Senator And Former Bush Budget Director Portman: "The Issue Has Not Been A Lack Of Revenue"

May 13, 2011 1:05 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

As the budget debate rages on, Republican leaders are maintaining their stance that increasing revenues by ending the Bush tax cuts for top income earners is off the table. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), for example, recently warned that even talking about raising taxes will hurt the economy. And yesterday, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) mocked the very idea that the deficit has anything to do with "lost revenue."

On Fox News this morning, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) affirmed that Republicans will not vote to increase the debt limit without significant spending cuts, and recited the familiar Republican case against ending tax cuts for the wealthy. Calling the debate a "political discussion that's going to hurt the economy rather than help it," Portman added, "The issue has not been a lack of revenue."

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Of course, Portman is way off the mark. In the last ten years, the loss of revenues from the Bush tax cuts has been — and continues to be — one of the main drivers of the debt. And the spike in deficits during the recession that started at the tail end of the Bush administration stemmed from the precipitous decline in revenues that accompanied the downturn (see the following chart from Paul Krugman):

It's tempting to assume that Portman, who served as President Bush's budget director from May 2006-June 2007, is merely being a good team player and doesn't actually believe his own nonsense. However, considering the Bush administration's disastrous fiscal record, it's really tough to say.

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