The New York Times seems to have had a clever idea for a piece -- "Justifying His Fiscal Policies, Obama Borrows From the G.O.P." -- that, alas, makes no sense. It's really too bad when clever ideas run aground on the inconvenient shoals of reality. From the Times:


For 30 years, Republicans have held as an article of faith that tax cuts spur the economy and generate more revenue. "Deficits don't matter," as former Vice President Dick Cheney said. Now President Obama is adapting Republican arguments to his own agenda -- only substituting spending for tax cuts.

Call it the Democratic version of Reaganomics, the supply-side theory that replaced Republicans' longtime belief in balanced budgets. As popularized by President Ronald Reagan, the theory holds that cutting income taxes encourages people to work harder and to produce more goods, sparking economic growth and increased tax revenues.

With Congress's approval on Wednesday of a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint embracing Mr. Obama's spending initiatives for education, health care and energy, the president extolled the potential benefits of these "new investments." In his nationally televised news conference that night, he said the budget would start laying "a new foundation for growth, a foundation that will strengthen our economy and help us compete in the 21st century."

Democrats have derided Republicans as going beyond ideology to theology with their antitax orthodoxy. But it was Mr. Obama who borrowed from the Bible for his "new foundation" economic metaphor. In an address at Georgetown University, where he used some variation of "invest" for "spend" 14 times, the president recalled Jesus' parable in the Sermon on the Mount about two men, a foolish one who builds a house on sand and a wise one whose foundation is rock.

Read the whole thing. I kept looking for some evidence -- any evidence at all -- that Barack Obama has claimed that cutting taxes will lead to "increased tax revenues." Instead I read a bunch of boilerplate stuff about making "new investments," and strengthening the economy and strong foundations and so forth -- which could really come from the lips of any politician, or from the pages of any pop management book, or just about any self-help guide.

As Dean Baker notes, there seems to be a lot of confusion between the claim that tax breaks can stimulate growth -- which everyone believes -- and the claim that tax breaks will increase revenues, which most Democrats do not believe. Including Barack Obama.

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