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Okay so I was just cracking up over the weekend as I watch some of these weekend scrub anchors come in on the networks and the cable channels, all pontificating about the failure of conservatives and specifically the tea party in being able to influence the Republican primary. Now, I've given my views on this before, but I want to be sure to point out the hilarious contradiction going on here.
These same voices are the ones who keep talking about the "extremist elements" that have pushed the Republican Party to the far right. You know that. You've heard that. It's all they talk about when they aren't talking about how insignificant and failed the tea party is. So I just want to ask, which is it? Which is it? Has the tea party failed miserably in affecting what's going on in the Republican Party or have they been so radically successful that they have pushed the Republican Party far to the right and into the extremist realms beyond even the conservatism of Reagan. It can't be both. It's got to be one or the other.
Take - and this is going back a few days, I know - the interview that 60 Minutes did with Eric Cantor. That was the special that they did where they were painting Cantor and all these Republican leaders as co-opted by the tea party and far right extremist, obstructionist nuts. It was in that interview that Lesley Stahl voiced what has become the major talking point of the left in their effort to prove how far-right radicalized the Republican Party has become under this, uh, er, ineffective Tea Party. See what I mean? See how silly it sounds? Pick one, media! Are they highly effective to the point where they have altered the ground of the Party base, or are they losers that have totally failed?
Anyway, here was the "Tea Party as Effective Radicals" position articulated by the folks at CBS:
When Stahl claimed that Reagan "raised taxes and it was one of his principles not to raise taxes," Cantor's press secretary interrupted the interview, asserting, "That just isn't true. And I don't want to let that stand." Stahl then reported, "There seemed to be some difficulty accepting the fact that, even though Ronald Reagan cut taxes, he also pushed through several tax increases, including one in 1982 during a recession."
Okay, in other words, even Ronald Reagan wouldn't have been acceptable to these Tea Party radicals. The implication Stahl is making has become a major talking point of the left: the Tea Party controls the leadership of the Republican Party and has pushed the party so far to the right that someone as conservative as Reagan would have been viewed as too liberal. Several folks on the left point out that Reagan "raised taxes." Sure, that's true. But what's missing - as always with the left - is even the slightest bit of context.
The folks at the Washington Examiner set the record straight:
Reagan, like all conservatives, hated raising any taxes at any level of government. But he also believed that not all taxes are created equal. As Reagan historian Steven Hayward once explained, "Reagan was stalwart on protecting low tax rates in income and investment that drive economic growth, less so on excise taxes and the business tax code that is the plaything of special interest."
Reagan's record backs Hayward's description up. The 1982 tax hike that Stahl referred came on the heels of a 1981 tax cut that was twice as big as Reagan first proposed. All the 1982 tax hike did is raise some excise taxes and get rid of some tax loopholes created in 1981 that Reagan had never wanted in the first place. And Reagan only agreed to those tax hikes on the express agreement from House Speaker Tip O'Neill that congressional Democrats would then cut federal spending by $3 for every $1 raised in taxes. Those spending cuts never happened, prompting Reagan to later say "I'm still waiting for those spending cuts." He viewed the 1982 budget deal was one of the biggest mistakes of his career.
You got that, right? If the Dems really want to play the "Reagan compromise" card, tea partiers and conservatives should call their bluff! Right now, the Dems are flipping out because Republicans asked for a $1 cut per $1 taxed compromise. That's what Obama and the left thinks is outrageous, saying things like, "Reagan would at least work with us!" Yeah, to the tune of $3 cut for every $1 spent. Republicans should say, "Sure, we'll go back to the Reagan style of compromise, no problem!" Now, of course, Democrats went back on their word and didn't keep their end of the bargain, which is why you saw large deficits during the Reagan years.
Reagan later acceded to a hike in the gasoline tax in 1982, and a change in how employer-paid health insurance plans were tax deductible in 1985. Then in 1986, Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which raised revenue by closing multiple loopholes in the federal tax code and massively lowered marginal tax rates for all taxpayers. When Reagan came into office, the United States had 15 separate tax brackets and a top marginal rate of 50 percent. When Reagan left office, there were only two brackets and the top marginal rate was just 28 percent. Today, President Obama and congressional Democrats want to take us in the opposite direction. At every turn this year, they have proposed higher marginal rates and/or new tax brackets. So Cantor was exactly right to invoke Reagan as an inspiration in the House Republicans fight against higher marginal tax rates.
Educate yourself on this reality, because I guarantee you the media is not going to make the distinction. That should be pretty obvious by now. And I honestly would not be one bit surprised to see this kind of rhetoric surface in a presidential debate or even in presidential campaign ads for Barack Obama. It's common knowledge that, unable to run on his own record, Barack Obama is going to have to run a negative campaign. Portraying his opponents as so radical they make Reagan look like a liberal is part of the strategy. So I would totally anticipate the whole, "Even Reagan saw the importance of a balanced approach to dealing with our economic situation" line coming from Team Obama.
Be ready with the evidence to explode this line of bull wherever it surfaces.