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How Democrats Should Respond To Jon Kyl

[ Posted Monday, July 12th, 2010 – 16:57 PDT ]

Republican Senator Jon Kyl, appearing on the weekly "Fox News Sunday" program yesterday, made an extraordinary admission that Democrats should put front and center of their campaigning -- because it points out the gigantic flaw in the Republican argument on the federal budget, the deficit, and the national debt. Republicans have been trying to have it both ways on this issue, and it took Fox's Chris Wallace to ask the question which exposed their double standard.

Here's the uncut transcript of this segment of the discussion between Wallace and Kyl (the full transcript of the whole interview can be found at Fox, on pages five through seven):

Q: The president was on the campaign trail this week and he was trying out new lines of attack against Republicans, and he tried to frame the debate as a choice between his agenda and the Bush GOP policies, which he said drive -- drove the economy into a ditch over the last -- previous eight years. Clearly the polls indicate support for this president is waning. On the other hand, those same polls indicate that voters still don't like what President Bush and the Republicans during those eight years did for the economy.

KYL: I don't think that's right, Chris. The American people strongly support the biggest positive impact that you could have on the economy, the so-called "Bush tax cuts" of '01 and '03. And those tax cuts are set to expire at the end of this year. The president had said that he would protect middle class taxpayers from those tax rates going back up at the end of this year. So far he has not chosen to do so. That's going to be a huge hit to the economy. And you can't blame President Bush for everything, by the way. That which occurred on Wall Street, with Fannie and Freddie and so on -- I mean, we can have a debate about that all day, about who is really responsible. But I -- you can't put that at the foot of President Bush.

Q: But, Senator...

KYL: The reality is...

Q: Senator...

KYL: Yes, go ahead, Chris.

Q: Senator, let me just break in, because I want to pick up on exactly the point that you just brought up, particularly, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. That is part of the big Republican growth agenda, let's keep, not let expire, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The fact is those would cost $678 billion over 10 years. At a time Republicans are saying that they can't extend unemployment benefits unless you pay for them, tell me, how are you going to pay that $678 billion to keep those Bush tax cuts for the wealthy?

KYL: Chris, that is a loaded question. The Bush tax cuts applied to every single American. In fact...

Q: I'm talking about the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, sir.

KYL: Well, OK. So let's, first of all, start with those that don't apply to the wealthy. Shouldn't those be extended? Shouldn't you have a 10 percent tax bracket so that people don't have to pay income taxes who don't make very much money? Shouldn't you do away with the marriage penalty? Shouldn't you have the child tax credit at $1,000 per child, and so on? All of that goes away. Now, with respect to those that apply to the upper brackets, it's very clear that you're going to clobber small business because the bulk of small business taxes are paid in the top income tax rate.

Q: But, sir, how are you going to -- because we are running out of time, how are you going to pay the $678 billion just on the tax cuts for people over -- making more than $200,000 a year?

KYL: ... you should never raise taxes in order to cut taxes. Surely Congress has the authority, and it would be right to -- if we decide we want to cut taxes to spur the economy, not to have to raise taxes in order to offset those costs. You do need to offset the cost of increased spending, and that's what Republicans object to. But you should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans.

Kyl is actually admitting, to a persistent and very focused question, that tax cuts which add to the deficit are somehow like calories from a chocolate bar when you're on a diet -- they "don't count," in other words, in some unspecified way.

This is an enormous opening for Democrats to paint the Republicans as fiscally unserious. Republicans have spent a lot of time and effort convincing the media that the number one issue on most voters' minds right now is the deficit and the debt (that this is just not true has largely escaped most "journalists" who have been faithfully parroting this talking point for months now, but that's beside the point).

But this blade cuts both ways. If Republicans are going to stop a bill to extend unemployment which costs less than $40 billion, then how can they turn around and advocate extending the Bush tax cuts on the rich which would cost almost seven hundred billion dollars and still say with a straight face that they're some sort of "deficit hawks"?

Wallace, interestingly enough, did his homework on the question, and asked specifically about the tax cuts on people making over $200,000 -- a question I simply have not heard yet from any non-Fox "liberal media" member so far, I should point out. This cuts the knees out from the typical Republican response (which Kyl attempted), which is to talk about all the "middle-class tax cuts" which are also going to expire (actually, Democrats will likely extend these tax cuts while letting the "bonanza for the wealthy" part expire, but this matters little to Republicans making this argument, so I only mention it in passing).

