The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Official new report: Republican tax cuts won’t pay for themselves

When selling their tax plan, Republicans have long argued that they don’t need to offset the costs of their plan because – let’s all say it together – tax cuts pay for themselves.

Today, Congress’ official scorekeepers told GOP lawmakers in no uncertain terms that they’re wrong.

The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation said Wednesday afternoon that the Senate tax bill would add $1 trillion to federal budget deficits over the next decade, even after accounting for additional economic growth, a major blow to Republicans’ contention that the $1.5 trillion tax cuts in the bill will pay for themselves through growth. […]

The committee said economic growth generated by the tax cut will offset losses by about $458 billion over the next decade. Over that same period, an additional $51 billion will be needed to pay interest on the additional debt the government will borrow to pay for the tax cuts.

“Overall, the budgetary effects of changes in economic growth are projected to reduce the deficit by $407 billion during the budget window,” the committee said.

Some of that may sound a little wonky, so let’s make it plain: Senate Republicans intend to cut taxes by about $1.4 trillion, and once their plan is fully implemented, they’ll leave a $1 trillion hole in the federal budget.

Ordinarily, GOP officials respond to reports such as these by insisting that the numbers are misleading because they failed to take “dynamic scoring” into account. In other words, Republicans believe that to get an accurate assessment of tax plans, one must account for the fact that tax cuts super-charge the economy, which means more growth, which means more revenue, which means a lower overall price tag.

But that argument doesn’t work today: the Joint Committee on Taxation, which is the official congressional scorekeeper on tax bills, relied on dynamic scoring in its analysis.

The JCT played the game by Republican rules, and the regressive tax plan is still $1 trillion short. The claims Republicans are making to justify their tax breaks are, according to Congress’ official accounting, wrong.

And so, it’s gut-check time for GOP senators getting ready to vote for their regressive and unpopular tax plan. Every Republican who’s said these tax cuts will pay for themselves now has independent evidence that shows otherwise. Every Republican who doesn’t want to add a penny to the deficit – I’m looking in your direction, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) – just received about a trillion reasons to vote “no” on the pending legislation.

Maybe GOP officials will settle on some kind of “trigger” gimmick to address the shortfall; maybe Senate Republicans will decide they don’t really care about fiscal responsibility after all.

Either way, as of this afternoon, they can’t say they weren’t warned.

Tax Policy and Tax Reform

Official new report: Republican tax cuts won't pay for themselves