Jeb's voodoo math: 2016 hopeful promises to wreck the budget -- just like his brother did

Jeb endorses the same dodgy mathematics George W. Bush used to cut taxes and punch a massive hole in the treasury

Published May 22, 2015 5:21PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Jim Young/Rebecca Cook/Photo montage by Salon)
(Reuters/Jim Young/Rebecca Cook/Photo montage by Salon)

Jeb Bush is a big fan of voodoo math, it seems. The former Florida governor was in New Hampshire yesterday talking to voters as part of his still unofficial presidential campaign, and he enthusiastically endorsed the House Republicans’ decision to embrace “dynamic scoring” when determining the budgetary impact of tax legislation. Dynamic scoring isn’t a terribly controversial practice when used modestly, but conservatives and supply-side Republicans have enthusiastically abused it to produce economic models indicating that deep cuts to income tax rates will end up being deficit-neutral. By assuming that the cuts will generate wild economic growth, Republicans can argue that tax cuts will pay for themselves.

It’s a fiction that conservatives cling to so they can keep on evangelizing tax cuts as the “secret sauce” of economic prosperity. And Jeb is completely on board with this. As TPM reported:

"The House has done this and I think it's the right thing," Bush said in New Hampshire on Thursday. He went on to praise House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who, in Sept 2014, actually floated the idea that the CBO adopt dynamic scoring.

"One of the guys I most respect in Washington D.C. is Paul Ryan. He's thoughtful, he's optimistic, he believes that if you create the right conditions all of us interacting amongst ourselves will create far more benefits for far more people," Bush said.

Republicans like Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush are such huge fans of dynamic scoring because it enables them to reconcile two otherwise irreconcilable tenets of Republican economic policy: tax cuts are great, and deficits are bad. Cutting taxes reduces revenues and runs up the deficit – it happened when Reagan cut taxes, it happened when George W. Bush cut taxes, and it’s happening right now with Sam Brownback’s tax cut experiment in Kansas.

But through the magic of dynamic scoring, Republican can pitch their budget-busting tax proposals while also appearing to be deficit hawks. To sell his tax cuts back in 2012, Brownback used dynamically scored economic models to promise rapid and immediate growth. “On the economic modeling of it for our state,” he said at a 2012 economic conference, “it looks really nice on growth, particularly the growth piece is taking that tax off of small business, and really targeting that piece of the growth instrument.” When Jeb’s brother was pushing his tax-cut package in 2001, the Heritage Foundation produced a dynamically scored analysis of the plan that predicted Bush’s tax policy would “exert a positive effect on the federal budget” and “effectively pay off the federal debt.”

Curiously enough, Jeb was also asked yesterday to provide an issue that he disagrees with his brother on, and he landed on “budget discipline.” According to Jeb, George W. Bush spent too much money and irresponsibly ran up the deficit. “I think he could have used the veto power,” MSNBC quoted Jeb as saying, “he didn’t have line item veto power, but he could have brought budget discipline to Washington, DC.” The single biggest contributor to the deficits George W. Bush left behind was his tax policy. The tax cuts and the costs of the two wars Bush launched accounted for over one-third of the $1.4 trillion deficit Barack Obama inherited in 2009.

Now here comes Jeb Bush endorsing the same smoke-and-mirrors trickery George W. Bush used to cover up the massive deficits his tax policy would create. And as it turns out, Jeb’s own tenure as governor of Florida was marked by steep increases in spending paired with tax cuts. So while Jeb may have a problem with how his brother’s economic policies turned out, there’s no reason to think he won’t just fudge the math and do the exact same thing.

By Simon Maloy

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