanship and a novelty beard attached to it.
To recap, Chuck Todd asked a whole ONE question about this apparent hypocrisy, Paul Ryan gave a word salad answer that literally made no sense, and Chuck Todd moved on. So, the next time Republicans refuse to pay for something or claim we cannot afford it, do not expect Chuck Todd, or anyone else in the Beltway media to question it.
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