Columnist Robert Novak was speaking of the party that embraced the revolution of Ronald Reagan, who had hung a portrait of Calvin Coolidge in his Cabinet Room and set about cutting income tax rates to 28 percent.
But, to be historically precise, the GOP was not put here to cut taxes. From infancy in the 1850s, its mission was to halt the spread of slavery. From 1865 to 1929, it was the party of high tariffs. Mission: Build the nation and protect U.S. industry and the wages of American workers.
And if the Deity commanded the GOP to cut taxes, the party has had an uneven record. Warren Harding and Coolidge cut Woodrow Wilson's wartime tax rates by two-thirds, but Herbert Hoover nearly tripled the top rate.
Under Dwight Eisenhower, when the top tax rate was 91 percent, the GOP ratified the New Deal and provided the tax revenue to balance the budget at the elevated levels of spending 20 years of Democratic rule had established.
Richard Nixon followed suit. Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, aid to education, the Peace Corps, the arts and humanities endowments, all of the Great Society programs grew -- with Nixon adding OSHA, EPA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Cancer Institute.
Reagan cut tax rates to 50-year lows, but also accepted new gasoline and payroll taxes. George H.W. Bush then raised the top rate back to 35 percent.
George W. cut tax rates, but put two wars, prescription drug benefits for seniors and No Child Left Behind on the Visa card. Speaker Boehner is about to sign on to higher tax rates.
Point of this recitation: Republicans may talk of reducing the size of government, cutting taxes and balancing budgets. But the history of the last century suggests the party has been driven into what may be described as an inexorable long retreat.
When Coolidge left the White House to "Wonder Boy," as he called Hoover, federal spending was 3 percent of gross national product.
Today, it is around 23 percent. Add state, county and municipal government spending, and we are at 38 percent. Anyone think this figure is going down in our lifetimes?
Can anyone say the GOP, if it is the party of small government and low taxes, has over the past 80 years been a successful party? Or does the America of today look more like the country Socialist Norman Thomas had in mind in 1932?
How, conceivably, can spending go down when, from 2012 to 2030, 75 million baby boomers will be retiring and going on Social Security and Medicare at a rate of 10,000 every day?
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