Democrats have a wonderful opportunity here to hoist Republicans on their own petard. Any time a Republican starts talking about tax cuts, the first thing out of a Democrats' mouth in response should be: "Well, how are you going to pay for these tax cuts so they don't hike the deficit?" Republicans are already on the record opposing a relatively modest unemployment benefit extension, for the sole reason that "it adds to the deficit." So they've laid down the rules they're supposed to be standing up for. Meaning it is entirely fair game to ask them "How will you pay for your proposed tax cuts?" Since they never have an answer to this question -- other than the widely-discredited and thoroughly-debunked "tax cuts pay for themselves" nonsense -- this immediately leads to framing the issue as: "You're OK with adding seven hundred billion dollars to our debt to give wealthy taxpayers an enormous Christmas present in the form of tax cuts -- without even pretending to pay for it -- but you howl when we try to keep millions of out-of-work Americans from financial ruin for a fraction of the same price?"

In fact, Democrats really should go completely on the offensive on this issue. I know the "family budget" metaphor is both overused and oversimplified to begin with, but it seems to be the one that has taken hold among the public, so this might be the way to go.

Here is what I would say, were I a Democrat trying to get elected or re-elected this year, in a stump speech or in an interview.

Republicans are out there trying to convince the American public that they're the party of fiscal responsibility and that they stand above all else for reducing the deficit in our federal budget. This is absolutely laughable for anyone who can remember the last ten years, but I'm going to put the past aside and just take a look at how Republicans are suggesting we solve our problems using the "family budget at the kitchen table" metaphor they've been using.

In a family, the money you take in is from working -- your income. Everything you spend is your costs. For the federal government, the money which comes in is from taxes. So when Jon Kyl says that he wants to extend the Bush tax cuts on the ultra-wealthy, and that he doesn't think he should have to pay for it in any way, what he is really saying is that our family's income is going to shrink. It'd be like if you got laid off your job at the factory and got a new job flipping burgers -- your income would go down. You'd be taking less money in. But if you still have the same costs, then you would be even further in the hole, financially.

Now, in our federal "family," we're not just paying costs as they happen, we're also paying costs for some mighty big things that Republicans, when they were in charge, put on our family's credit card -- with absolutely no thought of ever paying for them. And those interest charges have now come due. Republicans, when they ran things in Washington, racked up enormous balances on the nation's credit cards, with things like Medicare Part D, which helps seniors pay for prescription drugs. They have never suggested how we pay for this, and they still have no idea how to do so, other than borrowing money from China.

So not only did Republicans cut the family income (by enormous tax cuts on the wealthy), but they also went on a spending spree with the credit cards. That is the major reason why our deficit is so high today.

So I would like to challenge Republicans to figure out -- before you start talking about lowering our family's income even further -- how to pay for the things which they passed when they last were in charge. When a Republican stands up and says "Here's my plan to pay for both our wars and all the additional spending we passed when we ran Washington" -- then I'll start to take Republicans seriously on the debt and the deficit. Until then, though, Republicans are saying we should shrink our income before we even make any attempt to pay off the huge credit card bill that they racked up with all of their spending.

Jon Kyl thinks he can continue the Bush tax cuts on people making over $200,000 per year, and that the $678 billion that this adds to the deficit somehow "doesn't count." This is ridiculous. If you want to be serious about being fiscally responsible -- and if you want people to take you seriously on the subject -- then you can't have some sort of double standard where you hold the line on new spending but ignore the fact that tax cuts add to the deficit. We could slash government spending, and if Republicans cut taxes all they wanted to, then we'd still have a huge deficit -- because their numbers simply don't add up. You simply cannot cut the family income and go on a spree with the credit cards at the same time and call yourself fiscally responsible, because as every family around a kitchen table doing a budget knows, those numbers are just not going to add up to anything but financial disaster, for years to come.

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

-- Chris Weigant

 

16 Comments on “How Democrats Should Respond To Jon Kyl”

  1. [1] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Point to Chris Matthews. Not one of my favorite commentators, but I give him credit for persistence. Most interviewers would have just let Kyl change the subject like he tried to do twice.

    Sad that not enough journalists in the "liberal media" have this persistence.

    Cheers
    David

  2. [2] 
    jbl_inAZ wrote:

    Actually, Chris WALLACE, and I was surprised to see him take that tack.

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    We can point to all the gaffes and bonehead statements that Republicans make. Gods know there are plenty of them to play with.

    But when all is said and done, there are only two questions that remain.

    1) Are we better off, economically wise and security wise, than we were under Republican leadership?

