The legacy of President George H.W. Bush, the current president's father, is marked by an infamous reversal on taxes.
At the 1988 Republican National Convention, the senior Bush made a memorable pledge: "(T)he Congress will push me to raise taxes, and I'll say no, and they'll push, and I'll say no, and they'll push again, and I'll say to them, read my lips, no new taxes."
But when a Democratic Congress pushed in 1990, the senior Bush said, "Yes." He signed a sweeping tax increase. Two years later, voters threw him out of office -- even though he had led the United States to victory against Saddam's Iraq in the Persian Gulf War.
The senior Bush won just 38 percent in his failed re-election bid.
Today, according to RealClearPolitics, the average approval rating for President George W. Bush is 36.7 percent. So, is that the nadir achievable by a Republican president? Or can W. drop further?
Unfortunately, I believe he can -- especially if he follows his father's footsteps and raises taxes.
There are disturbing hints he could do just that.
It's worth remembering that this Bush made his own "No New Taxes" pledge. On Jan. 5, 2002, he said that Democrats in Congress would like to raise taxes, but he would not allow it. "Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes," he said.
To date, he's been good to his word. Better yet, he has compiled an exemplary record on taxes.
In 2001, Bush signed a law that phased in lower income tax rates, increased the tax credit for dependent children and phased out the estate tax over 10 years. In 2003, he signed another law lowering tax rates on dividends and capital gains, and accelerating the earlier enacted income tax cuts.
Buoyed by these tax cuts, the nation emerged from a recession even in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The economy has grown in every quarter after those attacks, and unemployment has dropped to 4.5 percent. Proving again the supply side premise, federal revenues have been increasing despite the lower tax rates -- so much so that the deficit is now declining despite a lack of discipline in federal spending. In October, the Congressional Budget Office reported that federal revenues increased by 14.5 percent in 2005 and 11.8 percent in 2006, the two highest percentage increases since 1981.
But two things could reverse this success. A Democratic Congress could allow the Bush tax cuts to lapse after 2010, when they are set to expire under current law. Or Bush himself could agree to a tax increase.