John Kasich has been running for president as the candidate of sobriety and “ideas,” the main one of which is his “plan” to balance the budget. The trouble, as I’ve noted, is that such a plan does not exist. On the spending side, Kasich has waved his hands in the general direction of certain planlike elements that would not remotely accomplish his goal. On the tax side, he has proposed massive cuts that would dramatically increase the deficit. The other day, Kasich stopped by the Washington Post editorial page for an interview, where columnists Catherine Rampell and Ruth Marcus attempted to pin him down. The result was a comic masterpiece best appreciated if read in the voice of Jerry Lundegaard, William H. Macy’s Fargo character. For instance:
RAMPELL: So to clarify, you’re saying you would balance through spending cuts?
KASICH: No, no, no. You get it through economic growth. That’s the way you get it. Economic growth. Our tax plan, all that projects 3.9 percent economic growth. It’s not some flimsy put-together – you know, I’ll have you call – you can call our people. Fly out to Columbus and they’ll show you what we’re doing. I don’t put together smoke and mirrors. I never have in my entire career. And every time I’ve laid it down, people said it can’t be done, and it keeps getting down.
So in response to the basic question of how he intends to brings outlays into line with revenue, Kasich begins by asserting his plan will produce 3.9 percent growth — way more responsible than those crazy 4 percent growth promises made by Jeb Bush! — then throws responsibility onto his “people,” who can be reached only if you are willing to fly to Columbus, Ohio.
Then Marcus attempts to gain more clarity:
MARCUS: I understand in your revenue projections on your tax cuts that you show increased revenue of about a trillion dollars. What’s –
KASICH: No, that’s as a whole. The whole is about 900 billion, I think, is the last time I checked it.
MARCUS: What’s the static cost of your tax cuts?
KASICH: I don’t know. You’d have to ask them.
Asked if his plan assumes “about a trillion dollars” in higher revenue through massive tax cuts, Kasich denies it. Then he says the number is $900 billion, a figure most people would define as “about a trillion dollars.” Then he insists that the people who work for him need to be consulted — again, presumably face to face in Ohio, rather than at the interview Kasich is conducting at the moment.
Marcus tries to home in on the problem that Kasich’s tax-cut plan promises huge rate cuts, like those proposed by Jeb Bush, but provides so little detail that no analysts have been able to estimate its actual size:
MARCUS: Well, but you have a tax cut that – as far as I can see though it’s been unscoreable for the reasons that Catherine says – that most closely approximates Jeb Bush’s. Jeb Bush’s tax cut was scored on a non-dynamic basis by the Tax Policy Center as costing about $6.8 trillion.
KASICH: Yes, ours – I don’t believe ours is scored that.
Right — it’s not scored at all. That’s the problem. Continuing:
MARCUS: Well, but that’s a kind of important number to know.
MARCUS: You assume that there’s revenue approaching a trillion dollars. That’s a big delta. So don’t you think that those are numbers since you’re not a “flim-flam guy” that you should be putting forward to the American people?
KASICH: Well, look, I would tell you that look at the plan and see how they project it. I believe that we have not overused dynamic scoring and I don’t – I think that what we’ve done is a set of reasonable assumptions. Now, who’s working on it? People like Kerry Knott, worked for [former congressman] Dick Armey. I mean, we got a lot of people looking at it.
Oh, ya — the plan exists, all right. I’m lookin’ right at it! I’ll just have my girl shoot the numbers right on over to ya.