GOP lawmakers who backed deficit-busting tax cuts now say US can't afford Biden plan

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The White House has said President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan is fully paid for.

Congressional Republicans are ridiculing President Joe Biden's claim that his $3.5 trillion "Build Back Better" proposal is fully paid for, despite falsely claiming the same about their tax cuts for the wealthy four years ago.

"There's no way to make a $3.5 TRILLION bill cost $0," Senate Minority Whip John Thune tweeted on Wednesday. "Even if you try to 'pay for it' by taxing Americans' hard-earned money, the price tag doesn't change. Even if you spy on Americans' bank accounts to squeeze every last dime out of them, the price tag doesn't change."

Biden's $3.5 trillion proposal would invest in clean energy, climate change, free preschool and community college, paid leave, and affordable health and child care. It would be paid for by collecting more revenue from corporations and from households earning $400,000 or more annually.

Republicans in Congress have unanimously opposed the package, calling it "socialism" and even "Marxism."

After Thune (R-SD) and others in his party insisted the plan would add "trillions" to the national debt, the Biden administration pushed back, claiming that its cost would be entirely offset.

"President Biden's Build Back Better Agenda costs $0," the White House tweeted on Monday. "The plan ensures corporations and the super wealthy pay their fair share — and will use that revenue to lower costs and cut taxes for middle class families. No one making less than $400K a year will see their taxes go up."

Thune's spying accusation was a mischaracterization of provisions in the proposal that would allow the Internal Revenue Service to crack down on wealthy tax cheats by requiring banks to report more aggregate account data.

Many congressional Republicans have echoed Thune's attacks on the zero-dollar phrasing.

"$3.5 trillion does not equal zero," Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert claimed.

"If Joe Biden really believes his $3.5 trillion reckless spending plan 'costs zero dollars,' he's become far more confused than we thought," Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas tweeted.

"No matter how the Democrats spin it, $3.5 trillion in federal spending is not 'free,'" wrote West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.

The remarks are a sharp turn from just four years ago, when many of the same Republicans were incorrectly predicting that their mammoth tax legislation — which predominantly benefited large corporations and the super wealthy — would be fully paid for, even after nonpartisan congressional economists predicted it would fuel "an increase in the deficit of $1,455 billion over the next 10 years."

Then-President Donald Trump's administration, along with several GOP lawmakers, claimed at the time that Trump's Tax Cut and Jobs Act would somehow pay for itself by fueling historic economic growth.

"The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth," pledged then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

"The bottom line is we will be able to fill any deficit hole with additional revenues," then-Rep. Jeb Hensarling promised. "We will be able to raise more revenues."

Thune claimed at the time that even "a small, modest amount of economic growth" would mean the reduced revenues from the tax cuts would get "completely wiped out. All you have to do is get four tenths of 1 percent of additional GDP."

But those predictions did not come to fruition, even before the pandemic ransacked the economy in the final year of Trump's presidency.

A May 2018 estimate by the Congressional Budget Office predicted that the tax cuts would add about $1.9 trillion to the national debt over a decade.

Trump's economy never saw the massive growth he promised. The deficit was not eliminated; it soared to $1 trillion annually, pre-coronavirus. By June 2019, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) — the author of the tax cut legislation — admitted that it was "hard to know" whether the cuts would ever pay for themselves.

After running on a promise to pay off the entire national debt during his time in office, Trump ultimately left the White House with a national debt that rose about $7.8 trillion over his single term.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.