Thanks, Obama: How a Divisive Presidency Invigorated the GOP

The President’s True Legacy: Scott Walker?

President Obama’s latest moves have focused on his legacy: the trade deal, the Iran agreement, and the new EPA rules are aimed to give the first black president a historic policy send-off. But the president’s true legacy isn’t these new policies, it’s a reinvigorated Republican Party across the nation.

In the past six years, Republicans haven’t just taken hold of state legislatures and governorships -- they have enacted real changes and seen incredible results.

Scott Walker

(Image: Associated Press)

New conservative leaders are cutting taxes, cleaning up regulation, and cultivating a strong environment for business. For the first time in a long time, manufacturing jobs are coming back to the United States.

A few factors have propelled this new wave of electoral success, but by far the most powerful has been backlash to the tax increases imposed by President Obama and Democratic governors in recent years. Like the Tea Party movement before it, this revolution of governing finds its roots in the accession of the man who may be our most liberal president ever.

Tax Reform: Low Rates, New Ideas

After the 2008 election of a very liberal president, Democratic governors unleashed a new era of big government. In 2009, states piled on $29 billion in new taxes, the largest single-year state hike ever recorded. In states across America, the era of big government was decidedly not over -- or so they thought.

The results of the 2006 and 2008 elections did not mean Americans suddenly wanted to pay more taxes, and elections since have again favored the party which is easier on taxpayers' pocketbooks. As RealClearPolitics author David Byler pointed out, since 2009 GOP majorities have taken state houses, state senates, and governorships by storm. The Republican Party has not been this strong -- on state, gubernatorial, and congressional levels -- since 1928.

In some blue states, the anti-tax issue clearly propelled GOP governors to victory. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s  two terms of tax hikes lost his Democrat Party the governorship in 2014. Larry Hogan, founder of the anti-tax group Change Maryland, won a historic election in the state that Gallup rated as America’s second-most Democratic. That year also saw Republican governors elected in Massachusetts (the most Democratic state) and Illinois (the ninth-most Democratic).

In 2010, following the emergence of the Tea Party, Republican governors across the country started cutting taxes. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder replaced the Michigan Business Tax with a flat corporate income tax. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez cut corporate rates by 22 percent. Ohio’s John Kasich decreased rates for personal incomes and small businesses. North Dakota’s Jack Dalrymple cut corporate and personal taxes by $750 million between 2011 and 2013. New Jersey’s Chris Christie cut his state’s abnormally high business taxes by $600 million in 2011 and vetoed personal income tax increases.

These governors and others also simplified their overly complex tax codes. North Carolina’s Pat McCrory consolidated the income tax into a single rate and lowered business taxes, a net decrease of $700 million in 2013. Sam Brownback simplified Kansas’ three income tax tiers to two lower rates, cutting taxes by $800 million. Snyder and Martinez also eliminated loopholes and exemptions, making their tax codes more straightforward.

The tax-cutting spirit continued into 2014. Hogan has rolled back a new “storm-water remediation” fee, which cost Marylanders $9.5 billion under O’Malley’s two terms. Hogan also put through an income tax reduction for seniors.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson -- the first GOP governor of that state to have a Republican legislature in over 100 years -- decreased income taxes by $90 million, with most of the savings going to middle class workers making between $21,000 and $70,000 per year.