Persistent and perpetual U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon unveiled her plan to revive the economy on Wednesday at a Newington woodworking company, pledging to dramatically slash both middle class tax rates and corporate taxes. McMahon’s vast tax cuts would be paid for with a 1 percent reduction in spending every year, though where that money would actually come from isn’t clear.
Other parts of the plan include such tired old conservative saws as ending “job-killing” regulations and squeezing as much oil as possible out of every rock and tree to achieve short-term energy independence. You can check out the plan and the little diagrams that go with each point on Linda’s website, but if you’ve been in this country at any point over the past thirty years you’ve heard it before: cut taxes, deregulate, drill; lather, rinse, repeat. How to pay for all of this while protecting consumers, workers and the environment is, as always, a mystery.
McMahon’s plan is fiscal disaster masquerading as “common-sense” economic policy. Huge tax cuts with only the vaguest promise of spending cuts to offset them aren’t sensible and practical, they’re a recipe for more debt. Tax cuts don’t pay for themselves, as the deficit-creating Bush tax cuts showed us, and they don’t necessarily spark economic recovery. Tax cuts are like any other government spending program: they must be paid for in some specific way, or else they’re nothing more than a budgetary time bomb. McMahon wants some sort of spending cuts to pay for her tax cuts, but she has already ruled out touching the huge swaths of federal spending that are defense and entitlements. So where will the cuts come from? Highways? Education? Prisons? National Parks? McMahon isn’t saying.
The other interesting thing that happened at this event was that McMahon was asked about contraception and the controversial Blunt Amendment, which if passed would have given employers to opt-out of covering certain health service, such as birth control, that they had moral objections to. McMahon had previously limited her participation in the birth control debate to criticizing the president’s policy requiring Catholic hospitals to cover contraception for their employees, but on Wednesday she said she “probably” would have supported the Blunt Amendment, though she “wouldn’t have raced to do it.” That sound you’re hearing is McMahon’s women’s outreach advisers smacking their hands against their foreheads, and money pouring into Democratic coffers.
What’s going on here? At some point over the past year Linda McMahon has morphed from a likable, theoretically moderate businesswoman into a boilerplate Republican proposing irresponsible tax cuts, advocating environmentally unfriendly energy policies and edging closer to embracing an amendment that would have set back women’s access to contraception and other necessary health care by decades. None of this will help her in a general election, but could help her fend off a strong challenge from former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays during what’s sure to be a tough primary fight. Shays, who has a well-deserved reputation as a real moderate in a party that has next to none of them left, fares better against potential Democratic opponents and has been steadily making the case against another McMahon nomination.
In fact, the Shays campaign was quick to dismiss McMahon’s plan. “Mrs. McMahon outlined a number of positions Christopher Shays has been advocating for the last 6 months, many of which he proposed and voted for when he was in Congress,” said Shays communications director Amanda Bergen in a Wednesday afternoon press release. “There are areas where he has disagreements. …McMahon’s proposal makes our annual trillion dollar deficits even worse by proposing huge tax cuts with no spending offsets. This is irresponsible and politics as usual.” Shays’s release didn’t mention the Blunt Amendment, but Shays has previously rejected supporting it.
Linda McMahon’s tax cut plan reminds me of Bob Dole’s late-stage campaign pitch to cut taxes by 15 percent across the board in 1996, when it had become clear that he was about to lose to Bill Clinton. Her plan is too hasty, ill-considered and simplistic to be anything but an attempt to grab headlines and conservative votes. That she’s unveiling anything like it this early in the campaign could be a very bad sign for her chances in August.
Susan Bigelow is the former owner of CTLocalPolitics and an author. She lives in Enfield with her wife and cats.