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Ezra Klein
Thursday, September 16, 2010; A18

Some perspective on tax cuts

More needs to be done to put the numbers involved in extending the Bush tax cuts in context, so consider this: There is no policy that President Obama has passed or proposed that added as much to the deficit as the Republican Party's $3.9 trillion extension of the Bush tax cuts. In fact, if you put aside Obama's plan to extend most, but not all, of the Bush tax cuts, there is no policy he has passed or proposed that would do half as much damage to the deficit. There is not even a policy that would do a quarter as much damage to the deficit.

The stimulus bill, at $787 billion, would do about a fifth as much damage. But that's actually misleading: The stimulus bill was a temporary expense (not to mention a response to an unexpected emergency). Once it's done, it's done. An indefinite extension of the Bush tax cuts is, well, indefinite. It will cost $3.9 trillion in the first 10 years. And then it will cost more than that in the second 10 years. Call that number Y. And then it will cost more than Y in the third 10 years. And so on and on into eternity. Comparatively, the stimulus bill is a tiny fraction of that. The bank bailouts, which were passed by George W. Bush and the Democrats in 2006, will end up costing the government only $66 billion. The health-care bill improves the deficit outlook.

Republicans and tea party candidates are both running campaigns based around concern for the deficit. But both, to my knowledge, support the single-largest increase in the deficit that anyone of either party has proposed in memory.

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