What should be Congress’ #1 priority

Grover Norquist provides a history lesson:

It is hard to screw up a tax cut.

But we’ve done it before. The Reagan tax cut of 1981 was supposed to be a 33 percent across-the-board tax cut. The Democratic Party held a majority in the House, so that rate reduction was reduced to 25 percent. Not good, but understandable. A compromise. But the real damage was that the 25 percent cut was delayed. There was a 5 percent rate reduction in 1981, a 10 percent rate reduction in 1982, and then a final 10 percent rate reduction in 1983.

Why did this matter? The economic growth driven by a 25 percent rate reduction began in Jan. 1983. Four million jobs were created that year, 1 million in Oct. 1983 alone. In 1984, Reagan won a smashing victory in 49 states – missing only Walter Mondale’s home state of Minnesota.


But there was an election in 1982, and the GOP got clobbered. Why?

Because by delaying the full tax cut, the economy was not growing in 1982 – oddly enough the 1982 election was held in November 1982.

Now, we have an election scheduled for Nov. 2018. There is careless talk among some staffers drafting the tax reform bill in the House that they might “phase in” (read: delay) the full reduction of the burdensome corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.

Tax cuts taking effect immediately would supercharge the economy. If businesses know that by delaying recognizing earnings for a year or two (or three) they will face lower tax rates, they will react accordingly and delay new investment, jobs, and earnings.

Sure, strong growth three years from now would be nice. But strong growth in early 2018 so that even MSNBC “reporters” will have to mention new and additional jobs before the Nov. 2018 election would be more than nice.

If you cannot fit all the tax cuts you want into 10 years, then frontload them. That is what Republicans announced they will do with full and immediate expensing. It is to last five years, but start immediately so that we get the strong growth before the 2018, 2020, and 2022 elections. By then, it will be obvious to everyone – except experts at the Joint Tax Committee – that expensing should be made permanent. That is what happened with the research and development tax credit.

Frontload tax cuts. Speed up recovery and growth. Win the next election. Cut taxes.


I think some of Norquist’s history is faulty. The 1982 election didn’t go well for House of Representatives Republicans, but Democrats gained exactly one previously-independent Senate seat, keeping the GOP with 54 Senate seats. The 26 House of Representatives seats the GOP lost reduced their minority in, remember, the dictatorship of the majority that is the House. Several of the Senate seats the GOP failed to capture — for instance, Wisconsin — were senators elected, or reelected in Wisconsin’s case, on Jimmy Carter’s coattails in 1976. That was about the point political observers started to notice that the party in power in the White House often would have a bad midterm election.

This year, the Senate margin is just 52–48. The economy is not in recession, though the extent to which economic growth is noticeably better is arguable.

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