    2) What have Democrats done for us lately?

    The answers are NO and NOTHING.

    Michale.....

  4. [4] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Michale,

    This isn't a gaffe. This is John Kyl talking about what he would do if he were in charge.

    And what he would do is continue tax breaks for the rich w/o paying for them.

    These are tax breaks just for people making over $200k a year.

    This speaks to your first question - Are we better off economically under Democrats or Republicans?

    And if Republicans are going to shoot for unpaid tax cuts for the wealthy, they don't seem to be offering anything different than they ever have.

    -David

  5. [5] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    In a family, the money you take in is from working -- your income. Everything you spend is your costs. For the federal government, the money which comes in is from taxes. So when Jon Kyl says that he wants to extend the Bush tax cuts on the ultra-wealthy, and that he doesn't think he should have to pay for it in any way, what he is really saying is that our family's income is going to shrink. It'd be like if you got laid off your job at the factory and got a new job flipping burgers -- your income would go down. You'd be taking less money in. But if you still have the same costs, then you would be even further in the hole, financially.

    Not if you cut spending on federal programs. If your income is lower, lower your costs.

    Have you been following what Gov. Chris Christie has been doing in Jersey? It's a real case study in budget management.

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    David,

    This isn't a gaffe. This is John Kyl talking about what he would do if he were in charge.

    OK. Bonehead statement, then... :D

    This speaks to your first question - Are we better off economically under Democrats or Republicans?

    And the answer is, NO, we are not better off now than we were under Republicans...

    But economically is only half of my question. Are we better off, security wise, under Democrats??

    The answer is a very VERY resounding NO...

    And if Republicans are going to shoot for unpaid tax cuts for the wealthy, they don't seem to be offering anything different than they ever have.

    "than the ever have" would seem to be better than what Democrats have done for the last 4 years...

    I read an article recently that blames the Republicans that Democrats weren't able to get anything done..

    Get that??

    According to Democrats, when the GOP is in power and has the WH, everything is the GOP's fault... When Democrats are the majority, but the GOP has the WH, everything is the GOP's fault..

    And when DEMOCRATS have the largest majority in recent history **AND** the White House, everything bad is STILL the GOP's fault..

    So, it seems to me that Democrats will NEVER be able to govern properly unless there are NO Republicans in government at all.

    Since we all know that THAT will never happen, it doesn't make any sense to elect Democrats to office..

    Since they, by Democrat's own admission, can't get anything done if there are Republicans in government, we might as well vote Republican, no?? :D

    Michale.....

  7. [7] 
    akadjian wrote:

    OK. Bonehead statement, then... :D

    Why do you think it's a bonehead statement? Because he's saying what he believes?

    So ... he should have lied better. Is that what you mean?

    Or because you don't agree with tax cuts for people making more than $200k?

    Are we better off, security wise, under Democrats??

    It seems to me that we're about the same. Why? Because Obama is continuing the same Bush policies.

    As for the article about blame. There seems to be plenty to go around on both sides. But no one here is talking about it.

    -David

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    *I* am not saying it's a bonehead statement.. As I have admitted before, I have less than a passing knowledge of economics and tax stuff.

    I had assumed from the responses to the statement that YA'ALL thought it was a bonehead statement..

    Forgive me if my assumption was not accurate..

    It seems to me that we're about the same. Why? Because Obama is continuing the same Bush policies.

    Yes, in that one specific regard, Obama is doing the right thing..

    But in so many other issues that deal with national security and security in general, Obama has dropped the ball time and time again. The list is long and varied...

    The Gulf Spill

    The Christmas Day Bomber

    The Underwear Bomber

    Gitmo

    The Spies

    Prosecuting terrorists in civilian courts

    Illegal Immigration

    and so on and so on and so on ad nasuem....

    My rationale for voting Democrat in the last couple of elections was that maybe the Democrats could do better and, even if they can't, there is a limit to the damage that they can do in 4 years..

    I was as wrong about THAT as I was about Obama being a different kind of leader, a leader for ALL Americans..

    Michale.....

  9. [9] 
    akadjian wrote:

    We can point to all the gaffes and bonehead statements that Republicans make.

    I don't believe any of us used "bonehead statement" or "gaffe" or even anything close.

    In fact, Chris seems to go to great pains to simply focus on what Kyl said w/o attacking Kyl himself.

    We're just looking at what Kyl said and discussing it.

    As for the long list of items where you feel Obama's let you down, I'd rather stick to talking about a single subject in this thread to keep it focused on Chris' article.

