Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 17, 2011

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?

Steve Benen 2:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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Comments

I absolutely love the "Reagan Plan" approach.

Posted by: wvng on April 17, 2011 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Uh..2002? I heard there might be a zombie Reagan out there.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on April 17, 2011 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Reagan added $3T to the National Debt

didn't he? Even with his tax increases.

Posted by: zandru on April 17, 2011 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Ummm... I don't think you mean 2002 for that last tax cut. Dubya was in office, it was his first budget, and Saint Ronnie was at home drooling in his cups.

Posted by: filkertom on April 17, 2011 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

2002 would be George HW Bush's tax increase...

Posted by: seanvino on April 17, 2011 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

"Boost", not "cut" -- maybe I'm drooling in my cups.... ;)

Posted by: filkertom on April 17, 2011 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

I think you meant 1982, not 2002.....

Posted by: Mike H on April 17, 2011 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Oops, my date is bad: 1992 would be HW Bush's tax increase.

Posted by: seanvino on April 17, 2011 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

His last tax increase came in 2002? Really? Fourteen years and three presidents after he left office? Right before the economy soared? In 2002?

Maybe I'm being too snarky. But seriously, the truly fantastic political insight in this blog is increasingly liable to be overwhelmed and undermined by the sloppy and worsening editing it demonstrates. You can't credibly mock Sen. Kyl for whoppers when you routinely make similar silly errors (and don't even fix them when called on it).

Posted by: Bernard Gilroy on April 17, 2011 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

for all his wackiness, the republican party needs more people like alan simpson. yeah he's conservative but he's willing to got beyond the talking points and challenge his party's conventional wisdom on occasion. there aren't too many who will do that in this day and age.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on April 17, 2011 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Wyoming - where the Republican party can be a bit schizophrenic! Cheney and Simpson? First Dick says rethink extended ammo clips, and now Alan wants to raise taxes!

And, recently two Wyoming Republican legislators called their colleagues out on abortion!

Are changes afoot for Republicans, beginning with the Wyoming ones? -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 17, 2011 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

The net result of Reagan's tax policies - supported by Democrats in Congress - was to cut rates drastically on higher brackets and to decrease federal revenues. The debt/GDP ratio, which had been drecreasing since 1947, started climbing again. Had it continued on the course set during the Reagan administration it would be higher than it is now. The current push by Republicans to cut taxes on upper brackets is completely consistent with Reagan's objectives.

Why continue the hero-worship of the man who is most responsible for the current fiscal situation?

Posted by: skeptonomist on April 17, 2011 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Progressives, let's be consistent: Simpson was the 'crazy Republican uncle' when he said things we didn't like, but he's right on target when we agree?

Posted by: DAY on April 17, 2011 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and maybe Benen needs a day off. It's not like we can't find a fix somewhere else on Sunday. . .

Posted by: DAY on April 17, 2011 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Good , keep the misprints and misspellingz up . One can see the enervation burning off by noon .
Oh , I also like the idea of whramming colonel Raygoons disastrous fumbling of the presidency into the budgets language . The ones who think of "Atlas Shrugged" as an interesting book , and a sad , poor movie may be able to perceive his raygooniness as the out of touch cold hearted liar he was . Then with the leverage of poutrage assisting in awakening the sleeping sulking pouts , they may see beyond the invisible narrator . Who with his invisible hand makes the magic of supply side hilarity , lightening the load of another days works .

Posted by: FRP on April 17, 2011 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Reaga is to Republicans what Jesus is to Christianity -- a figurehead who's actual life stands at 180 to what their believers believe.

Posted by: be on April 17, 2011 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Berni-

"You can't credibly mock Sen. Kyl for whoppers when you routinely make similar silly errors (and don't even fix them when called on it)."

What would be the point of lying about the year of Reagan's last tax increase? Pretty sure your pathetic attempt at comparing apples to oranges hardly comes to snark as some sort of basic intellectual capacity would be needed for that.

Time to call your mommy for din-din.

Posted by: IntelVet on April 17, 2011 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Reagan is to Republicans what Jesus is to Christianity -- a figurehead who's actual life stands at 180 to what their believers believe.

This is not even a controversial statement, it's just self-evidently true.

