November 6, 2005
Remember the Last Time They Asked for ‘Sacrifice’
the times that try supply-siders’ souls.
voters agreed to loosen budget restrictions established by constitutional
amendment in the 1992. In Virginia, a Democratic candidate who
has supported tax increases appears poised to defeat the Republican
favorite. And supply-side veteran and columnist Bruce Bartlett
has just published a book titled “Imposter, How George Bush
Bankrupted American and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.”
administration’s massive increases in government spending…make
a sharp increase in taxes inevitable,” asserts Bartlett.
In the wake
of Hurricane Katrina, Republicans are rushing to push a package
of expenditure cuts of somewhere between $35 billion and $50 billion.
But even if they manage to get that much, it wouldn’t make
much a dent in the deficit of more than $300 billion, critics
point out. And some Republicans are openly quavering at the prospect
of being labeled mean-spirited if pushed to do more.
in mind that even as Colorado’s voters were loosening the
reins of their spending limitations, they voted against a $2 billion
bond for more spending. And the Republican candidate in Virginia
may have fallen behind because of his own muddy stance on taxes.
also remember that what the born-again budget balancers on the
left are after are not spending cuts – most of which they
vigorously oppose -- but tax increases, or, at the very least,
allowing the dread Bush’s 2003 cuts in dividend and capital
gains taxes to expire as scheduled in 2008. Indeed, the left asserts,
it would be unpatriotic to do otherwise.
E. J. Dionne Jr. spelled it out
in the Washington Post last week: “I’m sorry to wax
so angry, but I’m aghast that some serious people are giving
congressional conservatives credit for ‘finally facing up
to the deficit.’ If House leaders were serious about the
deficit, they would admit that you can’t finance a war with
may find resonance on the right as well as the left. After all,
shouldn’t we all – and particularly the wealthy --
be willing to make sacrifices on behalf of the troops?
But before you rush to answer yes, cast your thoughts back to
the late 1960s. Then, as now, we were involved in a controversial
war. Then, as now, there was considerable criticism of a “guns-and-butter”
policy on the part of the administration (in this case the Democratic
administration of Lyndon B. Johnson). Then, as now, there was
pressure from “responsible” Republicans for a tax
under the pressure, agreeing to a 10 percent surtax on incomes
in 1966 – a form of taxation that hit particularly hard
at the upper end of the income scale. Yet Johnson was still forced
to withdraw from the 1968 election, which was won by Richard Nixon
in a squeaker. And though Nixon had pledged to repeal the surtax
before its expiration date, he shared the panic about deficits.
He reneged on his pledge and went on to raise capital gains taxes
already headed down, promptly plunged into recession. Deficits
started rising anyway, the dollar started falling, OPEC raised
prices to protect the value of its dollar-denominated oil –
and America suffered a humiliating retreat from Vietnam in any
case. And, oh yes, spending continued its relentless upward climb.
words, “sacrifice” turned out be another word for
some very bad policy decisions. If today’s politicians really
think the war in Iraq is too much of a sacrifice to make for the
benefit of future generations, much less a lie, let them vote
to end it rather than drag the American economy down so that they
can avoid any sacrifices of their own.
Bray is a Detroit News columnist.