February 14, 2008

A Second Look At McCain's Fiscal Conservatism

John McCain took a lot of heat over the last months for his supposed apostasies on tax policy. He voted against the initial Bush tax cuts, we were reminded, although he has often defended the decision as a fiscally responsible act at the time. Kevin Stach takes a close look at his record in today's Wall Street Journal, and likes what he sees:

After sweeping the Potomac primary, John McCain is now the de facto Republican nominee for president. But while Mr. McCain's fight for the nomination is all but over, Mike Huckabee's strong showing in Virginia suggests that Mr. McCain's battle to unify the Republican Party is just beginning. One major task is to secure the GOP's right flank, which remains cool to Mr. McCain over issues including taxes and economics.

The support of supply-siders Jack Kemp and Phil Gramm has not been enough to reassure some economic conservatives about the direction of economic policy in a McCain administration. Yet a look at Mr. McCain's record in Congress over the past 25 years demonstrates a tax-cutting pedigree at least as strong as, if not stronger than, Mitt Romney's or Mike Huckabee's (they both raised taxes as governors). ...

Throughout the 1990s, Mr. McCain was a reliable, down-the-line tax cutter. In 1992, he voted for an amendment by supply-side hero Sen. Bob Kasten to require a super-majority in Congress to raise taxes. That same year, he joined just 37 other senators in pushing for Sen. Connie Mack's proposal to cut the capital gains tax to 15%.

Like every other Republican, Mr. McCain voted against President Clinton's 1994 budget that shattered George H.W. Bush's record for the largest tax increase in history. In 1995, he was one of just 31 senators to vote for a bill to establish a $500 per child tax credit, reduce the capital gains tax, expand IRAs and eliminate the tax penalty on married couples. He also voted for the Balanced Budget Act, which would have reduced spending by $894 billion while cutting taxes by $245 billion.

Stach has more. For instance, when Democrats convinced George H. W. Bush to renege on his no-new-taxes pledge, McCain balked at the compromise. Bob Dole, Alan Simpson, Orrin Hatch and other Republicans pressed McCain to acquiesce, but he refused, and was later proven correct when the Democrats refused to enforce the budgetary levels they promised as part of the package.

Stach also argues that McCain's vote against the Bush tax cuts has been mischaracterized by everyone but McCain. McCain actually did vote for the 2001 tax cut -- in its original version, which included a mandatory cap on discretionary spending. That got removed and the bill got porked up, in a demonstration of what the next five years would hold for budgeting in the GOP controlled Congress. McCain felt betrayed and voted against it in protest.

For fiscal conservatives, this track record looks better than one might expect. In fact, it looks considerably more Reaganesque than the track record of McCain's fellow Republicans over the same period of time, including some darlings of the conservative movement.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A Second Look At McCain's Fiscal Conservatism:

» Reconsidering McCain’s fiscal record? from Macsmind
Kevin Stach in the WSJ gives the old college try to trying to make McCain to be that real conservative we would all like him to be. “…a look at Mr. McCain’s record in Congress over the past 25 years demonstrates a tax-cutting pedigree... [Read More]

Please note that unverified Disqus users will have comments held in moderation. Please visit Disqus to register and verify your account. Comments from verified users will appear immediately.