Democracy's new issue is out, and they asked me to contribute a piece explaining how anti-tax fundamentalism conquered the Republican Party. Glad you asked, I replied:
The conservative movement’s embrace of taxophobia is probably the most important development in American political life over the last three decades. It is the one quality that most distinguishes American conservative elites from conservative elites in other countries. They’re more likely to question climate science, more sanguine about people dying for lack of health insurance, and less xenophobic (which is rather nice). But above all—far above all—they hate taxes.
Taxophobia has spawned an epistemology of its own and has completely reshaped the landscape of American politics. It more than anything else has driven the widely decried rise in partisan conflict. More profoundly, conservative taxophobia has redefined the terms of the political debate. Two generations ago, economic liberalism meant Keynesian deficit spending and a rapidly expanding welfare state with little concern for deficits. Fiscal conservatism meant opposition to deficits and inflation. Today, the old fiscal conservatism has been embraced by the mainstream of the Democratic Party. The old fiscal liberalism has been confined to the margins, espoused by left-wing dissidents to the Democratic mainstream. And the Republican Party inhabits an otherworldly new realm that even the staunchest right-wingers of a generation before could scarcely have imagined. As the two parties trade power back and forth, the ideological basis for economic policy pingpongs between the old right and a loopy kind of far-right. Periods of Republican governance have grown increasingly disastrous, while periods of Democratic governance are largely consumed with staving off fiscal collapse.
How did this happen?
Read on for the explanation.