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Columns

November 17, 2012

Brinkmanship at the edge of the fiscal cliff

(Continued)

It’s doubtful Ryan paid any attention to the report a week earlier from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which said nixing the Bush-era tax cuts for those earning $250,000+ annually would not significantly weaken economic growth in 2013.

Nor is it likely that Ryan read the non-partisan Congressional Research Service’s September report that concluded income tax cuts for the highest bracket have no correlation with increased economic growth. This might be because McConnell and other Senate Republicans pressured the CRS to remove the study from its website, over the objections of its research staff.

But studies and statistics matter only to empirical thinkers and realists, not to doctrinaire idealists such as Ryan, who’s known for handing out the works of objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand to his staffers. Rand’s misanthropic worldview was succinctly summed up by the protagonist Kira in her novel We the Living who said: “What are your masses but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?”

It might seem that the fiscal cliff is mainly a squabble over the Bush-era tax cuts. But it’s really a battle over two almost diametrically opposed views on the state’s economic role.

Ryan, McConnell and the other supply-siders believe growth is fueled by a special class of John Galt-types known as “job creators.” These folks, the argument goes, would love nothing more than to hire away and send unemployment plummeting – if only we’d shift the tax burden off of them and onto the middle class.

By such logic, it makes perfect sense to sign lobbyist Grover Norquist’s cultlish Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which forbids not only income tax increases on the wealthy, but requires that any tax loophole closed must be offset by opening another loophole.

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