There have now been two presidents in the last 30 years — Bush and Reagan — who cut taxes and promised that deficits would not follow. But the deficits did come, and they went away only after two other presidents — George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton — raised taxes. It also seems fairly clear by now that tax cuts for the affluent do not necessarily trickle down to everyone else.The palpable exhaustion of conservative economic thought really is extraordinary. The evidence has been clear for years that that, at current U.S. tax levels, neither modest cuts nor modest increases has any real effect on economic growth, but the GOP's core interest groups — rich people and corporations — want tax cuts, so that's what they continue to offer. They've simply got nothing else in the tank.
For Democrats who want to think the worst about their opponents, McCain's reliance on these ideas may be affirming. But it's really a shame. For the time being, only one party is applying the lessons of history to the country's biggest economic problems. There is no great battle of new ideas, and that can't make it more likely that those problems will be solved.
And John McCain desperately wants to be president, so he's surrendered to the flat earthers. He knows perfectly well that Grover Norquist and the Club for Growth and the cranks at the Wall Street Journal editorial page can torpedo his campaign if he doesn't pay fealty to their mindless tax cut jihadism, so fealty he pays. He's sort of a Manchurian candidate at this point, reciting the talking points in a monotone and hoping wearily that it's enough for one more trip to the well. Kinda sad, really.