The Wall Street Journal explores “The Paygo Farce“, not that the “Democrats admit it was all a big confidence game”:
“Democrats are committed to ending years of irresponsible budget policies that have produced historic deficits. Instead of compiling trillions of dollars of debt onto our children and grandchildren, we will restore pay-as-you-go budget discipline.”–Speaker Nancy Pelosi, December 12, 2006
Well, as Emily Littela, the half-witted Gilder Radner character on Saturday Night Live, would have put it: “Never mind.” Last week Congressional Democrats formally renounced their ballyhooed budget pledge to offset any new tax cuts with other tax increases or spending cuts. We’re delighted to see this false promise go, but there’s a larger lesson in this failure for the tax and spending battles of 2008.
Senate Democrats gave up on “paygo,” as it’s called, when they realized they lacked the votes to offset the $50.6 billion cost of protecting more than 20 million middle-class taxpayers from getting whacked by the Alternative Minimum Tax this year. They’ve spent the year floating all kinds of tax increases to make up the difference. But in the end they passed an AMT relief bill without a penny to pay for it. Paygo is now pay gone.
We should stress that this is the right decision for the economy and the federal budget. The AMT was never supposed to hit the middle class, and it only does so now because the Democrats who designed it failed to index it for inflation and raised AMT rates under Bill Clinton in 1993. With the economy in a slowdown, the last thing anyone needs now is a tax hike. The budget deficit is a little above 1% of GDP, which is below the 25-year average, and should remain so as long as the economy keeps growing.
But paygo shouldn’t be allowed to expire without everyone kicking sand on its grave. That’s because it has been nothing but a confidence game from the very start. Paygo doesn’t apply to domestic discretionary spending, and it doesn’t restrain spending increases under current law in entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid. Its main goals are to make tax cutting all but impossible, while letting Democrats pretend to favor “fiscal discipline,” a la Ms. Pelosi’s boast above.
Need to take away much of the sting of paygo gone bye-bye? Mix yourself a nice cold Pegu!
(Did you write this post just to link to that drink?–Ed Well, it wasn’t the only reason…)