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Tim Pawlenty: Keep the tax cuts (but pay for them) then cut more taxes

Tim Pawlenty: Keep the tax cuts but pay them (then cut more taxes)
By Eric Black

Gov. Pawlenty was interviewed last week on the Bloomberg network by Washington Journo Bigfoot Al Hunt. The interview aired Saturday. 

Pawlenty (along with pretty much all Republicans) wants to maintain the tax cuts for top earners that are set to expire, and he also wants to cut payroll taxes, capital gains taxes, inheritance taxes, and marginal income tax rates.

He also said, in essence, that the economy can’t really recover while the current occupant remains in the Oval Office and the current majority controls the Congress because the entrepreneurs who make everything happen don’t like or trust Pres. Obama or the Dems.

After telling an anecdote about a particular unnamed entrepreneur he had met — who would be hiring everyone in sight if he had a better feeling about those in charge of the government — TPaw said:

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“That story repeats itself every time I travel around the country. It repeats itself with anybody I’m talking to in business. And the bottom line is the business community, the entrepreneurial community, doesn’t trust and doesn’t believe in this president, in this Congress, and they’re sitting on their hands.”

He also said they are “sitting on their wallets.”

Like most Republicans, TPaw advocates maintaining all of the Bush tax cuts, including those for Americans with incomes above $250,000 (that’s the level above which Pres. Obama and most Dems want to let the tax cuts expire).

But unlike most Republicans, who want to keep the tax cuts without “paying for them” (that’s Washington-speak for making offsetting spending cuts so the renewal of the tax cuts doesn’t add to the deficit) Pawlenty says he wants to pay for the renewal of the tax cuts for the wealthy. He’s not real specific about how, except to start with the remaining stimulus money that hasn’t been spent yet.

Over the course of this fairly brief interview, Pawlenty mentioned other taxes he would like to cut, and he certainly included most of the major taxes the federal government collects. TPaw wasn’t real clear about how deeply he wanted to cut all those other taxes, nor whether the cuts would be permanent or temporary, nor how he would make up for the impact on Social Security and Medicare’s long-term solvency problems if he cut the payroll tax. But he implied that it wouldn’t be hard to find spending cuts to offset the tax cuts. If he is serious about those tax cuts, and if he is taken seriously as a presidential candidate, he will have to specify hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars in cuts (depending on how long a time frame). He did mention that cuts in entitlements could be part of the picture.

In other contexts, such as this July 26 appearance at the famed Christian Science Monitor breakfast meeting with Washington, reporters, Pawlenty has said that among the steps necessary to get entitlement spending under control, he would favor means testing of Social Security benefits. (They are already means-tested in various small ways; Pawlenty presumably wants to do more along those lines so that, for example, wealthier seniors would get smaller annual cost of living hikes in their Social Security benefits than poorer seniors.)

This idea has long been part of the laundry list of “tough choices” that fiscal hawks say have to be made to address the long-term solvency of the entitlements. By itself, means testing of Social Security COLAs wouldn’t be enough. But Pawlenty’s Washington-based spokester Alex Conant did clarify for me that ideas like that one would be necssary just to fix the entitlement picture and couldn’t be counted toward the spending cuts necessary to balance the budget.

Pawlenty also told Hunt that he would favor a constitutional amendment so that children, born in the United States of parents who are illegal aliens, would not be entitled to U.S. citizenship. As things now stand, the 14th amendment says: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” The “Radical Republican” authors of this post-Civil War amendment didn’t have the children of illegal immigrants in mind. They were trying to reverse the hideous Dred Scott decision in which the Supreme Court had ruled that blacks could never be U.S. citizens.

In the context of the current fight over illegal immigration, some people on the right, notably Sen. Lindsey Graham, have begun complaining that the application of that language to the children of illegal aliens makes no sense. But TPaw is the one of the first to begin advocating for a constitutional amendment. Here’s the quote on that one:

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“I think we’re the only, or one of the few, developed nations in the world that allows somebody to come here illegally, give birth to a child, and then have the child be a legal citizen of our country. The procedure around amending the Constitution is very difficult, but I would be in favor of a rule that says you have to be here legally in order for your son or daughter to be deemed legal here if they’re born here.” 

In the Bloomberg interview, Pawlenty also urged the U.S. Senate to reject the treaty that Obama has negotiated with Russia requiring both countries to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

Here’s the transcript of the interview.