While the 2017 tax legislation has been a striking success, Republicans should avoid making the income tax cuts permanent unless they first enact offsetting spending cuts.
Don't get me wrong, I recognize the huge economic benefits that President Trump's 2017 tax reform package has proffered. The economy is generating record investment, record low unemployment rates, and now, wage rises. Republicans should be pushing for further corporate tax code simplifications and corporate rate cuts down to 5 percent. Yet just because one tax cut is a good idea, that doesn't mean all tax cuts are a good idea. That brings us back to the new Republican effort to make the most recent income tax cuts permanent. Because absent spending cut offsets, that action cannot be justified. It would betray young Americans in particular by blowing up the national debt.
While Congressional Budget Office assessments have their issues, CBO assessments of debt accumulation trajectories are striking. In its most recent report, the CBO found that making the income tax cuts permanent would lead to a net-debt-to-GDP ratio of 105 percent by January 2029. The CBO also points out that "the pressures contributing to that rise would accelerate and push debt up even more sharply in subsequent decades." These deficits would lead to spiking interest payments aside from actually paying down the existing debt load, while crowding out investment and leading to inevitable, dramatic increases in taxation. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have utterly given up on addressing the core driver of the national deficit: entitlement spending that will lead to national bankruptcy. In that sense this latest income tax push looks like very short-sighted political opportunism at the expense of responsible governance.
But if math can't convince Republicans to get serious about the deficit then political reality should. After all, with Democrats now openly endorsing various levels of democratic socialism, young Americans will face an increasingly stark choice between those who offer ever more spending, ever more debt, and thus ever more taxes, and those who offer policies that lead to true opportunity.
If they want to cut income taxes further, Republicans should first find the courage to embrace both discretionary spending cuts and wholesale entitlement reform. Until then, they should focus on corporate tax reform.