In swing-state Colorado, as elsewhere across the nation, the size of the budget deficit and government spending have dominated 2010 election campaign rhetoric. The race in Colorado for U.S. Senate between Democratic Senator Michael Bennet and Weld County Republican D.A. Ken Buck has been so far shaped by Buck accusations that Bennet is a big-time tax and spender.
The three pro-Buck TV ads now airing in Colorado– one produced by the Buck campaign, one produced by Karl Rove’s Crosroads GPS and one produced by the National Republican Senatorial Committee– all portray Bennet as a tax-and-spender whose work in Washington has increased the deficit. The ads work to tie Bennet to President Obama, whose name in Republican circles is synonymous with big government policies that have “mortgaged our children’s future” by ignoring the ballooning deficit.
It’s a line of attack that has gained in complexity these last two weeks, however, given that arguably the biggest deficit-expanding bill of the Obama era– the one that would extend the Bush tax cuts– is being pushed by Republicans in Washington right now.
The NRSC ad:
In relation to the deficit, the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein sets the Bush tax cuts presently up for renewal against the big Obama bills of the past two years:
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.
Buck campaign Press Secretary Owen Loftus told the Colorado Independent that Buck supports full renewal of the tax cuts.
“Ken believes we need to extend them all, that it is irresponsible to raise taxes for anyone during the recession, including for those who create jobs,” he said, referring to the wealthiest bracket of American taxpayers.
Analysts have argued that the wealthiest Americans– households making more than $250,000 a year or roughly 2.1 percent of the population– bank the money they save through the cuts more than they invest it to create jobs and so the loss of revenue disproportionally increases the deficit.
Democrats have recently suggested retaining tax cuts for everyone except households earning more than a million dollars a year. The so-called millionaire tax bracket is an issue that polls well, as Annie Lowery has reported. She has written that most Americans support letting taxes rise for the wealthiest 2 percent of tax filers and that, although some certainly argue that families making $250,000 a year aren’t really rich, it is hard to argue that millionaires can’t afford a slight tax hike– a rate that would be lower than it had been for decades before the Bush years– in order to slash the deficit that so many politicians, including Buck, have held up as a top-flight problem the government must address.