For most of my adult life, there has been one thing I could rely on with the Republican Party; they weren’t going to raise my taxes. Sure, President George H.W. Bush did it in 1990, but his shock reelection loss quickly taught the party a lesson. Tax policy was one clear issue advantage the GOP had over the Democrats. Yesterday, Speaker Boehner released a Democrat-inspired “fiscal cliff” offer that finally surrenders this advantage. The GOP is now the party of “slightly less tax hikes.”
In 2012 exit polls, 63% of voters said taxes “shouldn’t be raised to help cut the deficit.” Romney won these voters by 24-points, 61-37. Over a third of voters, 35%, said income tax rates should not be increased for any taxpayers, even the “wealthy.” Romney won these voters by 52-points, 75-23. Taxes were the third “biggest challenge” facing voters. Romney won this group by 34-points, 66-32.
Taxes are the foundational corner-stone of the Republican voting base. The Republican Party is arguably on the wrong side of many shifting cultural issues. President George W. Bush squandered any advantage the party had on controlling government spending. One of its final appeals to voters has been that the party wouldn’t feed the government spending beast with more taxes. You simply cannot control government spending by giving it more revenue. The history of modern governance dictates that increased revenue will simply move the baseline of spending higher.
Now, it is true that federal revenue collections are historically low. But that is because the economy is stagnant rather then some new-found modesty from the taxman. 23 million Americans looking for more work has an impact on the government’s ledger. The single best way to get increased revenue for the government is to adopt policies that grow the economy.
Extracting almost $1 trillion from a struggling economy, as the House GOP is proposing, is not a recipe for restoring economic growth.
But, let’s set aside economics for now. This is about politics. Keeping taxes low is an existential position for the modern Republican Party. It is one of the last issue appeals it has that registers with voters. And yet, they are allowing the Democrat-Media industrial complex to negotiate themselves into surrendering it.
If they do so, why would anyone vote for a Republican ever again?