The Blog

Morning Jay: The DLC and Democratic Moderates, Reagan, and Sizing Up the GOP Field!

6:00 AM, Feb 9, 2011 • By JAY COST
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

TEFRA did indeed raise taxes, but it pointedly did not do so by changing the basic structure that had been created by Kemp-Roth. Instead, it closed loopholes and amped up enforcement procedures. And Robinson's explanation as to why Reagan passed this tax increase is absurdly ahistorical. Reagan believed that government would be "effective" with "more money?" Really...does that sound like something Ronald Reagan would believe?! Maybe Robinson has him confused with Lyndon Johnson! Anyway, the point of the tax increase had to do with the budget deficit that had spiked because of the recession, and the political compromises that had to be made with a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for telling a nuanced story about the Reagan record, one that acknowledges his political compromises and the ways that government grew under his watch. But Robinson stretches things to absurdity. In 1981 individual income taxes amounted to 9.4 percent of GDP. In 1989 that number had fallen to 8.3 percent. Overall, the total tax burden fell from 19.6 percent of GDP to 18.4 percent. Additionally, federal domestic discretionary spending fell during this period from 4.5 percent of GDP to 3.1 percent. 

That last figure, by the way, surely helped prompt Walter Mondale to declare at the 1984 Democratic National Convention that Reagan was "savag(ing) Social Security and Medicare," "destroy(ing) family farming," "poison(ing) the environment" and "assault(ing) the poor, the sick, and the disabled." 

I appreciate the desire to canonize Reagan as a non-partisan, national leader. It's a good habit that this country has cultivated over the years, whereby old partisans become timeless Americans. But c'mon, you can't go drawing patently silly conclusions based on incomplete pieces of data, just for the purpose of scoring a cheap shot at the modern day GOP! 

3. Sizing up the GOP Nomination Battle. With Mississippi governor Haley Barbour all but declaring himself a candidate for the Republican nomination, we're now seeing two nomination battles take shape.

The first will be fought in Iowa, with an emphasis on cultural issues. Right now, I see Barbour, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum as the main contenders in the Hawkeye State.

The second will be fought in New Hampshire, with an emphasis on fiscal issues. Right now, I see Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney being the leading contenders there. 

Three candidates might be strong in both states -- Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and John Thune. They could play well for the fiscal crowd in New Hampshire, and they might take advantage of regional and economic affinity with Iowa (all three come from big farming states in the Midwest). 

At this point, I don't see anybody whose fundamentals suggest he could win both contests. If nobody is able to sweep both, Iowa and New Hampshire will function as the qualifying rounds in the primary battle. Candidates will have to do reasonably well in one or the other to stamp their tickets to Super Tuesday, where a broad swath of the Republican electorate will be asked to choose a candidate who emphasizes social or fiscal issues. 

Historically, something like this has happened before -- most recently in 2008. What is really interesting is how, even this early on, the divide between the Iowa and New Hampshire candidates is so sharp.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers