The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal would ordinarily be expected to support British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his agenda, but that didn't stop the newspaper from publishing a deeply critical piece this week, accusing Johnson and Tories in the United Kingdom of pursuing a plan that is "deadly for parties of the right."
And what is it that 10 Downing did to draw The Journal's ire? As Reuters reported, Johnson unveiled a proposal that includes a modest tax increase.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out plans on Tuesday to raise taxes on workers, employers and some investors to try to fix a health and social care funding crisis, angering some in his governing party by breaking election promises. After spending huge amounts of money to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, Johnson is returning to an election pledge to address Britain's creaking social care system, where costs are projected to double as the population ages over the next two decades.
Johnson acknowledged that his Conservative Party's 2019 manifesto vowed not to raise taxes to finance social-insurance programs, but he added this week "I accept that this breaks a manifesto commitment which is not something I do lightly, but a global pandemic was in no one's manifesto."
I will gladly leave it to those with expertise in British politics and policy to explore the merits of the prime minister's proposal. What I find noteworthy, however, is the degree to which these developments serve as a reminder about the Republican Party in the United States being an international outlier.
Despite some qualitative differences, there are major conservative parties found in advanced democracies around the globe. At face value, the GOP is one of many, and American Republicans would naturally see British Tories as ideological allies.
But the similarities start to appear superficial when it comes to issues like taxes.
Republican officials, practically without exception at the national level, believe no tax should be increased by any amount, at any time, for any reason. In generations past, the GOP was principally focused on deficit reduction and balanced budgets — some Republicans even opposed John F. Kennedy's tax cuts in 1963, concerned that the government needed the revenue to pay off debts — but the party has since transformed into a radical anti-tax entity.
The idea that a Republican leader in the United States, holding national office, would propose a tax increase to pay for health and other social programs is utterly preposterous on its face, regardless of the economic or fiscal consequences. In 1991, George H.W. Bush broke a tax pledge in ways similar to Johnson's shift this week, but in the three decades since, GOP officials have ruled out the possibility of any similar steps.
All of which serves as a reminder: Today's Republican Party is not normal by international standards.