Rep. Pence Inadvertently Admits Bush Tax Cuts Did Not Work

November 18, 2010 2:59 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Today, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) made a startling admission: the Bush tax cuts did not work. "I think it's fair to say, if the current tax rates were enough to create jobs and generate economic growth, we'd have a growing economy," he said. "It's not working now."

PENCE: Jim DeMint and I are offering legislation on Capitol Hill today to say, look, let's make all the current tax rates permanent, uh, and then let's start to work from there toward putting in place the kind of policies that'll really get this economy moving again. You know, I think it's fair to say, if the current tax rates were enough to create jobs and generate economic growth we'd have a growing economy. It's not working now. Let's at least give some certainty there and then we'll fight for more tax relief.


When Republicans pushed through the original Bush tax cuts, which sunset at the end of the year, they made all sorts of lofty promises. They boasted that the tax cuts would increase revenues, create jobs, and grow the economy. As a depressing reminder of a different time, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) actually argued that "the surplus will pick up" thanks to the stimulative effect of the tax cuts. 

Instead, we got exploding deficits, lethargic job creation, and "the slowest average annual growth since World War II." Worse yet, as the New York Times' David Leonhardt points out, that's "true even if you forget about the Great Recession and simply look at 2001-7."      

So kudos to Pence for being honest. The only problem is that he views the failure of the Bush tax cuts as a reason to double down on economic policies that do not work. Not only does he want to spend $700 billion to extend tax cuts for the wealthy — who economists predict "will save the money rather than spend it" — but he wants to pass additional tax cuts to boot.

Amazingly, Pence is absolutely certain that Republicans already "won this argument" about taxes. But the facts are stubborn, and they disagree.