    There will be plenty of time for debate on the other issues in other posts! :)

    @jbl_inAZ - Thank you for correcting me on Chris Wallace - big difference. Forgot to mention this earlier.

    -David

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    We're just looking at what Kyl said and discussing it.

    Kyl is actually admitting, to a persistent and very focused question, that tax cuts which add to the deficit are somehow like calories from a chocolate bar when you're on a diet -- they "don't count," in other words, in some unspecified way

    To me, this says that Kyl's statement was a "bonehead statement"....

    Just as claiming that a chocolate bar's calories "don't count" is also a bonehead statement.

    Now, I grant you that CW was very diplomatic about saying it..

    And there is a HUGE difference between calling someone a bonehead and calling someone's statement a "bonehead statement"...

    Irregardless of all that, I took CW's original commentary to infer how wrong the Republicans (or at least this particular Republican) are/is on this...

    And MY response to that was to show that, while Republicans can be wrong or bonehead-prone or gaffe-prone, the fact still is, we are worse off after almost 4 years of Democrat majority rule...

    Now, we can argue the definition of "gaffe", "bonehead" or "is" until the cows come home..

    But this will not change the basic facts. That the Democratic Party rule has been one bonehead mistake after another for the past almost 4 years...

    And that list that I put forth above is a big part of that..

    But, you are correct. We can address those issues specifically as they come up..

    It's just real nice to have a reference, no?? :D

    Michale.....

  11. [11] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Hahahah. Indeed we thank you for keeping track, Michale, and the constant reminders :)

    The reason I keep coming back to the "bonehead" statement is that I often see mischaracterizations where one side or the other claims that they are being personally assaulted.

    And as you mentioned, this is not the case. We disagree with what Kyl says, but are not saying he's a bonehead or even that what he's saying is boneheaded.

    The argument we're trying to make is that this is what Republicans believe in - tax cuts for the wealthy.

    I can't speak for CW on whether he thinks Kyl's statement is boneheaded or not. But it does seem to indicate, as he's arguing, that Kyl is for tax cuts for the wealthy that would add to the deficit.

    Me personally, I want people in office who are more responsible and focused on the middle class, small and medium-sized businesses, etc.

    And I honestly don't care what party they're from. I just don't haven't heard much from conservatives that focuses on these issues that's different from what they've said over the past 30 years.

    Basically, I don't see how they would change what I see as a philosophy that got us into this mess. The Dems seem to be the ones trying to change things (Now don't take this as a ringing endorsement of Dems because if you know me, Michale, you know I think they could do a better job.)

    Cheers
    David

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Hahahah. Indeed we thank you for keeping track, Michale, and the constant reminders :)

    I am simply returning the favor from the Bush years.... :D

    The reason I keep coming back to the "bonehead" statement is that I often see mischaracterizations where one side or the other claims that they are being personally assaulted.

    Which is why I emphasized the difference between attacking the person and attacking the person's statement.

    It's like here in the blogs... It's a no no to call someone a moron...

    However, IMNSHO it's perfectly OK to tell someone that they made a moronic comment.

    It's the difference between saying, "That's moronic" and "You're a moron"...

    The Dems seem to be the ones trying to change things

    The Dems HAVE been changing things..

    They problem is, their changes are making things much worse, not better...

    Michale.....

  13. [13] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    General comment -

    Actually, I would label Kyl's comments as a "Washington gaffe," which is described as "accidentally speaking the truth (as you see it), inconveniently."

    As for whether this Washington gaffe was boneheaded or quite revealing, well that depends on what you think of what Kyl said, I guess. My feeling is that he honestly believes what he said -- tax cuts, like chocolate calories, simply do not count. Which is why it is so ripe for Dems to pounce upon, because Republicans will have a hard time denouncing such thinking (that's my guess, anyway). Maybe I'm thinking more tactically about it, than political philosophy. I'll cop to that.

    What's with all the "bonehead" obsession anyway? Did Sideshow Mel suddenly comment here or something? Heh. Kidding aside, boneheaded is a pretty strong term, so I like to reserve its use for what I consider REALLY boneheaded quotes or behavior. But I still say what Kyl did was more of a Washington gaffe, personally.

    So there.

    Michale [3] -

    Your first question, well, security-wise we're probably not going to agree, but this is really just a red herring, since the subject here is really economics. C'mon, admit it.

    Economically, some things are better, some aren't so great (but headed mostly in the right direction). Obama takes office -- we lose 750K jobs that month. This year, jobs were added every month, for a total of 500K+. Not good enough, but decidedly better than where they were when Bush left.

