Wartime Taxes and Sacrifice

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, UCLA law professor (and noted tax law expert) Kirk Stark has a brilliant post on the history of Republican Party attitudes towards wartime taxes. Citing examples from Lincoln to the present day, Stark concludes that the party has completely reversed its position over the past generation or two:

For more than a century -- from the founding of the Republican Party through the war in Vietnam -- Republican leaders consistently supported high wartime taxes. Indeed, support for higher wartime taxes was a defining feature of being a military hawk among the GOP faithful.

... Today, of course, McCain has abandoned this sort of rhetoric in favor of wholehearted support of the Bush tax cuts. McCain's reversal illustrates the enduring political influence of Ronald Reagan (the country's most popular tax-cutting military hawk), as well as that of George W. Bush (the country's least popular tax-cutting military hawk). It is also part of a broader story of the decline of liberal Republicans.

But the question remains: is there any life left in the traditional GOP insistence on higher taxes during times of war? Interestingly, 32 House Republicans voted recently for an expanded G.I. bill that included a new surtax on high-income households, suggesting that, perhaps, the jury is still out.

By Phillip Carter |  June 3, 2008; 1:00 PM ET  | Category:  Civil-Military Relations
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It's a variation of the "big lie" school of governance. First, attempt to discredit all impartial sources of information. Then, once the independent experts are labeled partisan stooges, introduce your own partisan stooges and label them independent experts. Pretty soon, Reagan becomes a budget hawk, though in fact he was the prototypical "borrow and spend" Republican.
This was the guy who so loved the free market, that when the Ayatollahs were willing to trade hostages for weapons, he couldn't resist the chance to make a little money on the side and send it to his favorite cause, right wing death squads in Central America. Unfortunately for him, that was illegal but hey, that's why they give Presidents the power to pardon.
The bottom line is, this isn't reality anymore, it's reality TV. What's important is trivialized because it doesn't fit in thirty second sound bites and what is trivial is glorified, because that's the path to power. Get used to it, I don't see it changing any time soon.

Posted by: dijetlo | June 3, 2008 4:22 PM

Would not this tax reduction policy in the face of war be a policy of a party seeking to bankrupt a form of government of which it abhors?

Would not this tax reduction policy in the face of war be a policy of a party that does not see the war as threat to itself as much as the form of government of which it abhors?

Posted by: Bill Keller | June 3, 2008 4:48 PM

An Australian officer I once worked with in Iraq explained to me that in Australia, their government issued a war tax. This war tax was pretty extreme, and it served as a very powerful deterrent from entering a war because the politicians knew that they would only be able to keep up public support for so long when everyone was pitching in and feeling the pain.

That said, it was great to be an Australian soldier in Iraq. I might be a bit off on my numbers, but I think he said he got close to $100 a day for combat pay. Something crazy like that. So, that makes two good reasons for a war time tax. Less chance of going, but better pay for me if I go. I like it.

Posted by: bg | June 3, 2008 8:22 PM

THREE Republicans actually signed off on raising taxes to pay for the Webb GI Bill? Or did they merely agree that, like the WW II GI bill, the increased incomes of educated GI's would produce more revenue that the program cost?

This is the Party of such Hero's as William Kristol, who excoriates Barack Obama for not encouraging those graduates he addressed to join the Army. I checked his resume. He wouldn't have taken the advice.

Apparently the children who constitute the republican Leadership can only hope that the Democrats will do the grown up thing, and try to pay for the war, and properly man the Army, while they are in charge, so the children can complain about it and get themselves put back in charge.

Hypocrites would be such an applicable word if it hadn't already been worked to death trying to describe the rest of the GWB administration that, like a weak comedian using profanity every other word, and thereby draining profanity of and shock value at all, using it in this case just adds to the general noise that the electorate has tuned out.

And this time around the apathetic majority will still say it doesn't make a difference and stay home, or vote in a way as to permit John McCain to continue the hypocrisy.

Posted by: ceflynline@msn.com | June 3, 2008 10:33 PM

Kudos to 'dijetlo' for his intelligent comment. To the Author: Where is the rest of the story?: We are approaching a $10,000,000,000,000 National Debt that equates to over $30,000 for every, man, woman, and child in this country. The interest alone is almost $500,000,000,000 per year. How much did Reagan, Bush Sr., and thing bush increase the national debt in comparison to Clinton? Which of the 4 presidents paid down on the National Debt twice? Google--'the national debt or the national debt clock' if you desire to know the facts.

Posted by: ghostcommander | June 4, 2008 11:58 PM

Give it a break Michael.

If you don't want to comment on Phil's post perhaps you should get a blog of your own.

Posted by: Davebo | June 5, 2008 12:48 PM

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