Shortly before leaving for Congress' spring break, Republicans in both the House and Senate pushed a proposal to scrap the estate tax
entirely, hoping to deliver another windfall for the wealthiest of the wealthy. This week, the CBO published a score
on the fiscal consequences of the regressive idea.
Republican legislation in the House to repeal the federal estate tax would add nearly $270 billion to federal deficits, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The office projects the legislation offered by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) would result in revenue losses starting in 2016. The CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation produced the score.
Adding nearly $270 billion to the deficit in order to give the top 0.2% of Americans a massive tax break seems like a tough sell, even for GOP lawmakers.
But let's not overlook the fact that so many of the top priorities pushed by congressional Republicans this year have one thing in common: they raise the deficit that the GOP sometimes pretends to care about.
The bill would make permanent a tax break for research and experimentation that would increase the deficit by $177 billion over 10 years and also make permanent the deduction for state and local sales taxes, at a cost of $42 billion. The tax break for charitable giving would cost $14 billion. Despite Republicans' frequent fearmongering about the deficit, they propose no spending or revenue offsets.
And health care
A Republican bill to change how Obamacare defines a full work-week would raise the deficit by $53.2 billion over the next decade.
The official budget scorekeeper of Congress says the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks, would increase Medicaid costs by as much as $400 million…. CBO officially estimates that the bill increases federal deficits by $75 million between 2014 and 2018, and $225 million between 2014 and 2023.
Senate Democrats threatened Thursday to block action on legislation funding the Homeland Security Department until Republicans jettison House-passed provisions that reverse President Barack Obama’s key immigration policies…. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the measure would increase the federal deficit by $7.5 billion over a decade.
In theory, GOP lawmakers could push these same priorities without relying on deficit financing, but so far this year, they haven't been willing to bother.
Danny Vinik recently argued
, "Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this two-faced policymaking. If they care about the deficit, they have to care about it in all contexts. If not, then they shouldn’t justify their opposition to Obama’s policies on grounds that they increase the deficit."
Agreed. The problem, at least for me, is not that so many GOP ideas increase the deficit. I'm not a deficit hawk, so I care far more about the policy merits of an idea and less about the fiscal impact. The actual problem is that congressional Republicans insist that they care deeply about the deficit, and even want a constitutional amendment to make deficits literally illegal, in order to spare future generations from an outrageous debt burden. They use this line frequently to condemn President Obama's agenda, including White House policies that wouldn't, in reality, increase the deficit at all.
But at the exact same time, the exact same people proudly endorse all kinds of measures that would increase the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars. How do GOP lawmakers explain the inconsistency? They don't.