I told the truth in 1984. “The American people will have to pay Mr. Reagan’s bills,” I said in my acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. “The budget will be squeezed. Taxes will go up. . . . It must be done. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.”
I lost the election, but I won the debate. Reagan ended up increasing taxes in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987 to mend the budget and tax systems.
Elections since 1984 have demonstrated that favoring higher taxes to pay for specific priorities can be a winning political formula. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both prevailed with well-executed and honest proposals to raise taxes for concrete purposes that Americans favored.
It makes sense to seize today’s bipartisan support for cutting tax exemptions as a way to increase revenue.