Former US President George W. Bush speaks during "Investing in Our Future" at the US-Africa Leaders Summit at the Kennedy Center on Aug. 6, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

Republicans like to pretend Bush’s tax cuts never happened


While making the case for the regressive Republican tax plan, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) argued two weeks ago, “Every time we’ve cut taxes you’ve seen the economy take off.” The GOP leader encouraged Americans to “just look at history.”

To make his case, Scalise conveniently overlooked George W. Bush’s entire presidency. Yesterday, Donald Trump did the same thing, selling his party’s plan at a rally in Missouri.

“You know, for years they have not been able to get tax cuts, many, many years since Reagan.”

For a president who claims to have “one of the great memories of all time,” it’s curious that he’s forgotten the tax cuts approved since the 1980s.

Clinton, for example, approved some tax cuts in 1997. Obama’s Recovery Act – sometimes known as “the stimulus” – which helped rescue the country from the Great Recession, included one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in modern American history.

And then, of course, there’s the Bush/Cheney era, which matters in ways Trump and his GOP allies obviously don’t want to talk about.

As we recently discussed, it was the most recent Republican president who slashed taxes, disproportionately benefiting the wealthy, in ways the country couldn’t afford. Bush and congressional Republicans were nevertheless certain that their tax breaks would send the economy soaring, making promises that sound eerily similar to the rhetoric we’re hearing from GOP officials now.

But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently explained, “Despite promises from proponents of the tax cuts, evidence suggests that they did not improve economic growth or pay for themselves, but instead ballooned deficits and debt and contributed to a rise in income inequality.”

And, of course, Bush left office with an economy in shambles.

The good news is, Trump’s tax package has some key differences from Bush’s. The bad news is, Trump’s is vastly worse. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published a new report this week that found that 27% the Bush tax cuts, when fully implemented, benefited the wealthiest 1% of Americans. For the Trump tax cuts, it’s 62% of the benefits that go the richest of the rich – more than double Bush’s policy.

What’s that old joke about repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results?