News & Politics

Paul Krugman: The GOP Went Off the Deep End Years Ago

Anyone who didn't see this monstrous tax bill coming wasn't paying attention.

Photo Credit: YouTube/Bloomberg

Steven Mnuchin's Treasury Department attempted to fool the public this week with a one-page document claiming to prove that the GOP's beloved tax cuts would pay for themselves. It was written to imply that economic experts at the Treasury had actually performed the analysis necessary to back up this wild claim, but as Paul Krugman explains in his Monday column, "there was no economic analysis; Trump officials just made up numbers that would give them the result they wanted."

Why then, did Mnuchin think he could get away with it? The answer, Krugman explains, is Paul Ryan. 

For years, Ryan has fooled liberals and conservatives alike into believing he's some kind of conservative "policy wonk," unlike the unserious members of the Tea Party caucus. "The truth," Krugman reminds us, "is that on economic policy, as in other areas, the Trump administration isn’t much of a departure from recent Republican norms. There’s a fundamental continuity in the con jobs: Mnuchin is basically trying to do a Paul Ryan; he just lacks the acting skills to pull it off."

There are actual analysts at the Office of Tax Policy whose job it is to analyze the department's plans. In this case, "Either O.T.P. didn’t do that, or it did an analysis that Mnuchin is suppressing. (The department’s inspector general is investigating what actually happened, because Mnuchin repeatedly claimed to have such an analysis in hand.) If the experts actually did do an analysis, they probably found what everyone else has found — namely, that tax cuts come nowhere near to paying for themselves."

It's entirely possible that the Trump administration fabricated the numbers to make its plans look like they wouldn't create a deficit the size of the Grand Canyon. 

But Mnuchin is taking his cues from Paul Ryan, who in 2010, "simply told experts to assume that he could cut taxes without losing revenue by closing unspecified loopholes, and that he could achieve drastic cost savings without specifying which programs would be cut. And the budget experts were the staff at the Congressional Budget Office, not the staff at Treasury. But the result was the same: Potemkin budget projections that looked great to the casual observer, but had nothing real behind them. This earned him an award for fiscal responsibility, and two years later, a near-fawning New Yorker profile."

The current scam is no worse than seven years ago, but Mnuchin can't quite sell it the way Ryan could. Krugman leaves us with a reminder of who the GOP is, seven years ago, now and always: "Anyone who didn’t see this coming either wasn’t paying attention or was engaged in willful self-delusion, pretending that the G.O.P. was a normal party long after it should have been obvious that it had gone off the deep end."

Read the entire column


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Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.