Over the weekend I wrote about how dishonest reporting of Democrats' "pay-as-you-go" policy was concealing the true intentions of the majority party, and today's WSJ editorial basically says the same thing in a longer form.
Senate Democrats gave up on "paygo," as it's called, when they realized they lacked the votes to offset the $50.6 billion cost of protecting more than 20 million middle-class taxpayers from getting whacked by the Alternative Minimum Tax this year. They've spent the year floating all kinds of tax increases to make up the difference. But in the end they passed an AMT relief bill without a penny to pay for it. Paygo is now pay gone.
We should stress that this is the right decision for the economy and the federal budget. The AMT was never supposed to hit the middle class, and it only does so now because the Democrats who designed it failed to index it for inflation and raised AMT rates under Bill Clinton in 1993. With the economy in a slowdown, the last thing anyone needs now is a tax hike. The budget deficit is a little above 1% of GDP, which is below the 25-year average, and should remain so as long as the economy keeps growing.
But paygo shouldn't be allowed to expire without everyone kicking sand on its grave. That's because it has been nothing but a confidence game from the very start. Paygo doesn't apply to domestic discretionary spending, and it doesn't restrain spending increases under current law in entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid. Its main goals are to make tax cutting all but impossible, while letting Democrats pretend to favor "fiscal discipline," a la Ms. Pelosi's boast above.
Not only did Democrats and their allies in the press misrepresent "paygo", they also evaded the policy completely whenever it would have restrained their spending.
In fact, the paygo farce has been unfolding all year. Since the day they took the gavel, Democrats have been using gimmick after gimmick to evade it. The Schip bill for health care, for example, includes a spending "cliff" that disguises its actual cost. It assumes spending would rise to $14 billion in 2012, but then pretends the costs would fall to less than half that level in 2013--which just so happens to fall outside the five-year budget scoring window. Some $60 billion in spending over the next 10 years were hidden through this ploy.
"Paygo" has always been a farce, but you'd never have known that if you only paid attention to the mainstream media.