NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Bush Must Convince Voters He Is Serious About Tax Cuts

December 13, 1999

Gov. George W. Bush (R-Texas) must convince voters he's serious about his tax cut plan, says former Treasury official Bruce Bartlett. He has a credibility problem because his father, President Bush, broke his pledge not to raise taxes in 1990.

  • Moreover, according to a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll in March, only 9 percent of Americans believe a politician promising tax cuts; 87 percent say they do not.
  • Notably, in 1992, Bill Clinton promised a tax cut for the middle class and then reneged once elected.
  • And in 1996, Bob Dole reversed a lifetime of supporting tax increases in proposing a 15 percent tax-rate reduction -- which he clearly never believed in.

Bush must make Americans believe he will really cut taxes if elected. He can ask his supporters in Congress to introduce his tax cut in January 2000, hold hearings, have the Congressional Budget Office do studies and schedule a vote in the spring.

A similar effort in 1980 for Ronald Reagan's 30 percent tax-rate reduction smoothed the way for ultimate passage in 1981.

A new poll from Zogby International for the White House Bulletin asked voters: "The U.S. Government will take in $3 trillion over the next 15 years that it currently has no plans to spend. Do you want to keep some of the money in the form of a tax cut or have the government make plans to spend it on federal programs?"

  • In response, 56.3 percent of voters favored a tax cut and only 31 percent wanted more spending.
  • Even Democrats split almost evenly, with 41.6 percent wanting tax cut and 44.7 percent favoring spending.

Thus, framing the debate as either a tax cut or more spending will be critical to the success of Bush's tax plan.

Source: Bruce R. Bartlett (senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis), "Give Tax Plan a Head Start in Congress," Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1999.


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