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COVID-19 Is the Tax Increasers' Best Ally

For 30 years—since President George H. W. Bush’s capitulation to Democrats’ demand he raise taxes in November 1990—the single most consistent difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Democrats want to raise your taxes and Republicans don’t.
In fact, Republicans have successfully lowered taxes on several occasions, most recently in December 2017.
But the multi-trillion-dollar surge in federal spending in response to the coronavirus is swelling the federal debt, which gives the call for higher taxes more resonance.
Republicans have typically responded to Democrats’ tax-increase demands by proposing federal spending cuts instead.
Reasonable people can disagree over whether Republicans’ past support for spending cuts is serious or just an attempt to convince their constituents that Republicans are fiscally conservative.
But reasonable people cannot disagree over whether Republicans have succeeded in cutting spending. They haven’t, and it’s not clear they even try very hard.
Just within recent pre-coronavirus memory there was the $1.3 trillion spending increase in March of 2018 and another $1.3 trillion in December of 2019. Both of those spending splurges had wide bipartisan support.
The one time Republicans were successful in cutting spending—in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (i.e., “the sequester”)—was short-lived. Congress later raised the sequester spending caps several times.
The primary difference between Republicans and Democrats on federal spending is some Republicans claim to feel bad about the spending increases.
The U.S. national debt clock pegs federal debt at more than $25 trillion. The coronavirus aid packages will bump that figure up by several trillion dollars—in just one year.
Frustrated Democrats will surely see that rising federal debt as a tax-increase opportunity. They are even lauding Bush 41 for his “profile in courage” in breaking his promise and raising taxes.
And Democrats see the 2020 presidential election as their best opportunity to claim a voter mandate to raise taxes on the wealthy.  Every one of their presidential candidates called for a string of new taxes, many of which would hit Middle America, not just the rich.
With the coronavirus spending surge, they now have an added defense: fiscal responsibility. If Congress is going to pump trillions of dollars into the economy—and it has—it would be fiscally irresponsible not to raise taxes.
Republicans should go into this next round of coronavirus spending talks—House Democrats just proposed $3 trillion more—fully aware of why Democrats want to spend so much.
It will be interesting to see how Republicans respond to the tax-increase pressure. It appears no one wants to cut spending right now. And yet Republicans have long fretted over the rising federal debt.
Democrats know all of that, which is why COVID-19 has become the tax-increasers’ best ally.