The Corner

Charades

The Washington Post complains that tax-cutters are using deceptive gimmicks to make the budget impact of tax cuts look smaller than it is. It cites two such “gimmicks”: some tax-cut provisions have slow phase-ins, and some are to last only a few years. On the second point, the Post writes: “This is a charade; proponents of the cut have no intention of allowing it to expire.” It’s true that sunsetters assume that when a tax cut is about to expire, there will be political pressure to make it permanent (or at least to extend it). That’s why tax-cutters like me are willing to accept the sunset: We figure it will give us an advantage in that next battle. But the extension of the tax cuts is not automatic; there will be a real battle. Democrats have successfully resisted making Bush’s 2001 tax cuts permanent, after all, and one Democratic presidential candidate has pledged to repeal them. The extra costs associated with permanence can be debated when permanence is actually proposed—so where’s the deception? As for slow phase-ins: They actually do reduce the budget impact of tax cuts. Olympia Snowe and George Voinovich, with the support of liberals, have made a Holy Grail out of having a tax cut no larger than $350 billion over ten years, estimated in static terms. If they get a tax cut that fully meets these arbitrary conditions, what do they have to complain about?

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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