How Bush's broken "no new taxes" pledge changed American politics and policy forever


When Republicans retook Congress in 1994, the incoming freshman class, whose political attitudes were shaped by the betrayal of 1990, entered Congress with a much more uncompromising attitude toward Democrats, which led to high-stakes budget standoffs and ultimately several government shutdowns.

As president, George W. Bush internalized the lesson of his father’s failures and was committed to being a significant tax-cutter, even as he expanded entitlements and launched two wars in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The ghost of the broken “no new taxes” pledge also hovered over the Obama administration. When Republicans took control of the House in 2011 committed (at the time) to debt reduction, there was no support among Republicans for a “grand bargain” with President Obama that would involve any increases to taxes. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budgets all called for putting the nation on a sustainable fiscal trajectory by slowing the growth of spending while maintaining taxes at historic levels.