Reality Check

BILL CLINTON, TAX-HIKE CHAMP. That's the Republicans' favorite rap against the President, who lately is trying to recast himself as a tax-cutter. So when New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman gave the GOP response to his State of the Union address Jan. 24, she was sure to slam Clinton for imposing "the biggest tax increase in American history." Her reference was to the tax hike that Clinton signed in 1993. It will cost $240 billion over five years, according to estimates from the Treasury Dept. and the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

IN REALITY, the Republicans mislead. Only in nominal dollar value was the 1993 tax hike the biggest ever. But the 1982 increase of $206 billion over five years, signed by Ronald Reagan, comes out to $268 billion, adjusted for inflation. Looked at another way, as a portion of the overall economy, Reagan still approved the biggest tax boost in U.S. history. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculates that the '82 tax hike was 1.3% of gross domestic product, while Clinton's was 0.9%. A private group, the Tax Foundation, also ran the numbers and comes up with virtually the same result. $by

By Paul Magnusson