Kids Today Don't Know How Good They Have It


In today's Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove reminds us that it has been 15 years since Americans experienced a tax hike:

In 2008, voters were less worried about taxes than they had been in previous elections. Why? Because the 15 years between President Bill Clinton's 1993 tax hike and Barack Obama's increase in cigarette taxes in February was the longest stretch in U.S. history without a federal income tax increase.

Just to put the dates in perspective, those 15 years span essentially the entirety of my life as a politically aware person (I was born in 1980). Those 15 years also roughly coincided with much ballyhooed, now defunct "end of history"—the period where many people believed that the great ideological questions were settled. Capitalism had triumphed over communism and socialism, liberalism over totalitarianism, and every one was settling in happily to lives where much of the public discourse centered around blow jobs. This year's college freshmen were born in 1990. The Berlin Wall was already down when they were born, the great battles of the 21st century over. And, as Rove reminds us, they've never been even vaguely aware of a federal tax increase.

That might go part of the way toward explaining a recent Rasmussen poll—much bandied about during yesterday's Tea Parties—found only 53 percent of Americans preferred capitalism to socialism, with an additional 27 percent unsure which is better. Americans under 30, my cohort, tilted even further away from capitalism, with only 37 percent preferring capitalism and 30 percent undecided.

(Of course during that same period, the residents of many states have seen massive increases in their state and local tax burdens. Read all about it in Reason's May cover story here.)