Conservatives Abandon Reasonability With "No Taxes" Dogma


As the debt ceiling deadline looms, the conversation surrounding a deal has continuously been derailed by ultimatums thrown out by Republicans stating that there will be absolutely no deal that involves looking at our tax structure. This sort of hyperbolic negotiation strategy that is based in ideological tenets rather than empirical facts results in an absolute failure to govern by either party.

My confusion with modern hyper-conservatives grows from the movement's emphasis on dogma and complete disdain for empirical evidence not supportive of its message. “Saint Reagan” is not a joke to some of the folks in the budget talks, and the ignorance of history that accompanies such silly idolatry is astounding.

As pointed out by fellow PolicyMic writer Emily Dobler, Reagan raised taxes six of his eight years in office. Among these increases was a 1986 deal that included the largest corporate tax hike in American history. According to the Washington Post, working-class Americans paid a higher percentage of their income in taxes at the end of Reagan’s tenure than they did before he came into office. Reagan’s annual deficits dwarfed the previously monumental deficits of the Carter administartion by a factor of two as Reagan ballooned the federal budget by 68% during his presidency. Fiscal conservatism, this ain’t.

This history seems lost on folks like Grover Norquist and his band of “no taxes ever” zealots (235 Congressmen and 41 Senators have signed his no-tax pledge). Norquist, who has been called the Reaganite’s Reaganite, told The Week earlier this month that George H. W. Bush lost to a “bum — a nobody from Arkansas” because he dared to raise taxes to plug a deficit gap. His silence on Reagan’s monumental tax hikes and unprecedented government expenditures is deafening.

Similar silence is the response to official numbers showing that job growth under George W. Bush, with his tax cuts for “job creators,” resulted in the worst job growth on record of any president ever. Bush created nearly eight times fewer jobs than his predecessor, the “nobody from Arkansas” who raised taxes in an effort to bring about balanced budgets.

Reaganomics, the idea of trickle-down wealth, has simply fallen flat on its face. While perhaps an interesting academic exercise, the real world application of giving more to the wealthy in the hopes they re-invest has been shown to be pure nonsense over the last three decades. A globalized economy throws a wrench in the underlying assumption of re-investment, because while the rich may re-invest, they sure as hell are not going to re-invest here.

Ever since the introduction of Reaganomics, the wealth of the upper tiers of society has skyrocketed, while the wage of the average American has stagnated. This is not political posturing; it is numerical evidence. How one can argue that we need to give more tax breaks to the wealthy after 30 years of demonstrably failed efforts is beyond me.

Historically, the economically conservative, libertarian ideology was built on a strong foundation of reason, logic, and facts. Letting people compete against one another and do what they wanted in their own home resulted in net gains across society.

Today’s conservatives have put much distance between themselves and the discussion of empirical evidence. Rather than engage in a debate on the numbers, they repeatedly defer to a disproven dogma. Instead of defending their underlying views (which are very defensible), they malign the opposition and accuse them of theft and communism/socialism/Marxism in hyperbolic terms. This is not a respectable or admirable system of governance.

As far as I’m concerned, President Barack Obama has placed himself firmly to the center-right of the political spectrum in his budgetary discussions. As David Brooks pointed out, the president is offering unheard of 4-to-1 cuts to taxes, and the Republicans have balked. What makes it even more unbelievable is that most of the taxes are not new taxes, but rather the elimination of unnecessary tax subsidies to industries that no longer need them.

Moreover, the “tax hikes” are a return to the rates of the Clinton Administration, a presidency that saw millions more jobs created than Reagan and both Bush’s combined. Any fiscally conservative leader of the past half-century would have jumped at this opportunity to streamline government and yet we still have Republicans fighting tooth and nail to retain corporate jet tax credits.

Unfortunately, the current Republican platform has entrenched a model of politics that focuses on elections rather than coherent governance. Rather than compromise, Republicans have doubled down on protecting an all-or-nothing ideology, all for political points.

This system of anti-intellectual doctrine is no way to have a discussion, much less govern a country. Conservatives must return to focusing on verifiable and definite metrics to make their arguments, rather than a “no taxes under any circumstances” dogma that has handicapped this nation just as much as the “spend as much as you need” mentality of the left. When one party decides that it no longer cares what the numbers say, negotiation becomes impossible and we all suffer the fallout.

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