Texas’ liberal pundits have been rushing to defend House Speaker Joe Straus’ recent calls to find new revenues that can bolster big spending in the Lone Star State. Their latest ploy: distort the record of Ronald Reagan.
I recently sat down for an interview with Evan Smith, the native New Yorker who — before launching the online Texas Tribune — was editor of Texas Monthly. In questioning me about conservatives’ concerns regarding Joe Straus’ pro-tax comments, Mr. Smith offered the liberal talking-point that even Ronald Reagan raised taxes.
As is often the case, liberal talking heads get it wrong.
President Reagan didn’t propose raising taxes. Nor did he offer any tax increases. What Reagan said he wanted to do, and did do through Congress, was lower the top marginal rates. The top income tax rate was 70% when he arrived in office. It was 28% when he left. (Oh, and there was that pesky tax cut of 1981.)
The people offering the tax increases in the 1980s? The Democrats. It was a Democrat-controlled House, and a Democrat-controlled Senate, that passed bills raising taxes. In truth, we the people share some of the blame. We failed to send Reagan the legislative reinforcements he needed, so the Democrats won some battles during the Reagan years.
In Texas of the 21st Century, the guy calling for new ways to take money out of the pockets of taxpayers is the Republican House Speaker, Joe Straus. Will voters demand that their candidates — Republican and Democratic alike — pledge to oppose new taxes and revenue grabs?
In Evan Smith’s analogy to the federal government of the 1980s, Speaker Straus is no Ronald Reagan. In fact, Joe Straus is playing the part of the tax-hiking, government bloating Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill, opposing conservative reforms and the Reagan vision of a stronger, more prosperous future.