Rich Lowry: Only in Washington does $ 3.5 trillion in spending “cost nothing” | Opinion


If Democrats get their reconciliation bill, it won’t be because they convinced the American public that its true cost is zero.

As the bill’s political outlook has sagged, Democrats are trying to recalibrate themselves by saying that a generational spending spree will really cost nothing at all.

Citing provisions to offset expenses, Biden said the bill “will cost nothing.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeated the same argument.

Trying to redefine the cost of a $ 3.5 trillion bill to zero must be among the most blatantly absurd attempts to change reality through a talking point ever.

It is a mind-boggling logic that would mystify Lewis Carroll.

This is the kind of reasoning you would expect from any bankrupt person or someone who has no idea that he or she is about to go bankrupt.

It is the equivalent in its transparent and willful implausibility of Donald Trump’s promise that Mexico would somehow pay, at some point, despite all its denials, for the border wall.

The point is, spending money is, by definition, spending money.

So far, this claim would have been uncontroversial. Indeed, before the reconciliation bill got into turmoil, the aim was that it would involve spending a lot of money – as Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson did.

The best defense of the Biden / Pelosi argument is that it depends on the meaning of “cost”.

“If the Democrats intend to invest $ 3.5 trillion,” writes MSNBC’s Steve Benen, “but they also intend to pay for it all without increasing the national debt, then for all intents and purposes the package costs nothing. “

Put aside the fact that the reconciliation instructions say the bill can increase the deficit to as much as $ 1.75 trillion over a decade. Either way, even if the bill is funded entirely by tax increases, it still costs something – or the tax increases wouldn’t be necessary in the first place.

Think about it: most of us who don’t live in San Francisco – notoriously hit by a spate of shoplifting – pay for the merchandise we take from stores. Of course, this means that what we bought costs something.

I dare any married man to go buy a Ferrari 812 Superfast / GTS with $ 340,000 in cash and then go home and try to tell his wife it costs nothing because he has it. has paid.

The fact that it got paid doesn’t make it any cheaper – indeed, it had to be paid exactly because it costs what you would expect from a car going from 0-100 km / h in 2.8 seconds. .

It would be a cold comfort to a player if he lost $ 100,000 in the Bellagio Hall of Legends but incurred no debt during that operation. He would lose another hundred thousand dollars.

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post noted the alleged injustice of the different accounting for Republican tax cuts and Democratic spending proposals.

Tax reduction bills tend to be described using their net cost.

On the other hand, spending increases are identified with their gross cost – for example, if an invoice increases spending by $ 1 billion and increases taxes by $ 900 million to pay them off, this is always called an increase. spending of $ 1 billion.

As even she concedes, however, it makes sense to refer to the net cost of a tax bill if it is offset by other tax increases. The net number is the figure of the overall cup.

If the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation bill were fully offset by spending cuts, it would be fair to say that its overall cost is zero.

This is of course not what is happening. In the end, assuming the bill doesn’t collapse, Democrats will likely have to settle for more than $ 1.5 trillion or $ 2 trillion. And whatever they say now, it’s not nothing.

Rich Lowry is on Twitter @RichLowry.


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