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Orrin Hatch inadvertently helps end the debate over the deficit

In the Obama era, Republicans pretended to care about the deficit. In the Trump era, the GOP is dropping the pretense.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT., talks to reporters as he walks to the weekly Senate policy luncheons in the U.S. Capitol on June 4, 2013.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT., talks to reporters as he walks to the weekly Senate policy luncheons in the U.S. Capitol on June 4, 2013.
The White House will release some details today about Donald Trump's new tax plan, but administration officials have already acknowledged the fact that the costs of the policy won't be offset with spending cuts, and Team Trump doesn't much care about the impact on the deficit.It's likely Republicans on Capitol Hill will adopt a similar attitude. The New York Times reported late yesterday that "the powerful chairman of the Senate finance committee said Tuesday he was prepared to support President Trump's plan to cut corporate tax rates to 15 percent even if it added to the budget deficit."

Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the Republican finance committee chairman, is a critical voice on tax issues in Congress and support from him could make the difference in whether members of Congress fall in line and support the president's proposal. [...]"I'm open to getting this country moving," Mr. Hatch said. He said that if the tax cut could stimulate the economy, then he was not as bothered by the impact it had on budget deficits. "I'm not so sure we have to go that route, but if we do, I can live with it," Mr. Hatch said.

Well, yes, of course he can -- because Republican concerns about the deficit are, and have always been, a sham.In fact, Orrin Hatch offers a terrific case study on the matter. In the Bush/Cheney era, the Utah Republican voted for all kinds of Republican priorities -- wars, tax cuts, Medicare expansion, etc. -- by adding the costs to the national charge card. In 2009, Hatch told the Associated Press that "it was standard practice not to pay for things" during Bush's presidency.A year later, the GOP senator told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell "a lot of things weren't paid for" before President Obama took office.Once there was a Democratic administration, Hatch changed course, insisting it was important to "slash our nation's debt" and address the deficit "crisis."Now that Republicans are in power again, wouldn't you know it, Hatch is comfortable with a massive corporate tax cut, and the deficit is a minor inconvenience that's better left ignored.My point is not to pick on Hatch, since he's hardly the only one in his party who's brazenly inconsistent about pretending to care about "fiscal responsibility." The Utah Republican's comments yesterday put a spotlight on the vapidity of the debate, but Hatch has plenty of company.The point, rather, is that it's time to retire the debate itself. The cycle is as endless as it is tiresome, and there's simply no reason anyone should take it seriously any longer. Republicans said they cared deeply about deficit reduction in the Clinton era, then they said (and did) the opposite in the Bush era. Once Obama was in office, Republicans said, in the name of America's children and grandchildren, that a balanced budget must be everyone's top priority, which gave way to the Trump era, at which point deficit reduction was once again banished to the periphery.It's lazy and unprincipled nonsense.