You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Why We Can't Reduce The Deficit

I hope the deficit reduction commission works, but I've been highly skeptical of its success, because the Republican Party remains firmly in the grip of supply-side dogma. Here's Newt Gingrich the other day:

America needs to know that Republicans say ‘yes’ to balancing the budget by growing the economy and reducing spending, not by raising or creating new taxes.

And here's the Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti:

No amount of tax revenue will stop a politician from spending the additional dollar, and a VAT doesn't stop politicians from making promises they cannot keep. The better way to bring America's long-term fiscal picture into balance is through dynamic economic growth and fiscal prudence. You need low taxes for one, and changes to entitlement law (raising the retirement age, pegging benefits to inflation, means-testing, restructuring Medicare) for the other. Most of all, you need to stop spending money you do not have. No new taxes need apply.

Continetti believes that raising taxes will increase revenue, which will just lead to more spending. (Though the opposite happened after Bill Clinton's 1993 tax hike.) He believes that the way to raise revenue is to cut taxes, and this will lead to higher growth and higher revenue. (Though the opposite happened following George W. Bush's tax cuts.) A perceptive student of the supply-side theology might wonder: if revenue from higher taxes will simply be spent, why wouldn't revenue from higher growth also be spent? But this question has never been asked, because there are no perceptive students of the supply-side theology. It's just a series of talking points.

In any case, it's worth keeping in mind that the entire conservative apparatus is already cranked up to insist that no tax hikes are acceptable in the pursuit of deficit reduction. I see no way around this problem unless and until the country actually begins to undergo a deficit-created economic calamity.