Lieberman and Taxes

Policy Review:
You've argued that the national Democratic Party needs to be more closely identified with economic growth, and you've been something of a maverick in the party in calling for targeted cuts in capital gains taxes. What models for the Democrats today do you see in the economic positions of earlier Democratic leaders?

Senator Joseph Lieberman:
The Democratic Party for most of this century was seen as the party of economic opportunity. We were committed to enterprise, to labor in the classic sense of working hard to make your way. We believed in opening up the system, so that everyone could enjoy the rewards of hard work. Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy all offered across-the-board leadership on behalf of economic growth, with the federal government leading the way in supporting and stimulating the economy. JFK said that a rising tide lifts all boats, and he aggressively used federal tax incentives as a stimulant for growth.

Somehow, in the last 15 to 20 years, the national Democratic Party has moved away from this tradition. The national Democratic Party now has a reputation of taking money, through taxes, from those who work and giving it to those who don't work…

P.R.: Are you saying then that the Democrats are too strongly identified today with high taxes and high government spending?

We certainly have been, although I think that is changing. There's no question that part of what brought down national Democratic candidates in the last decade has been their association with high taxes and high spending. I know it's fashionable to consider the American people selfish in not wanting higher taxes, but is it unreasonable for a hard-working family to be angry about paying higher taxes when they see how often their money is wasted and how little they see in return that means something to the way they live? I don't think Americans are inherently opposed to paying their fair share. It's just that they want to see that they're getting something in return for what they pay…

Through tax incentives and a national policy of support for growth industries we've got to create a sense of partnership between the private and public sectors in this country…

Source: Policy Review Summer 1990