NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Raising Taxes

October 29, 2003

Responding to a recent column by Bruce Bartlett, Peter Wallison -- who was White House counsel to President Reagan -- points to Ronald Reagan's resistance to tax increases in 1982.

The only problem with this analysis, says Bartlett, is that it is historically inaccurate. Reagan may have resisted calls for tax increases, but he ultimately supported them:

  • In 1982 he signed into law two major tax increases: the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act raised taxes by $37.5 billion per year and the Highway Revenue Act of 1982 raised the gasoline tax by another $3.3 billion.
  • In 1983, Reagan signed legislation raising the Social Security tax rate; this is a tax increase that lives with us still, since it initiated automatic increases in the taxable wage base.
  • The following year, Reagan signed another big tax increase in the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984; this raised taxes by $18 billion per year or 0.4 percent of GDP.
  • The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 raised taxes yet again.
  • Even the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which was designed to be revenue-neutral, contained a net tax increase in its first 2 years.
  • And the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 raised taxes still more.

The point, explains Bartlett, is that if Ronald Reagan could be corralled into signing tax increases year after year, it is not unreasonable to think that President Bush may falter as well when push comes to shove.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, "Raising Taxes," National Center for Policy Analysis, October 29, 2003.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues