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Fiscal Train Wreck Pawlenty Calls Obama a "Chicken" on Debt

July 24, 2011

It's tough to be taken seriously as a presidential contender when you call yourself "T-Paw" and repeatedly trumpet your "smoking hot wife" as a qualification for the White House. But just two days after having to deny he was preparing to pull the plug on his flat-lining campaign, Tim Pawlenty made his growing credibility problems much worse. On Sunday, the former Minnesota Governor called President Obama a "chicken" when it came to the debt ceiling crisis. That would be the same Tim Pawlenty who has opposed raising the debt ceiling for months and last month proposed an economic plan that would drain a staggering $11 trillion from the U.S. Treasury.
That didn't stop T-Paw from talking tough to CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday. Under withering attack from fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann and facing questions about his withering campaign, Pawlenty aimed his fire at President Obama:

"If you're the leader of the free world, would you please come to microphone and quit hiding in the basement about your proposals, and come on up and address the American people? Is he chicken?"
"Where's the president of the United States on the most pressing financial challenges of our country on entitlement reform? Where is his specific Medicaid reform proposal? Where is his specific Medicare reform proposal? Where is his Social Security reform proposal?"

Sadly for T-Paw, his own proposals regarding the U.S. debt long ago range from the ridiculous to the sublime.
In January 2010, then Minnesota Governor Pawlenty began pushing for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. A year later, Pawlenty penned a Washington Post op-ed titled, "Don't Raise the Debt Limit - Reform Entitlement Spending." Then in May, he doubled down, joining the ranks of the Republican "default deniers" and "debt kamikazes" rejecting the dire warning that failure to boost the U.S. borrowing limit would have any dire consequences at all:

In an interview aired Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Pawlenty also implied that suggestions that failing to raise the debt ceiling would result in a financial disaster are overblown.
"Well, there are some serious voices challenging that very premise," he continued. "And the answer is nobody really knows because we've not been at this point before."

As it turns out, the only thing worse than a default by the U.S. government might be Tim Pawlenty running it.
That became abundantly clear in June when Pawlenty unveiled his economic plan diverting $11.6 trillion from the U.S. Treasury in order to give millionaires a 41% tax cut.
To be sure, the "Better Plan" from the man who insists the GOP "should be the party of Sam's Club, not just the country club" was greeted with sidesplitting laughter. His claim to that he could achieve to 5% economic growth over ten straight years - a feat never performed in modern American history, was righty mocked across the political spectrum as "fantasy", "magical", "wishful thinking" and "fuzzy math." His demand for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget and capping federal spending at 18% of GDP would have made lawbreakers out of Ronald Reagan as well as the 235 House Republicans and 40 GOP Senators who just voted for the Ryan budget plan. Perhaps most comical is Pawlenty's insistence that "If you can find a good or service on the internet, then the federal government probably doesn't need to be doing it."
But the most jaw-dropping aspect of Tim Pawlenty's economic hallucination is the unprecedented upward income redistribution it would produce.
As Citizens for Tax Justice concluded, the 400 richest Americans - whose incomes doubled and tax rates were halved over the past decade - would enjoy a 73% reduction in their tax bills. As it turns out, the merely well-off and the fabulously rich would join the unimaginably wealthy in reaping the T-Paw Payday for the gilded class:

Taxpayers with incomes in excess of $1 million would enjoy an average cut in personal income taxes of $288,822, a 41.4 percent cut.
Taxpayers with incomes in excess of $10 million would enjoy an average cut in personal income taxes of $2.4 million, a 46.3 percent cut.
The cost of the personal income tax cuts just for taxpayers with incomes in excess of $1 million would be $141.8 billion.

Pawlenty's windfall for the wealthy would make George Bush and Paul Ryan blush. While the corporate tax rate would be slashed from 35% to 15%, Pawlenty would create two tax brackets of 10% for those earning up to $50,000 and 25% above. (As with the Paul Ryan plan, the loopholes Tim Pawlenty would close remain unnamed.) At a time of when the federal tax burden is at a 60 year low and income inequality at an 80 year high, Pawlenty insists "we should eliminate altogether the capital gains tax, interest income tax, dividends tax, and the death tax." (It is worth noting that less than one-quarter of one percent of U.S. families pay the estate tax, while George W. Bush's last round of capital gains and dividend tax cuts in 2003 delivered 70% of their savings to "top 2 percent of taxpayers, those making more than $200,000.")

All told, Tim Pawlenty's budget-busting blueprint would cost a staggering $11.6 trillion over the next 10 years. In comparison, the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 emptied the Treasury of $2.5 trillion over their first decade, and if made permanent, would drain roughly $4 trillion more. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained, the savings from Paul Ryan's draconian budget cuts (three quarters of which are extracted from the poor and elderly) endorsed by 98% of Republicans on Capitol Hill are almost completely offset by his $4.2 trillion in tax cuts. It's with good reason that ThinkProgress concluded:

Pawlenty's plan wins the triple crown: it's more radical than Ryan, costs three times more than the Bush tax cuts, and still means a tax increase on the middle class.

Unveiling his absolutely fabulous plan for the fabulously rich, the former Governor and friend of Morgan Stanley used his humble roots as cover:

"I come from a working class background. I didn't grow up with wealth. But I've never resented those who have it."

In contrast, President Obama, Pawlenty charged last month, is "a champion practitioner of class warfare." And now, apparently, Obama's a chicken to boot.
Ultimately, of course, none of this will probably matter. At his current pace, Tim Pawlenty's hopes of reaching the White House may soon be gone. But whatever happens, he'll still have his "smoking hot wife."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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