News & Politics

Paul Krugman: Republicans Can't Even Keep Their Lies Straight Anymore

There's no precedent for the GOP's mendacity about its newest tax plan.

Photo Credit: swisseconomic/Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, shortly before the Senate Finance Committee approved the GOP's latest tax proposal, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) upbraided Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for pointing out that the legislation's proposed cuts would disproportionately benefit the wealthy. "I come from the poor people, and I've been here working my whole stinkin' career for people who don't have a chance," Hatch said. "And I really resent anybody saying I'm just doing it for the rich. Give me a break."

But New York Times columnist Paul Krugman thinks the Republican senator from Utah doth protest too much. "Sorry, but this isn’t the righteous anger of a man falsely accused of wrongdoing," he writes. "It’s the rage con men always exhibit when caught out in their con."

In his latest column, Krugman argues that the GOP has always lied about its tax plans, but that Republicans' mendacity under Trump is "unprecedented." During the second Bush administration, Republicans similarly insisted that cuts would primarily benefit the middle class. That group did see a break in the form of a child tax credit, but their gains paled in comparison to those of the 1 percent, who profited handsomely from a lower tax rate and repeal of the estate tax.

When Obama assumed office six years later, the GOP flipped the script, accusing the president of imposing a "massive tax increase" on the middle class (he didn't) and the Democrats of permanently raising the budget deficit (they haven't). 

"So what’s different this time?" Krugman muses. "As in the Bush years, Republicans are claiming to be offering a middle-class tax cut. But where Bush truly was cutting taxes on the middle class, just much less than he was on the wealthy, current Republican plans would raise those taxes on many lower- and middle-income families, even as they go down for the wealthy."

More galling is that the GOP can't even seem to keep its story straight anymore. Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin insists these tax cuts will finance themselves, despite all evidence to the contrary, while Budget Director Mick Mulvaney maintains that permanent tax cuts on multinational corporations are absolutely essential, for reasons unclear.

"The very incoherence of the arguments Republicans are making for their plans shows that it’s not about helping the economy, let alone ordinary families," Krugman follows, before throwing Hatch's words back at him. "It really is about making the rich richer, at everyone else’s expense. If this be bull crap, make the most of it."

Read Paul Krugman's column at the New York Times.

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Jacob Sugarman is the acting managing editor at Truthdig.