The Daily Caller‘s Matt Lewis takes on a meme that has become a pet peeve of mine: invoking Ronald Reagan to defend tax increases.
The typical tactic is to say Reagan raised taxes 11 or 12 times (the exact number depends on whom you ask.) But it’s unhelpful — in fact, it’s a bit misleading — to talk about how many times Reagan raised taxes. That’s because (as noted earlier) tax increases are not created equal….
One of the tax increases Reagan signed (the Highway Revenue Act of 1982) was a temporary increase in the federal gas tax from 4 to 9 cents. (This could be thought of as a sort of “user fee,” inasmuch as the revenue generally went to roads and infrastructure.) Another was a cigarette tax (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985.) These are real tax increases, but should not be confused with the income tax.
Lewis also notes that the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which reducing tax rates generally, increased the rate at which capital gains were taxed. But even if you throw in all of those tax hikes, Reagan was a substantial net tax cutter. He left the country with two low income tax rates — 15 percent and 28 percent — down from over a dozen tax brackets and a top income tax rate of 70 percent. He also ended bracket creep by indexing income taxes to inflation and dropped millions of working families off the tax rolls entirely.
By any reasonable measure, Reagan cut taxes more than he raised them. Reagan specifically cut tax rates to increase incentives to work, save, and invest marginal dollars. It’s a major distortion of his record to cite his isolated tax increases in defense of an effort to raise tax rates back to their pre-Reagan levels.
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