Posted by: craigie on April 17, 2011 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

obviously steve was thinking 1982, not 2002

Posted by: dj spellchecka on April 17, 2011 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

from:
http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/07/reagans-tax-increases/

Bruce Bartlett writes that:

“Reagan signed into law the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act in 1982 before the recession was even over and went on to sign 10 more major tax increases during his administration. By 1988 he had taken back half the 1981 tax cut. These tax increases were most enacted as part of budget deals that cut domestic discretionary spending. Compared to today’s Republicans, Reagan was a model of fiscal responsibility.”

and there is a handy dandy chart of all the increases at the site

Posted by: withay on April 17, 2011 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Since taking the lead on the White House's deficit commission,

That's an awfully passive way of saying "Since Barack Obama chose Alan Simpson to lead the President's deficit commission..."

Posted by: square1 on April 17, 2011 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

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.

Yep. That's Al.

Posted by: quaker in a basement on April 17, 2011 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Progressives, let's be consistent

Now that's funny!

Posted by: chi res on April 17, 2011 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

I was happy to see the AP run this:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110417/ap_on_bi_ge/us_no_taxes
Super rich see federal taxes drop dramatically

"The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.

"Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent."

Posted by: Hmmmmm on April 17, 2011 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Good enoughish for Simpson to say that much, but we are also shaking our heads, why did Obama pick a prick like him? Well at least Alan is pointing out that spending hundreds of billions on wars, especially one notable bungled one, should be paid for right away and not as debt to those children the teapartiers say they care about so much.

Good point, Hmmmmm, and to note that the nominal statutory bracket rate is not what the uppers end up paying.

Posted by: neil b on April 17, 2011 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

Remember, only a democrat can gut social security and medicare, and only a republican can raise taxes.

Posted by: LL on April 17, 2011 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

I've always found the reverence for Reagan that conservatives have really baffling. They have no clue about many of the policies he enacted. Hell, they'd hate many of the most popular republican presidents if they had any clue what they actually did. Check out this article if you wanna make a tea bagger's head explode:

http://alphanovus.org/?p=256

Posted by: bob bobber on April 17, 2011 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican icon -- literally described by the RNC as Ronaldus Magnus

Fats Limbaugh also uses that term.

Posted by: Steve J. on April 17, 2011 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

So Steve made a mistake on the year of Reagan's tax increases. BFD. You do amazing work 7 days a week, Steve, and our country is fortunate to have you.

Thanks for the news of Alan Simpson out there confronting Grover and making the case for tax increases to balance the budget that was solid in 2001 when bush-cheney came in.. which they proceeded to swallow whole.

Posted by: Cha on April 17, 2011 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Hey BFD? What a snarky bitchy thing to say when you know it was just an error? The whole POINT of the post was that Reagan raised taxes a bunch of times because he needed to pay for stuff. Grover Norquist is a petty ass wannabe that runs around Congress making them sign 'pledges'. Norquist hasn't been elected dogcatcher but somehow today's House GOP thinks they are beholden to him.

Posted by: SYSPROG on April 17, 2011 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

would the GOP be more likely to consider it?

No. SATSQ

Posted by: LosGatosCA on April 18, 2011 at 2:27 AM | PERMALINK

I've always found the reverence for Reagan that conservatives have really baffling. They have no clue about many of the policies he enacted. Hell, they'd hate many of the most popular republican presidents if they had any clue what they actually did. Check out this article if you wanna make a tea bagger's head explode: http://www.thechanelonline.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=70

Posted by: nono on April 18, 2011 at 7:23 AM | PERMALINK

> “and who can forget the unfortunate "Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg" remark.”

Oh come on, you are taking that out of context which gives an unfair representation of the full comments! You know full well he was talking about “the enema man” when he mentioned "Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg" This was not the kind of weird, funny random brain fart that your quotation makes it out to be, there is a common theme here that shows he put some thoughts and effort into this remarks.

Posted by: rt on April 18, 2011 at 7:29 AM | PERMALINK

I’m impressed, I need to say. Really hardly ever do I encounter a weblog that’s each educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you've hit the nail on the head. Your thought is excellent; the problem is one thing that not sufficient persons are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my seek for something referring to this.

Posted by: Shanna Kuza on April 19, 2011 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK
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