Tax cuts can't motivate the Republican base anymore

The number of people who think their taxes are too high has fallen dramatically since Bush enacted his tax cuts. It’s still 50 percent of the country, to be sure — since when have people wanted to pay more taxes? But only 1 percent of the country cites this as their top economic issue, and only 5 percent of families cite taxes as their biggest financial problem. It’s pretty easy to guess which quintile that 5 percent falls into. And at that, many of those people may be thinking of property taxes, or state and local taxes, over which a Republican president would have no control.

There is simply no way to make federal tax cuts add up to a winning strategy in this day and age. It’s great for the donor base and the think tanks. But it’s going to fall on deaf ears among the voters, who just don’t care that much. Even people who are ideologically committed to tax cuts, regardless of the effect on their own wallets, are probably less likely to get excited and go out and vote on the issue when it means so little to their own personal lives.

Moreover, Republicans now have the same problem that Democrats and Republican New-Deal-Lite types had in 1979: they’ve delivered on the tax cuts, and the tax cuts did not deliver on the fabulous promises of economic growth. You might be able to get people to go along with your low tax plan if you could credibly claim it was going to deliver a lot of stable, high-paying jobs. But even if you think that it actually will (my own belief is that lower taxes do improve economic growth in the long term, though not enough to make the tax cuts pay for themselves), the “low tax” brand is too tarnished to convincingly sell it to enough average voters.