Mon Dec 3, 2012, 01:09 PM
DonViejo (11,302 posts)
Republicans’ tax insanity
How did the GOP become so unreasonable on the issue? Here's a hint: Grover Norquist had nothing to do with it
BY STEVE KORNACKI
On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Claire McCaskill pointed out that she’d met Grover Norquist for the first time backstage, then asked a pretty good question: “Who is he?”
Her point is that Norquist’s visibility and reputation dramatically exceeds his actual political clout. It’s understandable how this has happened. Republicans have evolved over the past three decades into a staunchly anti-tax party, and Norquist is a colorful and endlessly quotable symbol of this absolutism – one who happens to live and work in close proximity to much of the national political press corps. So he gets an awful lot of face time on television and it can sometimes seem as if he and his anti-tax pledge are the reason no Republican member of Congress has voted for a tax hike in over two decades.
But, as Tim Noah wrote last week, Norquist’s actual power in Washington and within the GOP is illusory. In terms of stature and public prominence, he’s been a major beneficiary of the party’s opposition to tax increases – but he hasn’t been the driving force behind it. The real story of the GOP’s modern evolution on taxes played out in several stages, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.
The first key moment was the advent in the late ’70s of supply-side economics, the theory that minimizing income, corporate and investment taxes would result in perpetual economic growth that would benefit everyone. It was a fringe idea at first, championed by economist Arthur Laffer and a handful of Republican members of Congress, most notably Jack Kemp. At the time, the GOP was locked in something of a civil war, between the moderate old guard and a rising New Right. In the 1976 primaries, Ronald Reagan had nearly led the conservative wing to victory over President Gerald Ford, and in the run-up to his 1980 campaign, Reagan decided to embrace supply-side as one of his major platform planks, cementing it as a conservative principle. In his first year in office, Reagan signed a set of sweeping tax cuts into law, and supply-side became mainstream.
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