Stephanopoulos: 'It's Not Responsible to Say You're Never Going to Raise Taxes'

In an “On the Trail” segment from Rhode Island on Sunday's This Week, ABC's George Stephanopoulos lectured Stephen Laffey, the Republican primary challenger to incumbent Senator Lincoln Chafee, about taking a pledge to not raise federal income taxes: “If the deficit continued to grow, it's not responsible to say you're never going to raise taxes." When Laffey pointed out how Ronald Reagan's tax cuts “worked very well,” Stephanopoulos retorted: “Ronald Reagan also increased taxes." After Laffey touted the benefits of the Bush tax cuts, an exasperated Stephanopoulos resignedly concluded: "So it's 'read my lips,' you're never going to vote to raise taxes?"

Stephanopoulos also spent time with the liberal Chafee, whom he ludicrously described as a “centrist” facing “a conservative challenge.” But Stephanopoulos undermined his label when he forwarded how Laffey says “that you're a typical tax and spend liberal” and outlined Chafee's voting record: “You voted against President Bush on tax cuts, on prescription drugs, on the Iraq war, on stem cells, on gay marriage. You didn't even vote for him. Don't you have more in common with Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton than with President Bush?”

The tax cut discussion between Stephanopoulos and Laffey taped at a Cranston, Rhode Island restaurant and played back on the September 3 This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
Stephanopoulos: “What about the specific points he [Chafee] makes on taxes. You say you're not going to raise taxes, you're not going to vote for tax increase in the Senate, yet as Mayor of Cranston you did raise taxes.”

Stephen Laffey: “Well, it's unfortunate. He wasn't Mayor and if he doesn't have the understanding of the fact that the local government level you can't print money. Only the United States Treasury has, I can't help him with that thing. And yes, when I got into office we were about 30 days from defaulting on our debt considered the worst run city in America with the lowest bond rating in America, so yes we put in a supplemental tax and cut everything we could across the board at a meeting on March 26th when we introduced my budget. We fired the unionized crossing guards. We took on the wasteful school spending and yes, after I was re-elected by the widest margin in Cranston history, we're the only city in Rhode Island that's lowering property taxes.”

Stephanopoulos: “But the same thing could happen at the federal level though, isn't it true? I mean, if the deficit continued to grow, it's not responsible to say you're never going to raise taxes.”

Laffey: “The deficit is shrinking and I have a philosophically different view than Senator Chafee on taxes. I think the tax cuts of John F. Kennedy were proven to work. I think the tax cuts of Ronald Reagan worked very well and I know that the tax cuts of-”

Stephanopoulos: “Ronald Reagan also increased taxes.”

Laffey: “But the Tax cuts recently have worked in spades. There's a $500 billion more coming into the United States Treasury the last two years, productivity is up 14 percent the last three years. This is historical highs.”

Stephanopoulos: “So it's 'read my lips,' you're never going to vote to raise taxes?”

Laffey: “I'm not going to be voting to raise federal income taxes, that's right, there's no need...”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center