Arrive rather late at the fire: In his new column, Paul Krugman tells a familiar story about Paul Ryan. Also about tax cuts.
If we liberals were humans, not zombies, an obvious question would arise:
After all these decades, why have we had so much trouble prevailing on such basic points? Some thoughts about that in the future.
Below, we'll recall an intriguing fact about Candidate Trump's original tax cut proposal. But first, a point of puzzlement regarding Krugman's column. We refer to the highlighted claim in this possibly puzzling passage:
KRUGMAN (11/3/17): Will this bill pass the House? Unclear: Some important interest groups, like homebuilders and the small-business lobby, have already declared opposition. In any case, it almost surely can’t become law in anything like its current form: A tax bill can’t pass the Senate with less than 60 votes if it raises the long-term budget deficit, which this bill surely does. In fact, this bill might not even get a simple Senate majority.Say what? The tax bill "almost surely can’t become law in anything like its current form" because it raises the long-term budget deficit, and thereby will need 60 votes to pass the Senate?
So right now tax cuts are looking like health care redux: With many years to prepare, Republicans turn out to be completely unready for prime time.
At the Times and everywhere else, an array of reporters have explained that this bill will only require 50 votes in the Senate if it produces $1.5 trillion or less in deficit increases. Here's Jim Tankersley, making that point on October 21:
TANKERSLEY (10/21/17): The bill will be moved under a mechanism known as budget reconciliation, which is important because it allows Republicans to bypass a Democratic filibuster and pass the bill with 50 votes. However, it also forces Republicans to comply with a set of procedural rules that could shape the bill and complicate its passage.So how many votes will the tax bill need? Will it need 50 or 60?
The bill will be analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, which will project its effect on federal revenues. To proceed under reconciliation, the bill must not increase deficits by more than the amount allowed in the budget resolution—$1.5 trillion over 10 years in the current Senate version—and it must not add to the budget deficit in the next decade.
Can you see what Krugman apparently meant? He seems to have meant that the bill will need 60 votes if it adds to the deficit starting ten years from its point of passage, in the second decade after passage.
That's what Krugman seems to have meant. Before we start holding victory rallies, we need to get clear on these points.
Meanwhile, that revisited point:
Pundits are screaming about the fact that this bill will add $1.5 trillion to the deficit in its first ten years. They seem to be very upset by all that new deficit spending.
We're so old that we can remember Candidate Trump's original tax proposal, which was released in September 2015. By all accounts, it would have added roughly $10 trillion to the deficit, maybe more, over its first ten years.
Repeat: It would have added ten trillion dollars. That's more than 1.5!
As we repeatedly noted, it was perhaps the craziest budget proposal in political history. But so what? It was almost wholly ignored by the mainstream press, which had transitioned away from policy matters in favor of pointless daily nervous breakdowns about who had made the craziest pointless remark in the previous half hour or less.
Plus, they just kept airing the wonderfully watchable Trump, uncut, at his ridiculous rallies.
That first proposal was stark raving mad. Whether in print or on TV, the press corps didn't bother explaining.
Now the pundits say they're upset. Werewolves of cable! Ah-oooooooo!