After months of insisting that the American public is acutely concerned with prioritizing deficit reduction, Republican lawmakers now seem to be operating off of a different polling playbook: pitching the need to create jobs even if the deficit grows.
In recent days, two of the top Republican leaders in the House have made that case that Congress must extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy — not because doing so will trim the deficit (House Minority Whip Eric Cantor acknowledged on Monday that the deficit would grow) — but because keeping the tax rates low for wealthy Americans making more than $200,000 per year would result in job growth.
Speaking to MSNBC, Cantor implored the viewing public to look at the debate through “the prism of the working families seeking jobs and the small business people who are creating them.”
“[I]f you have less revenues coming in to the federal government, and more expenditures, what does that add up to?” the Virginia Republican added. “Certainly you are going to dig the [deficit] hole deeper, but you also have to understand if the priority is to get people back to work, is to start growing this economy again, you don’t want to make it more expensive for job creators.”
Cantor took a heap of criticism from Democrats for his remark. How, after all, could a self-proclaimed deficit hawk champion a policy that even they acknowledge would worsen the deficit? But there was a far more interesting thread to his statement than the evident hypocrisy. Job creation, it appears, is becoming the prioritized talking point once more with Republican lawmakers, at least with respect to the debate over tax cuts.
Last Thursday, for instance, Cantor’s colleague, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) told Bloomberg’s Al Hunt that the American public had two basic concerns, job creation and then deficit reduction — and jobs were the no. 1 priority.