Richard Nixon called those neglected voters the “silent majority.” Both parties claim to speak for them, but neither party seems to be listening to them.
The problem for the GOP is that, ever since the sweeping Reagan tax cuts of 1981, the Republicans have done little to help the middle class.
The latest figures from the nonpartisan Tax Foundation show that since 1980, despite a Republican in the White House for 12 of those 17 years and a Republican‐controlled Congress for three of the five others, the tax bite on median‐income families has continued to ratchet upward to 38.5 percent. Federal taxation is now at its highest peacetime level, as a share of Americans’ incomes, since the end of World War II.
Republicans have succeeded in balancing the budget, all right — smack on the backs of the middle class.
Much of the escalating tax burden has, of course, been attributable to increases in the regressive payroll tax. For most Americans, payroll tax increases have canceled out, nearly dollar for dollar, the benefits of the Reagan income tax cuts. Meanwhile, the federal gasoline tax has been tripled since 1980, state and local property taxes continue to climb and a multitude of obnoxious fees and assessments continues to grow.
Last year, Rep. Dick Armey, R‐Texas, called this plight of American workers “the middle‐class squeeze.” Exactly the right diagnosis.
But what is either party doing about it? Last year, the Republicans passed a niggling tax cut, about one‐third as large as the one they promised in 1994.
Yes, for families with young kids this is blessed relief — a $1,000 tax cut for a family of four. But there are millions of middle‐class households without kids at home and without capital gains income that will angrily learn come April 15 that they get essentially nothing out of the 1997 tax cut.
There’s a bigger problem. Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan taught us that tax rates matter. Families with incomes between roughly $40,000 and $65,000 a year face the highest marginal tax rates of any income group today.