Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania sat down with Jake Tapper yesterday, and when the discussion turned to the debt ceiling, the host reminded the retiring senator that the nation added nearly $8 trillion to the debt during Donald Trump's presidency — which is obviously relevant now. Toomey tried to argue in response that the GOP is blocking the nation's borrowing authority over concerns about "future spending."
Whether the Republican wants to admit this or not, extending the debt ceiling is about paying the nation's bills. It is not intended to clear the way for new spending. This is a basic truth some in the GOP acknowledge when it suits their purposes.
But yesterday's interview touched on a related point that stood out as even more notable. From the transcript:
TAPPER: When it came to, for example, the Trump tax cuts, that was about $6 trillion. Most of it was paid for one way or another, but not $2 trillion of it. That was not paid for in any way. You supported that. And that created the debt as well.
TOOMEY: Well, yes, Jake, it also created the strongest economy of my lifetime. That's just an indisputable fact.
No, it's not.
The Pennsylvania Republican added that Democrats shouldn't "undo the very tax regime that helped enable that tremendous economic growth."
Rehashing the debate over the efficacy of the Republicans' regressive tax breaks from 2017 may seem trivial, but Democrats are currently in the process of deciding whether, and to what degree, Congress should roll back some of these tax cuts. If it's "an indisputable fact" that these tax policies created "the strongest economy" in generations, and were directly responsible for generating "tremendous economic growth," that would he highly relevant information.
But Toomey's rhetoric was plainly wrong. The senator pointed to job growth and GDP growth, so let's consider both in more detail.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, according to the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy created 3 million jobs in 2014, 2.72 million jobs in 2015, and 2.34 million jobs in 2016. The combined total for the final three years of the Obama/Biden era: a little over 8.06 million jobs.
Meanwhile, according to the same data, the U.S. economy created 2.11 million jobs in 2017*, 2.31 million jobs in 2018, and 2.13 million jobs in 2019. The combined total for the first three years of the Trump/Pence era: a little over 6.55 million jobs.
Republican tax cuts created "the strongest economy" in Toomey's lifetime? In reality, the tax cuts didn't even fuel job growth stronger than Americans saw earlier in the decade.
As for GDP, U.S. economy growth during Trump's presidency fell short — even before the pandemic — both of growth rates from Barack Obama's second term and of growth rates Trump promised to create before taking office.
The question isn't whether Toomey was mistaken; the data proves he was. The question is whether moderate Democrats are prepared to fight to protect tax breaks that didn't work.