Michael Barone thinks we may see a revival of the tax issue as a major factor in American politics. Barone notes that this is already happening in Great Britain, whose politics “sometimes moves in tandem with [ours].” There, Conservative Party leader David Cameron, speaking at his party’s annual conference, called (at last) for tax cuts–specifically, abolition of the estate tax for estates under 1 million pounds and an end to the stamp duty on homebuyers. Immediately, the Conservatives went from a seven percentage point deficit in the polls to parity with the ruling Labor party. As a result, Prime Minister Gordon Brown dropped his plans to call for elections.
As Barone notes, the rise of the modern Labor party occurred in significant part because it was able to capture high-income seats in London and southeast Britain that used to be solidly Conservative. Not surprisingly, these voters “don’t want their high housing values taxed away at death.” Hence the resonance of Cameron’s call for tax cuts.
Will something similar happen here? Here’s Baron’s assessment:
The Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire in 2010, and the estate tax is scheduled to come back in full force in 2011, unless the Congress and president elected in 2008 take action. Democratic presidential candidates are calling for letting the tax cuts on high earners expire, and House Democrats last week beat back a proposal for a permanent repeal of the estate tax. So the issue may be squarely raised: If Democrats win, taxes on some voters (they will say a few, Republicans will say many) will go up.
Democrats starting with Bill Clinton have been carrying high-income suburban counties because of their stands on cultural issues. But with those issues less prominent–you haven’t heard presidential candidates of either party talk much about them this year–taxes could go back into the spotlight.
My sense, for what it’s worth, is that the issue won’t start playing significantly in favor of Republicans until comparatively high income voters actually feel the pain of higher taxes imposed by Democrats.
BY THE WAY: My media alert from earlier this evening was a false alarm. John and I taped the show with Pajamas Media at 9:30, but it won’t air until later in the week. We’ll try to keep you posted as to when. My apologies to anyone who tried to tune us in.