In his speech this weekend to the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), 2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain relied on one of his favorite stock terms: “the attack of the ations: too much legislation, too much regulation, and too much taxation.” That’s a very catchy general phrase. But when he got down to specifics, identifying exactly what this “too much legislation” might be, Cain made some odd choices:
Too much legislation! I didn’t have to mention Cap-and-Trade and Tax-and-Kill. I didn’t have to mention the Unfairness Doctrine. I didn’t have to mention any of the others that they are trying to put on us now through the back door! Too much legislation, regulation and taxation.
“Cap-and-Trade” refers to the idea of a market-based system that allows people to trade shares in the right to pollute. It was originally thought up by and promoted by economists and Republicans including the McCain-Palin campaign before Democrats agreed to give it a try, at which point it instantly became a socialist plot. There has been no Cap-and-Trade policy in place to deal with pollution since Republican President George H.W. Bush implemented it to deal with the problem of acid rain. There was no Cap-and-Trade legislation that passed in the 111th Congress. There is only one bill regarding Cap-and-Trade legislation in the 112th Congress: H.R. 153, introduced by Ted Poe. Poe’s legislation would ban any implementation of Cap-and-Trade policy at the federal level.
“Tax-and-Kill” sounds like a brutal policy, but the last package of legislation passed by Congress revising the federal tax code was an extension of tax cuts in December of 2010. In his “attack of the ations” rhetoric, Herman Cain declares there is “too much taxation” as a result of “too much legislation,” but here is an example in which the most recent legislation has actually cut taxes. To draw that trend back further in time, consider IRS data compiled by the Tax Policy Center which shows what “too much legislation” has done to the top marginal income tax rates in this country over the past seventy years:
And the trend for lower taxes isn’t just in straight-up income taxes: overall, according to OECD statistics, Americans are paying less in federal taxes as a percent of GDP than they were a decade ago. Herman Cain’s story of “Tax-and-Kill legislation” doesn’t match actual trends.
Finally, Cain’s “Unfairness Doctrine” phrase colorfully refers to the “Fairness Doctrine,” an old policy requiring equal time for opposing views on television, meant for an era when there were only four television broadcast channels available. The policy was abolished 24 years ago. There was no legislation to revive the Fairness Doctrine passed during the 111th Congress. The only legislation having anything to do with the Fairness Doctrine in the 112th Congress is H.R. 642, a bill introduced by Republican congressman Mike Pence to actively prohibit the Fairness Doctrine from being re-enacted.
When Herman Cain complained of “too much legislation” this weekend, he referred to legislation that does not exist outside his own mind. Our last trip down the path of imaginary politics didn’t end so well. Do we really want to head down that path again?