Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Same Old Debate Arguing over Taxes Is like Comfort Food

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Same Old Debate Arguing over Taxes Is like Comfort Food

Article excerpt

After a year of tumult, I found the debate over the tax bill reassuring. Sure, it was full of vitriol and backbiting, but at least it was familiar.

Republicans argue that their corporate tax cut will make America more competitive in the global marketplace, thereby increasing employment. They tout their personal-income tax cut as a boon to middle-class families. Democrats argue that this is just a payoff to the wealthy and well-connected, blowing a hole in the deficit and leaving struggling Americans behind.

If you are suddenly struck with a sense of deja vu, you are not alone. Republicans and Democrats have been making these competing arguments for generations.

When he accepted renomination for the presidency in 1984, Ronald Reagan said that his "tax program" provided "incentives to increase productivity for both workers and industry," and touted the average American's increased purchasing power.

The Democrats saw things differently. In his 1984 nomination address, Walter Mondale blasted Reagan's tax cuts. "What happened was," Mr. Mondale argued, "he gave each of his rich friends enough tax relief to buy a Rolls-Royce -and then he asked your family to pay for the hubcaps."

It goes back further than the 1980s, too. More than 100 years ago, Democrats and Republicans were arguing over taxes. Back then, it was not the income tax but rather tariffs. Republicans wanted higher tariffs to protect domestic industries, which they believed would boost wages and profits. Their 1892 platform said "that the prosperous condition of our country is largely due to the wise" tariff program of the GOP. Democrats disagreed. In their 1892 party platform, they "denounce[d] Republican protection as a fraud, a robbery of the great majority of the American people for the benefit of the few."

In fact, if you go back another 100 years, you will see the exact same argument! In 1791, Alexander Hamilton proposed a system of industrial protection - tax policies meant to fertilize nascent American businesses. …

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