Krugman: Republicans Are Fiscally Irresponsible for Pushing Smaller Tax Cut, Threatening Much Larger One

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This is sort of impressive:  Paul Krugman simultaneously castigates Republicans for the fiscal irresponsibility of wanting to extend tax cuts for the rich that cost about $700 billion--and for irresponsibly threatening the extension of tax cuts for the middle class which cost three times as much.  Yet you could read the entire column and not realize that it's the middle class tax cuts which are the really expensive, budget-busting bit.


I can construct a coherent argument about why you should extend one and not the other (though I favor letting both end), and Paul Krugman offers some of these as well, but the budget club happened to be available, so he grabbed that too.  Unfortunately, it undercuts the rest of his argument.  If you think the deficit's a pressing problem, as I do, then all the tax cuts should be ended.  If you don't, then this argument is opportunistic, not serious.

Update:  Just to be clear, my objection is that Krugman doesn't mention the size of the middle-class tax cut--indeed, he seems to imply that its cost is smaller than that of the tax cuts for higher earners:

So, about those tax cuts: back in 2001, the Bush administration bundled huge tax cuts for wealthy Americans with much smaller tax cuts for the middle class, then pretended that it was mainly offering tax breaks to ordinary families.

He then goes on to castigate Republicans for their fiscal irresponsibility in wanting to extend the tax cuts for the wealthy:


On the economics, the answer is a clear no. Right now, fears about budget deficits are overblown -- but that doesn't mean that we should completely ignore deficit concerns. And the G.O.P. plan would add hugely to the deficit -- about $700 billion over the next decade -- while doing little to help the economy. On any kind of cost-benefit analysis, this is an idea not worth considering
Nowhere does he mention that the Obama plan would add to the deficit even more hugely, or indeed say anything at all about the cost of that part of the plan.

You could say "the benefit of the tax cuts is not worth the $700 billion we'll lose", but once you drag in the deficit, you're talking about something subtly different--our need to get our long term spending and revenue in balance.  At that point, I think you have to mention that the Obama plan increases the deficit by $2 trillion over ten years.  Especially since that "much smaller" in the earlier paragraph might otherwise mislead people into believing that the actual cost--rather than the per-capita benefit--of the tax cuts for the middle class was smaller than that of the tax cuts on high earners.


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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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