Bored with the Penn State scandal because it didn't implicate any prominent Republicans, the mainstream media have suddenly become obsessed with Grover Norquist's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge." They are monomaniacally fixated on luring Republicans into raising taxes.
If Democrats could balance the budget tomorrow and quadruple government spending, they'd refuse the deal unless they could also make Republicans break their tax pledge. That is their single-minded goal.
But the media are trying to turn it around and say that it's Republicans who are crazy for refusing to consider raising taxes no matter how much they get in spending cuts.
At Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate on foreign policy, for example, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked the candidates for the one-millionth time if they would agree to raise taxes in exchange for spending cuts 10 times larger than the tax hikes.
Terrorism can wait -- first, let me try to back you into a corner on raising taxes.
Amazingly, Blitzer cited Ronald Reagan's statement in his autobiography, "An American Life," that he would happily compromise with Democrats if he could get 75 or 80 percent of what he wanted -- implying that today's Republicans were nuttier than Reagan if they'd refuse a dollar in tax hikes for $10 in spending cuts.
Wolf should have kept reading. As Reagan explains a little farther in his autobiography: He did accept tax hikes "in return for (the Democrats') agreement to cut spending by $280 billion," but, Reagan continues, "the Democrats reneged on their pledge and we never got those cuts."
Maybe that's why Republicans won't agree to raise taxes in exchange for Democratic promises to cut spending.
For Americans who are unaware of the Democrats' history of repeatedly reneging on their promises to cut spending in return for tax hikes, the Republicans' opposition to tax increases does seem crazy. That's why Republicans need to remind them.
From the moment President Reagan succeeded in pushing through his historic tax cuts in 1981 -- which passed by a vote of 323-107 in the House and 89-11 in the Senate, despite Democrats' subsequent caterwauling -- he came under fantastic pressure to raise taxes from the media and the Democrats.
You will notice it is the same culprits pushing for tax hikes today.
So in 1982, Reagan struck a deal with the Democrats to raise some business and excise taxes -- though not income taxes -- in exchange for $280 billion in spending cuts over the next six years. As Reagan wrote in his diary at the time: "The tax increase is the price we have to pay to get the budget cuts."
But, of course, the Democrats were lying. Instead of cutting $280 billion, they spent an additional $450 billion -- only $140 billion of which went to the Reagan defense buildup that ended the Evil Empire.
Meanwhile, Reagan's tax cuts brought in an extra $375 billion in government revenue in the next six years -- as that amiable, simple-minded dunce Reagan always said they would. His tax cuts funded the entire $140 billion defense buildup, with $235 billion left over.
If Democrats had lied only a little and merely held spending at the same level, Reagan could have smashed the Russkies, produced the largest peacetime expansion in U.S. history with his tax cuts and produced a $235 billion budget surplus. (Jobs created in September 1983: 1.1 million; jobs created in September 2011: 150,000.)
But the Democrats not only refused to implement any budget cuts, they hiked government spending. To the untrained eye, that appears to be the exact opposite of cutting the budget.
Even the gusher of revenue brought in by Reagan's tax cuts couldn't pay for all the additional spending piled up by double-crossing Democrats -- more than twice as much as Reagan's spending on defense.
Reagan's defense spending crushed the Soviet war machine. What did Tip O'Neill's domestic spending accomplish? (I mean, besides destroying the black family, increasing single motherhood and creating government bureaucracies that can never be eliminated.)
Unable to learn from the first kick of a mule, President George H.W. Bush made the exact same deal with Democrats just a few years later.
Pretending to care about the deficit -- created exclusively by their own profligate spending -- Democrats demanded that Bush agree to a "balanced budget" package with both spending cuts and tax increases.
In June 1990, Bush did so, agreeing to tax hikes in defiance of his "read-my-lips, no-new-taxes" campaign pledge.
Again, Democrats, being Democrats, produced no spending cuts, and within two years the increased federal spending had led to a doubling of the deficit.
The Democrats didn't care: All that mattered was that they had tricked Bush into breaking his tax pledge, which they celebrated all the way to Bush's defeat in the next election.
On CNN's "Crossfire," then-congressman Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., gloated: "All the spin control in the world can't undo the fact that the president is moving away from (no new) taxes."
An article on the front page of The New York Times proclaimed that "with his three words, ('tax revenue increases') Mr. Bush had broken the central promise of his 1988 campaign."
As the next presidential campaign got under way, CNN interviewed a "Reagan Democrat," who said: "Bush says, 'Read my lips.' Remember when he said that? We got taxes anyway. Clinton says, I will raise your taxes because we have to do something about that national debt."
Democrats had effectively taken away the Republican Party's central defining issue -- low taxes -- and the Republicans got nothing in return.
(I take that back: We got a stained blue dress for the Smithsonian. So, an OK trade.)
On the campaign trail, Bill Clinton taunted Bush for breaking his tax pledge, saying, "He promised 15 million new jobs, no new taxes, the environmental president, an education presidency. It was a wonderful speech. But now we don't have to read his lips; we can read his record."
Apparently, Republicans can read the Democrats' record, too. They know that Democrats will promise to cut spending in exchange for tax increases and then screw Republicans on the spending cuts.
It's been 20 years since they pulled that scam, so Democrats figure it's time to make Republicans break a tax pledge again. As long as no one knows the history of these "deals," the media can carry on, blithely portraying Republicans as obstructionist nuts for refusing the third kick of a mule.