Dems should thank Bush for his tax cuts

It’s all going according to plan: I got a lot of s**t for this 2001 column. I claim some vindication.  By lowering tax rates in his first year in the White House, George W. Bush gave Democrats the chance to raise them again later to pay for the big program they wanted (universal health coverage) but that they weren’t going to get out of a Republican president:

In essence, Bush’s budget takes the money Democrats will need and stores it with the taxpayers–for collection at a later date, when Bush is out of office. Yes, yes, it stores the money mainly with rich taxpayers. But that’s OK. We know where they live.

True, I bought into the now-controversial “starve the beast” theory–assuming that if Bush hadn’t cut taxes in 2001 Congress would have frittered away more billions on

 agricultural subsidies, housing programs, pay raises, education bureaucracies, the Export-Import bank, veterans’ hospitals, and ten dozen other parochial sinkholes (including tax loopholes for business)

But let’s assume that wouldn’t have happened, and Congress would have spent exactly the same amount during Bush’s presidency as it did–the deficit (thanks to the higher taxes) would just have been lower when the Dems next took power. Does anyone think that, even with a lower deficit, it would have been easier to start paying for their  ambitious health care plan by raising top income tax rates from 38.9% to 42.8% than it has been for Dems to raise the rate from 35% back to 38.9%? …

P.S.: Bush even arranged for his tax cuts to expire in 2013,** giving his reelected Dem successor maximum leverage. It’s as if he knew! …  



**–Actually, in 2011, plus a two year extension, as alert commenter C.S. notes. Bush was the reincarnation of Hari Seldon! …  More seriously, setting tax cuts to expire after any election increases the chances taxes will then be raised. (Who wants to raise taxes before a vote?) Postponing the day of reckoning  from 2011 until 2013 now looks like a smart gamble by Obama. …