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Economic Outlook: Reminiscing

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International
Anthony Hall
Anthony Hall

What is it about revenues that Republicans in Washington just don't understand?

While we're on the subject, what is it about making political pledges in public that sound like too much of a good thing that Republicans don't understand? When did not raising taxes become the battle cry for the disenchanted?

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That standard constraint used by budget-conscious families across the country, "Don't shop hungry," and that standard safety tip, "Don't drive angry," could be applied to those in pressed suits behind podiums trying to sound like Alexander Hamilton. Try this on for size: "Don't make pledges about taxes during good times … or relatively good times … and then find yourself hogtied with simple budgeting needs that arise in the future." When presidential candidate George H.W. Bush made his infamous pledge in 1988, "Read my lips: No new taxes," he had to renege on his promise not two years later. He had the guts to do so, and did so.

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A retrospective in The Washington Post says there is a little more than meets the eye on the Bush story. The crux of the matter: Bush staffers were not 100 percent in accord on the no taxes pledge. In other words, friends, pundits and politicians, it is debatable. It isn't tattooed on anyone's forehead.

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Except maybe it is. This year, Tea Party candidates and others on Conservative Row decided to tattoo a few absurdities on their foreheads and they now look like they are attempting to run the country with one eye closed.

Moreover, it seems the only people really fooled by a Bush sound bite were Republicans. It's as if they fell for their own gag -- or gagged on their own gag, as the case may be.

When the smoke cleared on the budget debates in 1990, the Post points out, 28 percent of the gap the budget attempted to resolve was made up on the revenue side of the equation. And then the next morning something very strange happened: The country woke up and went to work and came home from work and watched television and on the weekend everybody washed their cars. In other words, life kept plodding along, 28 percent of the gap made up by adding revenues or not.

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Who paid the political price for the overstepping pledges? President George H.W. Bush's approval rating climbed to 90 percent after the Persian Gulf War, showing that politicians can survive a political embarrassment now and again.

Former congressional aide John Feehery recalls, "There was a period when the highest goal for Republicans was getting a balanced budget, and if you had to raise taxes, you would do that."

How utterly quaint.

In international markets Thursday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan fell 1.45 percent while the Shanghai composite index in China fell 0.54 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong rose 0.13 percent while the Sensex in India slipped 1.21 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia lost 1.62 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index shed 0.72 percent while the DAX 30 in Germany dropped 1.7 percent. The CAC 40 in France caved 1.43 percent while the Stoxx Europe 600 dropped 0.82 percent.

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