Political Implications of Deficit-Reduction Plans

In 1990 George H.W. Bush was president, and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.  Then, as now, the United States was trying to fix the deficit, and then, as now, Democrats demanded higher taxes as a necessary part of any deal.

Yet, Bush had made a promise at the Republican Convention in 1988 never to raise taxes.  Some have suggested that “abandonment” of that “solemn ‘read my lips: no new taxes’ promise” would unleash “a firestorm of attacks from the GOP’s right wing.” And even liberals who are pleased that Bush raised taxes admit that his decision to do so helped lose him his bid at reelection.  In 1989, Heritage said that instead of accepting a flawed budget plan, Bush should demand that spending be cut, so as not to “break faith” with the American people.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.  In fact, while Bush advocated less government spending with his words, his decisions did not reflect those sentiments, and federal domestic spending grew more under his watch than under any other four-year period prior.

As New York Times correspondent Jackie Calmes recalls, “it helped cost Mr. Bush re-election after many anti-tax Republicans mutinied.”  Raising taxes may not have been the only thing that cost him a second term in office (there was the subsequent recession, third party challenge, etc.), but bending to the will of the political left, and failing to honor his promise not to raise taxes, certainly helped Bush get ousted in the 1992 presidential election.   

As history would have it, the relatively unknown Bill Clinton became our new president, and while his economic record may have a sort of “legendary” reputation for the left, Heritage experts J.D. Foster and Curtis Dubay have put forth compelling arguments that the economy would have grown at a more rapid rate had it not been for the Clinton tax hikes when he first came into office.

Not only did Clinton’s tax hike suppress America’s economic engine, he went on to assault the Second Amendment, expand the welfare state, stymie much of the Republican Revolution’s agenda, and, most recently, proved to be President Obama’s most effective campaign surrogate.

When the media and others talk of compromise today, or even in the past, it seems to mean taking a big leap to the left.  This doesn’t only affect the economy, though.  Conservatives and Republicans in the House who have promised not to raise taxes can take a page from President George H.W. Bush’s book.  He waivered in his commitment not to raise taxes, and this certainly contributed to his failure to win reelection.

We’re not saying reelection should be the primary motivation for lawmakers and politicians, but we do believe lawmakers should honor the promises they made to their constituents – promises that in many cases resulted in them being elected in the first place.  And when the alternative is losing to liberal politicians who are bound to bring our country further down the path to destruction, these things do matter.

Now we have an extremely liberal president – perhaps the most liberal in our nation’s history – and congressional negotiators who have put revenue on the table.  The result: we’re losing the battle on tax hikes.  According to Politico, a framework has emerged that would increase taxes by $1.2 trillion.   That’s 50% higher than the Republicans’ original (and misguided) offer of $800 billion in increased taxes.

Oh, Politico also reports, “Officials familiar with the White House position say Obama plans zero flexibility on his insistence on a higher tax rate for top earners.”  Zero flexibility!  How’s that for compromise?

Hopefully politicians on the right won’t repeat the Bush’s mistake of playing nice guy.  It doesn’t bode well for America’s economy, or their reelection.


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Read My Lips: Breaking Your Tax Promise is Bad Politics

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The Bush Tax Hikes Gave Us Bill Clinton #DontRaiseTaxes

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