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Bill Straub: Go figure (if you can) the double-talk that doesn’t want to add to deficit except for ‘tax cuts’

Our old friend, the Wonder Boy, Rep. Thomas Massie, has built a well-earned reputation as a budget hawk, voting, for instance, against a measure sending disaster aid to communities damaged by Hurricane Harvey because it added to the federal deficit.

Massie, R-SomewhereorotherLewisCounty, has called adding to the national debt, which currently rests at $20.5 trillion, “lunacy’’ and that it “must stop.’’

Joining the Whiz Kid on the debt reduction barricades is the bankers’ best friend, Rep. Handy Andy Barr, R-Lexington, who also ultimately opposed Hurricane Harvey relief. Ol’ Andy maintains that the nation is “rapidly approaching a debt crisis’’ and Congress needs to make the “difficult decisions necessary to reduce government spending, balance the budget and ultimately pay down our . . .national debt.”

Thomas Massie

And there’s the new baby on the block, Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, who told the Paducah Sun recently that “the biggest shock I’ve had in my 11 months in Washington is the utter disregard of the national debt by people of both parties.’’ Comer, for the record, made a balancing said budget the centerpiece of his successful congressional campaign.

There they are, ladies and gentlemen, the commonwealth’s storm troopers fighting the budget deficit, rescuing our children and our children’s children from the heartbreak of debt, keeping an eagle eye on that bottom line.

Except . . .(C’mon, you knew it was coming).

Congress, described by Mark Twain as “that grand old, benevolent national asylum for the helpless,” is pondering a tax cut bill – originally thought of as a tax reform bill – that is expected to add, get ready, $1.7 trillion to the deficit over 10 years, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

And despite weeping crocodile tears over the national debt and how unfairly our collective ancestors are going to have to cope with it, the unholy trinity of Massie-Barr-Comer are all in.

That’s right, Handy Andy, Wonder Boy and the New Kid on the Block are enthusiastically in favor of adding $1.7 trillion in red ink after wailing words of woe about the debt.

Now some lawmaker with a conscience might be embarrassed by such sleight of hand. Not the unholy trinity. And, of course, they’re full of phony baloney reasons for essentially asserting: “Budget deficit? There’s a budget deficit? What budget deficit?’’

Comer, the rookie of the bunch who needs to work on his double-talk if he wants a continued successful political career, explained that President Trump might get mad at him if he opposed the measure.

Poor baby. Want a cookie?

James Comer

Besides, Comer offered, the folks back home in the First District want him to do something – anything, apparently.’’

“. . .this is something very important to the president,’’ Comer told The Washington Post, trying without success to explain his mind-boggling flip-flop. “It’s something that the people in my district expect us to pass. They want an accomplishment from this Congress. They want this Congress to support the president. . . . So I support the tax cuts.’’

But the all-star rationale came from Massie who has used his time in Congress to oppose just about every conceivable measure aimed at benefitting the citizens of these United States while simultaneously working to make sure everyone has their own engraved AK-47.

Wonder Boy, who has opposed numerous disaster aid bills because they contributed to the deficit told CNN, without the slightest bit of shame, that he supports the proposed tax cuts because “I can go home and tell my constituents unequivocally this bill is better than the status quo.’’

Now even a burglar could have said it better than that.

Unless Lewis County has more gazillionaires living there than Census reports indicate, most will experience only modest benefits, if any benefits at all. And that has to be weighed against a $1.7 trillion price tag.

Nice try, Wonder Boy.

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, 58.2 percent of households would receive a meaningful tax cut in 2019 while 8.3 percent would actually face a hike. But by 2023, changes mandated in the proposal would lead to higher federal taxes for those who make between $20,000 and $40,000 and those who make between $200,000 and $1 million.

It’s fair to assume then that there are folks in the Sixth Congressional District making $20,000 to $40,000 who will see their taxes rise.

The JCT also determined that 18.3 percent of American households earning from $75,000 to $100,000 will experience a tax hike of at least $500 in 2027. Among those earning $40,000 to $50,000, about 11.7 percent would get a hike.
Meanwhile, 100 million households would either see a tax hike or a tax cut of less than $100 by that same year.

But the wealthy? That’s where the benefits – and the resulting debt – start rolling in. The corporate tax rate would be reduced to 20 percent from 35 percent, a benefit that would accrue to the well off since they hold most corporate stock.

Tax rates on income from pass-through businesses — partnerships, S-corps and sole proprietorships — would plummet.

The top personal income tax bracket of 39.6 percent would go from $470,000 to $1,000,000 for joint filers, resulting in a tax cut of at least $23,000 for those earning $1 million or more. The alternative minimum tax would be repealed under the proposal and the estate tax – which hits only the top 5,000 decedents each year — would eventually disappear.

Andy Barr

Every analysis maintains the wealthy will benefit far more than the middle class in the GOP tax cut scenario. All those million dollar families in Tollesboro will be eternally grateful.

Don’t be surprised, by the way, if the Unholy Trinity gets around to explaining that, through magic more powerful than anything conjured up by Penn & Teller that these tax cuts will pay for themselves. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI, pulled that old nugget out of his a.., er, pocket on Fox News Sunday this week when he said, “we are absolutely convinced — and we’ll have economic models that will show this — that this will help grow the economy.”

No self-respecting economist, or citizen for that matter, can possibly eat that mush.

Citing just one example, Fitch Ratings, one of the nation’s big three credit rating agencies, declared that the Republican tax cuts will add “significantly” to U.S. debt over the next decade.

While Ryan and other Republicans insist that economic growth from the cuts will actually boost revenues, Fitch asserts they “will not pay for themselves or lead to a permanently higher growth rate.”

“Fitch believes the tax package will be revenue negative, even under generous assumptions about its growth impact,” the company stated in a report.

In other words, there’s voodoo economics and then there’s the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which the intellectual giant in the White House wanted to call the Cut Cut Cut Act.

I believe it was George Will who quite accurately said “people want less government except when they want more.’’

For Wonder Boy, Handy Andy and the Rookie, it appears they want to balance the budget except when they want to add $1.7 trillion in debt.

Washington correspondent Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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