Rep. Cantor Reluctantly Admits Extending Bush Tax Cuts Will Increase Deficits

August 02, 2010 12:12 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

As campaign season heats up, Republicans are still pledging to deliver a "new" platform for 2010.  But, after months of empty promises, it appears the GOP agenda can be summed up in one not-so-new idea: continuing President Bush's massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which are set to expire in 2011.

Today on MSNBC, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) attempted to defend his party's push to preserve the Bush tax cuts, even as they fuel the huge deficits that Republicans love to rail against.  While saying that the deficits are "dangerous," Cantor was reticent about the actual impact of leaving the tax cuts in place. 

At one point, host Savannah Guthrie asked whether Cantor would "simply acknowledge that passing these tax cuts worsens the budget deficit problem." Cantor initially refused, saying, "Let's look at it through the prism of the working families who are seeking jobs and the small business people who are creating them."  When pressed further, Cantor finally conceded that the Bush tax cuts increase deficits.  "Certainly, you're going to dig the hole deeper," he said.  Watch:

GUTHRIE: ...will you just simply acknowledge that passing these tax cuts worsens the budget deficit problem? I mean, you can't deny that, right?

CANTOR: Savannah, let's look at it through the prism of the working families who are seeking jobs and the small businesspeople who are creating them.  It's not — it's not a tax cut they're looking for, they don't want a tax hike.

GUTHRIE: But that wasn't my question. [...]

GUTHRIE: I just was wondering if you had a — if you had any dispute with the notion that it does exacerbate the deficit picture.

CANTOR: What I — what I said in the beginning is, um, if you have less revenues coming into the federal government, and more expenditures, what does that add up to? Certainly you're gonna dig the hole deeper. But you also have to understand, if the priority is to get people back to work, is to start growing this economy again, uh, then you don't wanna make it more expensive for job creators. You don't wanna hike their taxes so that they won't hire people. I mean, that's the fundamental decision here. Do you wanna make it more expensive for small businesspeople right now, and no, I don't think you do.

Ironically, Cantor's original answer reflects the progressive argument for providing unemployment benefits and small business relief, both of which Republicans have blocked in the name of fiscal responsibility (Cantor opposed both).  However, unlike those initiatives aimed at helping working people and small businesses, Cantor is fighting for a policy that helps only the richest Americans — despite the Republican talking points, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will affect only 1.9 percent of small businesses — and does so at a far greater cost. 

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