Republicans had better learn from history -- and from Ronald Reagan’s mistake.
President Obama and his fellow big-spenders in Congress are promising if they get higher tax rates today they’ll make even higher spending cuts tomorrow.
It’s an old sucker’s game. Republicans -- and the rest of the country -- should know it by now, because for three decades we’ve all been suckers.
If history is our guide, and Republicans in Congress don’t grow a spine, by this time next year we’ll have higher taxes, higher spending, more debt and a bigger government.
Twice before, Republicans have been fooled into playing the Democrats’ con game.
It happened to my father early in his first term when he sought to close a growing federal deficit caused by the deep economic recession. He believed Democrats in Congress would keep their pledge to make $3 in future spending cuts for every $1 in immediate tax increases.
In 1982 he signed a comproßmise tax bill with the horrible name of TEFRA -- the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act. And, when those promised spending cuts never materialized in Congress, TEFRA became one of the biggest regrets of my father’s presidency.
My father was duped by the duplicity of Democrats. And so was George H.W. Bush less than a decade later, when he foolishly allowed himself to be taken for the same ride.
In 1990’s budget wrangling, which was aimed at reducing the federal budget deficit by $500 billion over five years, Bush 41 was seduced by the Democrats’ promise of making $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes.
The first Bush fell for it completely, reneging on his "Read my lips, no new taxes" pledge, opening the door for "tax-cutter" Ross Perot and losing in 1992 to Bill Clinton.
Even before he was de-elected, Bush 41 regretted the "bargain" he had made with Democrats. In March of 1992, the sucker in chief said, "I thought this one compromise -- and it was a compromise -- would result in no more tax increases.
"I thought it would result in total control of domestic discretionary spending. And now we see Congress talking about raising taxes again. So, I’m disappointed, and given all of that, yes, (it was) a mistake."
Fast-forward to "Nightmare on Obama Street, Part II." We have trillion-dollar federal deficits as far as our children’s eyes can see. We have an economy that’s looking at four more years of low growth and higher taxes.
And now some Republicans in Congress -- who apparently don’t have a piece of conservative cartilage left in their bodies -- are getting ready to be duped again.
What’s that old saying? "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Well, Republicans look like they are about to be fooled for the third time, which is so stupid there’s no adage to describe it.
While my father was bargaining with Democrats in 1982 over spending and tax cuts, he spoke over the heads of Congress to the American people.
"In a few days the Congress will stand at the fork of two roads," he said. "One road is all too familiar to us. It leads ultimately to higher taxes. It merely brings us full circle back to the source of our economic problems, where the government decides that it knows better than you what should be done with your earnings and, in fact, how you should conduct your life. The other road promises to renew the American spirit. It’s a road of hope and opportunity. It places the direction of your life back in your hands where it belongs."
America is at that same fork in the road today. Twice in 30 years Republicans have let Democrat promises lead them and the country down a one-way road to bigger and bigger government.
Double shame on us. And if the GOP allows itself to be suckered again, it won’t be just another disaster for conservatism, it’ll be a tragedy for the whole country.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of "The New Reagan Revolution" (St. Martin’s Press). He is the founder and chairman of The Reagan Group and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation.