Chart of the Day: Reagan Loved Tax Hikes

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


The next time you hear Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Michele Bachmann, or Rick Perry wax nostalgic for the good old, tax-cutting, government-drowning Reagan days of yore, consider tweeting the following, via Bruce Bartlett:

As Bartlett, a former Republican budget official, notes, the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 was the single largest peacetime tax increase in history. But he also points out that there was still a net tax cut during the Regan years, with revenue nearly $265 billion lower in 1988 than it would have been without the sweeping tax cuts he introduced in 1981’s Economic Recovery Tax Act—half of which he’d taken back by the end of his administration.

That set the stage for…the next twenty-five years of broken tax policy:

It was their inability to simply cut taxes that really made Republicans interested in tax reform, which had historically been of more interest to Democrats. It was only by pairing tax increases with tax cuts that Republicans could keep alive their goal of reducing statutory tax rates. Their ultimate goal has long been to abolish progressivity by having a single tax rate that applies to everyone. . . .

As the Republican tax guru Grover Norquist put it last week, when taxes are on the table there are no spending cuts. “When taxes are off the table, you get spending cuts,” he said.

My friend Grover is factually wrong. Spending as a share of the gross domestic product fell after both the 1990 and 1993 budget deals, in large part because of tough budget controls that Republicans abandoned in 2002 so that they could cut taxes without restraint. And contrary to Mr. Norquist’s theory, the tax cuts of the George W. Bush years did not constrain spending, which rose as a share of the G.D.P. almost every year of his administration (as the raw data confirms).

The false mythology of the single tax rate for all, or flat tax, lives on in the campaign promises of Rick Perry, the Texas governor and GOP presidential contender. Perry’s tax plan, which he rolled out this morning in the Wall Street Journal, is to give Americans a choice between a flat tax of 20 percent or their current income tax rate. Kevin Drum already called BS, branding the scheme as a grotesque giveaway to the rich (not unlike Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 and 9-0-9 plans). That, of course, is the point: Republicans haven’t cared about reducing spending for a long time. What they do care about is cutting taxes on the rich.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate