Robert Novak has recently sunk his infamously oversized choppers into more than flagging GOP support for the war. In a new column, he reports that part of Bush's late-term legacy may be to jack payroll taxes:
More than the ascension of Nancy Pelosi & Co. was disturbing congressional Republicans last week. They ask this question: Will President Bush embrace a tax increase that would produce potential economic disaster and guaranteed political catastrophe?
Henry M. Paulson Jr. is a shark on Wall Street but a rookie on Pennsylvania Avenue. As Bush's third secretary of the Treasury, he has engaged in secret bipartisan talks discussing an increase in the current $97,500 limit on personal income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. That would spike up the top marginal tax rate, demolishing supply-side tax principles that Republican administrations have purportedly followed for 26 years.
Paulson certainly has given the impression in those discussions that he is amenable to raising the payroll tax, but a senior White House aide cautions this decision has not yet been made. Presidential adviser Karl Rove attended conservative activist Grover Norquist's weekly meeting Wednesday and offered to bet anyone $5 that there would be no increase in the payroll tax base. But Bush himself has not unequivocally ruled out such a move.
More here. You gotta wonder: Would Bush see a payroll tax hike as a way of buying some version of support for the war?
Better men–or rather, more outspoken tax-cutters–than Papa Bush have seen fit to raise taxes, especially payroll taxes. Bruce Bartlett's 2003 col on how Dubya will likely be forced into a tax increase, which tracks Ronald Reagan's many tax hikes (including his 1983 bump on FICA), is starting to look a little too prophetic.