Raise taxes like Reagan would

Oh my, what trying times we live in. Congress’ gargantuan budget battle left America’s citizenry breathless. That $38 billion in budget cuts was really killer. We nearly shut down our federal government over it, after all.

Well, surprise, that was only the tip of the iceberg: only a preview of what’s to come in what could turn out to be the great Budget Battle of 2012.

Thus far, each side has offered an opening salvo. Republican Paul Ryan presented a 2012 budget plan that cuts $4.4 trillion from the budget deficit over ten years, mainly by turning Medicare and Medicaid into shells of their former selves and, essentially, privatizing both programs. He ignores cuts to military spending, the largest federal government expenditure if you include spending in Iraq, Afghanistan and, to a much lesser extent, Libya.

His plan also cuts the income tax rate on the top income bracket from its current 35 percent to 25 percent. In all, the Paul Ryan plan wouldn’t balance the budget until 2035. That’s not how long it will take to pay off the current debt, mind you, but how long it will take for the government to stop borrowing money.

Obama’s plan, on the other hand, is far more balanced. It cuts the bloated military budget and entitlements like Social Security and Medicare in a responsible way, while raising taxes slightly for the rich by allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire in 2012, as they’re slated to do.

His plan reduces the deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years.

Both sides agree that spending cuts are necessary but the sticking point seems to be higher taxes for the rich. That point could be the catalyst for an intensely political battle later this year.

Republicans have already expressed that tax hikes are a non-starter, that they will not consider them under any circumstances.

Yet, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner also said: “If the president is willing to offer serious proposals that grow our economy … and set us on a path to pay down the national debt, we’re open to hearing them.”

The insinuation here is that the idea of raising taxes is somehow not serious and in the realm of the ridiculous.

Perhaps conservatives would be more open to tax increases as part of the 2012 budget if they were reminded of the history of their favorite politician – Ronald Reagan.

Reagan raised taxes 11 times during his presidency. Consider that for four years under Reagan, the income tax rate for America’s top earners was 50 percent. It was, for one year, as high as 70 percent, according to Politifact.

Today it is 35 percent.

“Ronald Reagan was never afraid to raise taxes,” historian Douglas Brinkley, editor of Reagan’s diaries, said to NPR. “He knew that it was necessary at times. And so there’s a false mythology out there about Reagan as this conservative president who came in and just cut taxes and trimmed federal spending in a dramatic way. It didn’t happen that way. It’s false.”

It’s doubtful that Boehner would say Reagan wasn’t a serious president. He would likely say he was one of the greatest. He and his fellow conservatives should reconsider their stubbornness on the issue of raising taxes and open their minds to a compromise like adults. It’s what Reagan did.

Vincent DeFrancesco is a junior majoring in mass communications.