In the new issue of National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru has an article (not online) about the counterproductive way in which many conservatives went about opposing Mike Huckabee’s presidential bid. I think he’s right. But I’m not sure what to make of this passage about Pat Buchanan’s 1996 campaign: “Buchanan ran as a strong social conservative who disagreed with most Republicans on trade, taxes, and entitlements.”
Trade I’ll give you. On entitlements, Ponnuru is probably referring to Buchanan’s opposition to the Gingrich Congress’s 1995 attempt to slow the growth of Medicare spending. That opposition was misguided, in my view, but I’m not sure it represented the totality of Buchanan’s thinking on entitlements circa 1996.
Yet there wasn’t much heterodox about Buchanan’s position on taxes. He had opposed the tax increases of 1990 and 1993. He favored a modified flat tax, retaining deductions for mortage interest and charitable donations. He supported a capital gains tax cut. He even hoped to balance his tariffs with lower taxes on businesses domestically. Buchanan might have criticized the Republican economic agenda for not being sufficiently concerned with middle- and working-class interests — which now seems to be becoming the consensus conservative position — but I don’t see where he took positions on taxes that were at odds with a majority of Republicans.