Tax Tea Party Time, Part Two, by Bruce Bartlett, Commentary, Forbes: Last week, I presented data comparing taxation in the United States to other major countries and concluded that Americans are not especially overtaxed. … But what if we compare U.S. taxes today to those in the past? Are Americans more heavily taxed than those in earlier years, and do polls show greater dissatisfaction with taxes today? … [I]t is hard to find evidence that taxes are rising or unusually high. …
In response to these facts, some critics say that it is not today’s taxes that concern them, but those that will have to be paid in coming years as a result of the large spending and deficits being projected. …
I have problems with this argument as a justification for the sudden appearance of tea parties to protest taxes. First, many protesters implicitly assume that that the deficit has increased solely as a result of Barack Obama’s policies. But in fact, the Congressional Budget Office was projecting a deficit of more than $1 trillion this year back in January…
It’s true that projected deficits have gotten larger since January. But much of this resulted from deteriorating economic conditions that would have occurred even if John McCain were president. Moreover, it is absurd to assume that McCain would not have enacted any stimulus programs had he been elected.
More than likely, McCain would have proposed a stimulus plan of roughly the same size as that proposed by Obama. No doubt, it would have had a different composition–heavier on tax cuts, different kinds of tax cuts, less spending, different spending–but it wouldn’t have been all that different from Obama’s package given large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and the pressure to act quickly.
I strongly suspect that many of those that loudly denounced the Obama stimulus package for its impact on the deficit would have cheered the McCain stimulus package even though it would have increased the deficit by about the same amount.
Proof of this proposition is that there were no tea parties during the years when George W. Bush was turning the surpluses of the Clinton years into massive deficits. … Those protesting this week were only protesting because it is a Democrat who has increased the deficit. When a Republican did worse, it’s like Emily Litella used to say, “Never mind.”
Of course, people are free to protest whatever they want whenever they want, and are also free to change their minds. Maybe this week’s tax protesters would have been out protesting even if McCain were president, but I don’t think so. I believe this was largely a partisan exercise designed to improve the fortunes of the Republican Party, not an expression of genuine concern about taxes or our nation’s fiscal future.
People should remember that while they have the right to their opinion, they are not entitled to be taken seriously. That only comes from having credibility gained by the correct presentation of facts and analysis and a willingness to be even-handed–criticizing one’s own side when it is wrong and not only speaking up when the other party does the same thing.
Originally published at the Economist’s View and reproduced here with the author’s permission.