We have to stop kidding ourselves, Paul Krugman says. No one in Congress really cares about the deficit.
Krugman’s right. As much as our politicians claim to care about the deficit it is really only the other side’s programs they think are too expensive. What self-proclaimed deficit hawks mean when they say, for example, that we can’t extend unemployment insurance because it will increase the deficit is that they don’t think we should continue paying those unemployment benefits anyway.
But it’s hard to believe that they could actually be as concerned with the deficit as they say, when the same supposed deficit hawks are ready to cut a deal to extend unemployment insurance on the condition that we increase the deficit even more by extending the Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000 a year as well. And it’s to hard to believe that they could be so concerned with the deficit, when they’re going add almost $400 billion to it over the next two years—$75 billion to extend the high-income tax cuts, which won’t do much to stimulate the economy—just so that we can all continue to pay the lowest tax rate we’ve had in 80 years.
Cutting taxes is simply not a long-term deficit reduction strategy. If you actually want to cut the deficit, the thing to do is to let taxes go back up to the old rates. But in case there were any doubt the truth is that no one in Congress really cares about reducing the deficit—not if reducing the deficit means using any of our money.