One of the bigger, but more under-reported, sea changes in American politics is how any kind of tax increase — whether in war or peace, good economic times or bad ones — has become absolutely unacceptable. After all, Ronald Reagan raised taxes. So did every modern American president involved in war, until George W. Bush. But not anymore. Indeed, as one of us pointed out on Nightly News last night, only 29% (or 157) of the 535 and House members and senators serving in Congress were around the last time — 1993! — the federal government raised taxes, and that was on gasoline. Think about that for a moment: Congress hasn’t really had a TOUGH vote in 16 years, if one defines a "TOUGH" vote as the government asking for a financial sacrifice from the American people. This is the political climate that President Obama faces in trying to pay for health reform. Republicans and some Democrats are opposed to a tax on the wealthy, and unions and Obama’s political strategists are against taxing health benefits.
What is astounding about it is not that taxes haven’t been raised in such a long while. It’s not that so few Congressmen have ever had to raise taxes. It’s not even that Republicans have so cowed Democrats on this issue.
What’s astounding is that it is “under-reported.” Did it just occur to NBC reporters that this was happening? If it’s under-reported it’s because journalists haven’t been doing their jobs. A look back and putting the tax issue in historical context is something they should have done long ago.