    As for "what have they done for me lately", I would point to the CFPA in the Wall Street reform bill about to be put on Obama's desk. Got any complaints about the basic concept of the CFPA? Well, there you go.

    Chris1962 -

    I wrote an article a few weeks ago (before your appearance here) which asked the question: what would you cut? Come to think of it, you may have commented on it over on HuffPost, although my memories are fuzzy (as usual).

    If you think the federal budget deficit can be solved with cuts alone, would you cut: Medicare, Medicaid, SS, the Pentagon's budget? No? Well, you've already spent all the tax revenues coming in. Everything else is, as Matt Osborne says "on the Bank of China credit card." And if you cut those revenues by $678 billion over 10 years (what Wallace was talking about), then you're going to have to make some deep cuts in entitlements or the Pentagon -- as well as abolishing every single other thing the government does (like Border Patrol, just to pick one). Still think Kyl's the guy to balance the budget? Seriously, though, what would you cut? Anything less than 1% of the budget is too small potatoes to even mention, say at least $2 billion per cut. So what, exactly, would you cut?

    To put the question another way -- are you in favor of totally sealing the border with Mexico? How much more in taxes would you be willing to pay to make this happen (because it ain't gonna be cheap)?

    Republicans love to talk a good game of "fiscal responsibility" but they never seem to be able to come up with solid ideas as to how exactly to achieve this.

    Michale [10] -

    I didn't get any compliments for my diet/chocolate metaphor, which I have to say did disappoint me. I expected at least one woman to write in saying "OMG, that chocolate thing is SO TRUE -- Snickers bars 'don't count' on your diet..." so I have to say, I'm disappointed. Or maybe just a total sexist pig... (to preclude any flame comments from our female commenter contingency...).

    :-)

    -CW

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    CW,

    As for "what have they done for me lately", I would point to the CFPA in the Wall Street reform bill about to be put on Obama's desk. Got any complaints about the basic concept of the CFPA? Well, there you go.

    As I pointed out, all this financial/economic talk goes right over my head...

    B-52... Wooooosssshhhhh As we used to say in the USAF... :D

    This being the case, I have to look at indicators that are on par with my level of comprehension..

    When I see legislation that comes down the pipe that, ostensibly, is supposed to reign in Wall Street and the banks, but stocks actually RISE dramatically due to the legislation, I think to myself... I say, "Self... If it's GOOD for Wall Street and the banks, then it has to be BAD for me and every day Americans."

    Come to think of it, you may have commented on it over on HuffPost, although my memories are fuzzy (as usual).

    "One too meeny martoonies."
    -Brandon Frasier, BEDAZZLED

    I didn't get any compliments for my diet/chocolate metaphor, which I have to say did disappoint me. I expected at least one woman to write in saying "OMG, that chocolate thing is SO TRUE -- Snickers bars 'don't count' on your diet..." so I have to say, I'm disappointed. Or maybe just a total sexist pig... (to preclude any flame comments from our female commenter contingency...).

    I refuse to answer on the basis of anything I say may incriminate me. :D hehehehehehehehe J/K

    Actually, I think I did give your Chocolate comparison an honorable mention. :D

    Michale.....

  15. [15] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Chris, you're asking the wrong person. I'm the type who would abolish the Board of Education and put that responsibility entirely into the states hands. I would also cut federal employees salaries across the board and bring them down to the level of the average public sector salary. And I would audit and bare-bone every federal agency and program there is.

    There is so much waste that I can't even begin to imagine how much could be saved just by getting those houses in order, alone.

    I would also cut a lot of aid to foreign countries until such time as we can afford to be more generous with them again.

    That's where I would start. And then I would get really creative. Like, instead of trying to fix a particular problem by raising taxes? I would institute a national monthly lottery, with really desirable prizes. Like getting your mortgage paid off, or the dollar equivalent of a year's worth of groceries, etc. What American wouldn't buy a $5.00 ticket, a month, for the chance to win something that would really lift their household budget burden enormously? Every single person in America would be scraping together that measley $5.00 a month.

    And how many residents do we have in this country? About 310M? Multiply that by $5.00.

    And you know where those proceeds would go? Into Social Security, with the biggest, fattest law that precluded anybody from touching it. And that would get us through the Baby Boomer crisis.

  16. [16] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Chris, you know how I was mentioning Gov. Chris Christie's success story in Jersey? Here's another one, in Virginia: http://tinyurl.com/32x84hx

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