The eight Republican presidential candidates sitting at the table listen as a video of former President Ronald Reagan is played during a debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 11. photo by Jim Cole/AP [ NPR website] OK...I confess: that headline does not reflect the Tea Party stance in 2011--but it does reflect historical Republican fiscal conservatism. On Wednesday of this week, Terry Gross interviewed Tim Dickinson about his article in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine: " How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich ." The GOP was once the party for more than one economic class. From Dickinson's article: " Cloaking himself in the language of class warfare, [the President] calls on a hostile Congress to end wasteful tax breaks for the rich. 'We're going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share,' he thunders to a crowd in Georgia. Such tax loopholes, he adds, 'sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary – and that's crazy.' Preacherlike, the president draws the crowd into a call-and-response. 'Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver,' he demands, 'or less?' The crowd, sounding every bit like the protesters from Occupy Wall Street, roars back: 'MORE!' The year was 1985. The president was Ronald Wilson Reagan. " Dickinson's thorough history reminds us that Republicans in the 1950's and 1960's insisted on tax levels that would ensure a balanced budget. The ideological battles were fought over the spending programs, but once the expenditures were decided, taxes were adjusted to make sure the country remained fiscally sustainable. When Reagan lowered taxes on earned income (salaries and wages), he mitigated that cut by raising the capital gains tax to 28%. This meant that those who made their money from investments were paying taxes that were in the ballpark of those who earned their money from salary or wages. Today, the capital gains rate, at 15%, is far below the 35% earned income rate--and many capital gains are not taxed at all. This benefits the richest Americans. Republicans have been on a tax-cutting "jihad" for the wealthy since 1997. Dickinson notes that since that time, " the average annual income of the 400 richest Americans has more than tripled, to $345 million – while their share of the tax burden has plunged by 40 percent." image from the Rolling Stone article Old school Republicans have expressed dismay at their party's current support of the extremely wealthy at the expense of the middle class. Even Glenn Hubbard, an economist who devised some of Bush's tax cut plans, said there should have been a "revenue contribution to the debt-ceiling deal, structured to fall mainly on the well-to-do." ( Rolling Stone ) By November 23rd, the bi-partisan special committee that was formed when the debt-ceiling deal was made this past summer is supposed to come up with a trillion dollar + resolution. I wonder which set of values will prevail? Follow up : 1. Over the next week, keep current with the resolution of the trillion dollar remaining budget problem triggered by the debt ceiling. What did the special committee decide? On what underlying principles or positions were their decisions made? 2. Read the Rolling Stone article linked above. What Republican insisted on tax increases in 1982 to reverse the deficits that occurred during the Reagan administration? What was Reagan's response at that point, and for the remainder of his term in office? On what underlying principle did he base his decision? 3. Who were the architects of tax policy that created the biggest benefits for the top 1% toward the end of the 1990's? On what principles or positions were their actions based, according to Dickinson? What policies do you support and why?