Monday, May 15, 2006

Wishful Thinking As Public Policy

"Nobody serious believes that tax cuts pay for themselves," says Sebastian Mallaby in WaPo.

Except, unfortunately, the Republican leadership of our country.

Bush: "by cutting the taxes on the American people, this economy is strong, and the overall tax revenues have hit at record levels....You cut taxes and the tax revenues increase."

Cheney: "tax cuts have translated into higher federal revenues."

Frist: "Many people in Washington have long known a dirty little secret about tax-cut measures: When done right, they actually result in more money for the government."

Chuck Grassley: "There is a mindset in both branches of government that if you reduce taxes you have a net loss, if you increase taxes you have a net gain, and history does not show that relationship."

Santorum: "We've put these tax provisions in place and they've raised money."

After a brief summary of how the nation's leading economists have repeatedly shot this nonsense full of holes, Mallably concludes:

The Republicans' only argument is that tax receipts have boomed in the years since the 2003 tax cut. But the question is whether tax receipts increased because the tax cuts worked some kind of magic or because the economy was headed up anyway after the recession, thanks maybe to low interest rates resulting from the Asian savings glut. Friends, the reason we have economists is so that they can solve these puzzles for us. Ignoring their solutions is like ignoring the judgment of medical science in favor of faith healers and quacks.

Politicians are always speechifying about how the United States must lead the world in research to maintain its edge. But having the world's best economics research isn't particularly helpful if those same politicians are silly enough to tune it out. The truth is that American business excels at turning university research into world-beating products; the paranoia on this score is overdone. But American government is often lousy at turning research into policies. That's what we should fret about.

It sure would be nice if the "bizarro world" the GOP is running - where eliminating a revenue stream actually increases revenue - actually existed. That way, the entire nation could go on a diet and still enjoy the rich, creamery goodness of hot fudge sundaes daily. Alas, here in reality, we expect responsible adherence to logic from our statesmen and policy makers.

I've been loath to admit that these leaders have lied to us citizens regarding pre-war intelligence; lie is such a smelly word, and seems to provoke debate-obscuring emotions regarding what is and isn't a lie. But what Bush et al espouse in the beginning of this post is unconscionable fabrication. In the face of glaring deficits, not to mention overwhelming expert evidence contradicting their claims, how can anyone in good faith NOT call these insupportable contentions the LIES that they are?


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