Since Ronald Reaganâ€™s rise to the White House in 1980, tax cuts have been the one issue that has unified all wings of the Republican Party. According to conservative legend, Reaganâ€™s massive first-term tax cuts led to his 49-state landslide victory in 1984. GOP tradition also holds that George H.W. Bushâ€™s convention declaration â€śRead my lips: No new taxesâ€ť pushed him toward the White House in 1988. Most Republicans are just as certain that Bushâ€™s backing off that pledge finished his political career four years later. During his one term, Bush committed the mortal sin of raising taxes to control Washingtonâ€™s exploding deficits. Conservatives never forgave him, but they did embrace his son a decade later for slashing taxes in 2001.
The political success that has followed past GOP tax cuts - and Bushâ€™s record as the only president to lose his reelection bid since Jimmy Carter - may be why Republicans presidents have been imbued with a blinding faith in any tax-cut plans crossing their desks.
And yet most Americans oppose the â€śbig, beautifulâ€ť tax cuts President Trump and his GOP Congress are pushing through the Senate. Perhaps thatâ€™s because this is not the middle-class tax cut that Republicans say it is. The Tax Policy Centerâ€™s analysis of the Senate bill concludes it will ultimately lead to tax hikes for 50 percent of Americans. Most of those negatively affected will be middle-class Americans, and it will be the wealthy who benefit the most from the Trump plan. In fact, Trump and his family stand to gainmore than $1 billion if the tax plan passes. If Alan Greenspan is correct that income inequality poses one of the gravest threats to American capitalism, then this tax package takes the economy in the wrong direction.
Even if Americaâ€™s staggering income inequality means nothing to you, Americaâ€™s exploding national debt should. That debt doubled from $5.8 trillion to $11.9 trillion under Republican George W. Bush. It nearly doubled again to almost $20 trillion under Democrat Barack Obama. And it is projected to explode to $30 trillion within the next decade. With Social Security, Medicare and Medicaidâ€™s coming meltdowns making that fiscal crisis exponentially worse, real conservatives know that Washington just canâ€™t afford to add another $2 trillion to our national debt. That is exactly what will happen if the Republican bill passes.
But creating big deficits is nothing new for the GOP. Since tax cutting became the favorite pastime for Reaganâ€™s party, the Republicansâ€™ fiscal record is nothing less than shameful. During Reaganâ€™s two terms, the Gipper may have reduced the top tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent, but defense spending exploded at the same time while Medicare coverage was expanded. Reaganâ€™s policies nearly tripled the national debt. Under George W. Bush, it was more of the same. Bush slashed taxes, pushed through massive military increases to fund his Wilsonian foreign policy, and championed a $7 trillion expansion of Medicare. Again, not one difficult spending decision was made over eight years, and once again, the national debt skyrocketed under a Republican president.
Now the same conservatives who promised voters they would never again be as reckless as they were under Bush are repeating the same old cycle of big tax cuts, big spending increases and no fiscal restraint. As Maya Angelou said, when people show you who they are, believe them. And for four decades, the Republican Party has shown itself to be the party of reckless budgets, runaway deficits and exploding entitlement spending. Just because the GOP donor class is willing to overlook those glaring failures in exchange for a corporate tax cut doesnâ€™t mean other voters will be so blind. This is another Republican tax plan that helps the rich, hurts the poor, increases inequality and blows a hole in the debt. It will also lead to more GOP losses at the polls next year. To the big-money donors driving this bill, all I can say is good luck with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, hosts the MSNBC show â€śMorning Joe.â€ť