In a summary for his new book, thoughtful conservative (I know, the term is practically an oxymoron these days) Bruce Bartlett explains the craziness that is the anti-tax focus of the modern Republican party:
During the George W. Bush years, however, I think SSE became
distorted into something that is, frankly, nuts–the ideas that there
is no economic problem that cannot be cured with more and bigger tax
cuts, that all tax cuts are equally beneficial, and that all tax cuts
These incorrect ideas led to the enactment of many tax cuts that had
no meaningful effect on economic performance. Many were just give-aways
to favored Republican constituencies, little different, substantively,
from government spending. What, after all, is the difference between a
direct spending program and a refundable tax credit? Nothing, really,
except that Republicans oppose the first because it represents Big
Government while they support the latter because it is a "tax cut."
The supply-siders are to a large extent responsible for this mess,
myself included. We opened Pandora's Box when we got the Republican
Party to abandon the balanced budget as its signature economic policy
and adopt tax cuts as its raison d'être. In particular, the idea that
tax cuts will "starve the beast" and automatically shrink the size of
government is extremely pernicious.
Indeed, by destroying the balanced budget constraint,
starve-the-beast theory actually opened the flood gates of spending. As
I explained in a recent column,
a key reason why deficits restrained spending in the past is because
they led to politically unpopular tax increases. But if, as Republicans
now maintain, taxes must never be increased at any time for any reason
then there is never any political cost to raising spending and cutting
taxes at the same time, as the Bush 43 administration and a Republican
Congress did year after year.
Sounds like the book is worth a look. Also reminded me of a great Atlantic article by Jonathan Rauch from a few years back, "Stoking the Beast." This article is required reading for my public policy class and what I love about it is that it actually gets through to students. I see it cited in their test answers more than about anything else I assign (except for the very disturbing excerpt from Fast Food Nation). Anyway, it's short, give it a read. Really.