01/11/2017

Trump’s Presidency Is Already Making Republicans Love Big Government More

John Daniel Davidson, The Federalist

With Trump in the White House and the GOP in control of Congress, many conservatives are convincing themselves big government isn’t so bad after all.

A few weeks after the presidential election, Donald Trump’s economic advisor Stephen Moore told a group of top Republican lawmakers that they no longer belonged to the conservative party of Ronald Reagan but to Trump’s populist working-class party. Moore said Republicans, in this new era of Trump, should be “less ideologically pure” and instead try to help Trump give Americans what he promised them: trade protections, massive infrastructure spending, and a border wall.

This is the same Stephen Moore who up until November 8 had spent much of his career arguing for supply-side economic reforms, ample immigration, and free trade. Not anymore. Trump’s election has turned him into an economic populist. “Having spent the last three or four months on the campaign trail,” he told The Hill, “it opens your eyes to the everyday anxieties and financial stress people are facing.” For Moore, as for Trump, that means the government is here to help.

Moore’s transformation from free market economist to Trump populist is emblematic of a change sweeping the conservative political elite. With Republicans in control of the legislative and executive branches for the first time in more than a decade, skepticism about the federal government among conservative leaders is melting away. Those who have for years defined themselves politically as the only ones resisting the growth of a powerful and coercive administrative state are now, it seems, okay with it. To quote Boromir, this ring is a gift. Why not use it?

Take former Texas governor Rick Perry, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Energy. Perry vowed to eliminate the agency during his 2012 presidential bid (and infamously forgot its name during a GOP primary debate that year). If Perry thought we didn’t need the Department of Energy four years ago, why do we need it now? The only thing that’s changed is the party in control of the federal government—and the person who’ll be heading up the agency.

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Thanks to "bracket creep," the inflation of the 1970s pushed millions of taxpayers into higher tax brackets even though their inflation-adjusted incomes were not rising. To help offset this tax increase and also to improve incentives to work, save, and invest, President Reagan proposed sweeping tax rate reductions during the 1980s. What happened? Total tax revenues climbed by 99.4 percent during the 1980s, and the results are even more impressive when looking at what happened to personal income tax revenues. Once the economy received an unambiguous tax cut in January 1983, income tax revenues climbed dramatically, increasing by more than 54 percent by 1989 (28 percent after adjusting for inflation).

 

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