Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) named three Republicans to the fiscal super committee that was created by the debt ceiling deal. All three have taken the Americans for Tax Reform anti-tax pledge and support a cockamamie constitutional balanced budget amendment. “What I can pretty certainly say to the American people, the chances of any kind of tax increase passing with this, with the appointees that John Boehner and I are going to put on there, are pretty low,” McConnell has said.
But McConnell has not always been so virulently anti-tax. In fact, in a 1990 campaign ad, McConnell said that “everyone should pay their fair share, including the rich,” prompting the Associated Press to say that he sounded like a “populist Democrat”:
“Many Republican candidates are, in fact, holding fast to the no-new-taxes position that Bush embraced and then abandoned, even as they try to portray themselves as friends of senior citizens and the disadvantaged. Others are sounding more and more like populist Democrats. ‘Unlike some folks around here, I think everyone should pay their fair share, including the rich,’ Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says in a campaign ad.” [Associated Press, 10/28/90]
“A twist of untraditional Republicanism is added to McConnell’s message when he says, ‘Unlike some folks around here, I think everyone should pay their fair share, including the rich. We need to protect seniors from Medicare cuts too,’” wrote Roll Call reporter Steve Lilienthal. “After proclaiming his independence from the President and Congressional leaders, McConnell reassures voters that he will back a ‘fair deal for the working families of Kentucky.’” [“Democrats Flood Airwaves Charging GOP Party of Rich,” Roll Call, 11/5/1990]
If McConnell truly believes this, he should be appalled by current conditions. Tax rates on the richest Americans have plunged in recent years, and millionaires today pay tax rates that are 25 percent lower than they were in 1995. Meanwhile, income inequality is the worst its been since the 1920s, with the top 1 percent of Americans taking home 25 percent of the country’s total income. Just the richest 400 Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of Americans combined, and the richest 10 percent of Americans control two-thirds of the country’s net worth.
From the sounds of it, once upon a time McConnell would have found this troublesome. It’s a shame that he doesn’t any longer.
ThinkProgress intern Sarah Bufkin contributed research for this post.