U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn told a C-SPAN interviewer last week that he’ll “take increased taxes if we cut spending.”
Coburn’s remarks, which were reported extensively by Think Progress, seem to contradict the GOP leadership’s position in favor of extending all the tax cuts passed during the administration of former President George Bush.
Here’s what Coburn, a Republican, said on C-SPAN:
Even though I’ve said we don’t need increased taxes, I’ll take increased taxes if we cut spending. We have to look down the road and solve the problems.
President Barack Obama and other Democrats have suggested the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire soon, should end for people who make $200,000 or more or for couples making $250,000 or more a year. Other Democrats have also discussed extending the tax cuts for everyone who makes less than $1 million. If no action is taken, the tax cuts will expire for everyone.
Will Coburn really support tax increases? Probably not. But his remarks do seem more rational than the inflexible position of House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has indicated he will not compromise on his position favoring continued tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest citizens.
Meanwhile, Coburn will continue obstructing legislation and trying to score political points as a crusading fiscal conservative, but it will be interesting to see his reaction to any type of future Republican-sponsored spending legislation that comes to the Senate from the House.
It’s also important to note that the federal deficit-Coburn’s theatrical nemesis-has been so politicized by Republicans that it’s virtually impossible to have a realistic discussion about it. The GOP has convinced many voters that the answer to all of the country’s problems is to simply eliminate or reduce the deficit. But by cutting government investment in jobs or even in unemployment benefits, the country’s economic problems could worsen.
Robert Reich, a former secretary of labor, puts it this way:
Our biggest problem isn’t the size of pending federal budget deficits or debt but an anemic recovery that may drag on for years. And unless we’re careful, budget-deficit mania may further slow economic growth — thereby making future debts even less manageable.
If Congress and the president started right now to cut the federal deficit — slashing spending and raising taxes on the middle class — our anemic economy would quickly become comatose.
Coburn doesn’t seem ready to have a serious conversation about Reich’s argument, which is echoed by prominent economists, including The New Times columnist Paul Krugman. In a recent column, Krugman exposed the work of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, as ideological mush based on compromises between the “center-right and the hard-right.”
It’s no mystery what has happened on the deficit commission: As so often happens in modern Washington, a process meant to deal with real problems has been hijacked on behalf of an ideological agenda. Under the guise of facing our fiscal problems, Bowles and Simpson are trying to smuggle in the same old, same old – tax cuts for the rich and erosion of the social safety net.
Despite Coburn’s political theatrics about how he’s so earnest about the federal deficit that he might even agree to tax increases, he’s almost certain to support the right-wing, wealth-disparity paradigm Krugman describes in his article.