QUOTE OF THE DAY…. Since taking the lead on the White House’s deficit commission, former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) has made all kinds of head-shaking comments. At times, it’s been tough to keep up with all of them — there was the time he compared Social Security to a “milk cow with 310 million tits,” the time when he complained that treating veterans’ ailments was fiscally inconvenient, and perhaps most notably, who can forget the unfortunate “Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg” remark.
But even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Simpson appeared in Denver recently, and argued “vigorously for tax increases to help balance the budget.”
Simpson said he confronted anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist when the commission met and they exchanged words over the legacy of Ronald Reagan, claimed by both as their personal hero. When Reagan was president, he raised taxes 11 times, Simpson said, a bit of history that made Norquist squirm.
“I knew Ronald Reagan and you, Grover, are no Ronald Reagan,” Simpson said he told the president of Americans for Tax Reform, who famously said his goal was to make government small enough it could be drowned in a bathtub. Reagan didn’t raise taxes to give Norquist something to complain about, Simpson said. “He probably did it to make the country run.”
“We’ve never had a war with no tax to support it, including the Revolution,” Simpson said, after pointing out that taxes account for an increasingly smaller share of the economy. But the harsh partisan atmosphere in Washington makes any discussion of tax increases dangerous, Simpson said. “People are told in Congress if they raise taxes by a nickel, they’ll be strung up by their heels in the town square.”
For all of the comments Simpson makes that leave one dumbfounded and asking, “What was he thinking?” this was actually a very sensible thing to say. It’s also a message that too few Republicans are even willing to acknowledge out loud.
Indeed, the point about Reagan is especially relevant, given the GOP’s religious reverence for the former president. The Republican icon — literally described by the RNC as Ronaldus Magnus — raised taxes seven out of the eight years he was in office. Simpson noted that Reagan raised taxes a total of 11 times, all to prevent the deficit from spiraling. One of Reagan’s biggest tax increases came in
2002 1982 — right before the economy started to soar (thanks to the Federal Reserve), which runs counter to every belief that guides modern GOP thought.
How much cognitive dissonance does it take for House Republicans to deal with this? If Democrats described their fiscal agenda — a combination of spending cuts and tax increases on the wealthy — as the “Reagan plan,” would the GOP be more likely to consider it?