CBS’s “60 Minutes” ran a good profile on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) last night, but there was one portion of the interview that was especially important.
In this video, it starts at about the 10:19 mark. For those who can’t watch clips online, Cantor told Lesley Stahl, “Nobody gets everything they want.” Asked if that means he’s ready to compromise with Democrats, the oft-confused Majority Leader replied that he’s “ready to cooperate.” Stahl, of course, noticed word choice, and pressed Cantor on the difference between cooperation and compromise.
It led to this exchange:
Stahl: But you know, your idol, as I’ve read anyway, was Ronald Reagan. And he compromised.
Cantor: He never compromised his principles.
Stahl: Well, he raised taxes and it was one of his principles not to raise taxes.
Cantor: Well, he — he also cut taxes.
Stahl: But he did compromise —
Cantor: Well I —
At that point, Cantor’s press secretary, off camera, interrupted the interview, yelling that Stahl was lying when she said Reagan raised taxes. As Stahl told “60 Minutes” viewers, “There seemed to be some difficulty accepting the fact that even though Ronald Reagan cut taxes, he also pushed through several tax increases, including one in 1982 during a recession.”
Let’s call “some difficulty” a dramatic understatement.
Unfortunately for Cantor and his press secretary, reality is stubborn. The facts are indisputable: in Ronald Reagan’s first term, he signed off on a series of tax increases — even when unemployment was nearing 11% — and proceeded to raise taxes seven out of the eight years he was in office. The truth is, “no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people” as Reagan.
Of particular interest is the “Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982,” the largest of Reagan’s tax increases, and generally considered the largest tax increase — as a percentage of the economy — in modern American history. In fact, between 1982 and 1984, Reagan raised taxes four times, and as Bruce Bartlett has explained more than once, Reagan raised taxes 12 times during his eight years in office.
Why do Cantor, his press secretary, and Republicans everywhere deny what is plainly true? Because reality is terribly inconvenient: the GOP demi-god rejected the right-wing line on always opposing tax increases; he willingly compromised with Democrats on revenue; and the economy soared after Reagan raised taxes, disproving the Republican assumption that tax increases always push the nation towards recessions.
In other words, Reagan’s legacy makes the contemporary Republican Party look ridiculous. No wonder Cantor’s press secretary started yelling: Stahl was bringing up facts that are never supposed to be repeated out loud.