NEW YORK (
) -- When Barack Obama outlines more specifics Tuesday about the so-called "Buffett Rule" that aims to pin a minimum tax on millionaires, he will be the fifth straight president to highlight taxes in a State of the Union address during his re-election year.
Jimmy Carter in 1980 was the last president to avoid a single mention of taxes in a State of the Union speech during a presidential election year, and since then Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all made tax cuts a central part of their recommendations to Congress.
Here's a look at the number of times a president mentioned the word "tax" or a form of it in a State of the Union address in an election year, a highlight about taxes from each speech and how the top tax rate on regular income and capital gains shifted from the beginning to the end of the presidents' first terms.
The Gipper referenced the word "tax" or a form of it
21 times, which was in stark contrast from the zero mentions Carter made in his 1980 speech that spoke mostly about energy and the Iranian hostage crisis.
"Let us go forward with an historic reform for fairness, simplicity, and incentives for growth. I am asking Secretary Don Regan for a plan for action to simplify the entire tax code, so all taxpayers, big and small, are treated more fairly," Reagan said in 1984.
In 1984, the top tax rate on regular income had dropped to 50%, from 60% in 1980, while the top rate on capital gains dropped to 20% from 28% in 1980, according to
. Reagan won re-election with 525 electoral votes vs. just 13 for Democrat Walter Mondale.
George H.W. Bush
Bush referenced the word "tax" or a form of it
20 times, and shortly into the speech the president (who had raised taxes halfway through his term after declaring at the GOP convention"
Read my lips: No new taxes") bizarrely thanked the American taxpayer.
"The American taxpayer bore the brunt of the burden and deserves a hunk of the glory. ... And I have, this evening, directed the Secretary of the Treasury to change the Federal tax withholding tables. With this change, millions of Americans from whom the Government withholds more than necessary can now choose to have the Government withhold less from their paychecks. Something tells me a number of taxpayers may take us up on this one," Bush said in 1992.
In 1992 the top tax rate on regular income had risen to 31%, up from 28% in 1988, and the top rate on capital gains remained flat. Bush failed at re-election, getting 168 electoral votes vs. 360 for Bill Clinton.
Clinton mentioned "tax" or a form of it
11 times as part of the president's push that year for Congress to reach an agreement on a balanced budget.
"In 1993, Congress cut the taxes of 15 million hard-pressed working families to make sure that no parents who work full-time would have to raise their children in poverty, and to encourage people to move from welfare to work. This expanded earned income tax credit is now worth about $1,800 a year to a family of four living on $20,000. The budget bill I vetoed would have reversed this achievement and raised taxes on nearly 8 million of these people. We should not do that," Clinton said in 1996.
In 1996 the top tax rate on regular income had risen to 40%, up from from 31% in 1992, while the top rate on capital gains remained flat. Clinton won re-election 379 to 159.
George W. Bush
Bush mentioned the word "tax" or a version of it
21 times as he highlighted tax relief in his State of the Union address just after the war on terror.
"Congress has some unfinished business on the issue of taxes. The tax reductions you passed are set to expire. Unless you act the unfair tax on marriage will go back up. Unless you act, millions of families will be charged $300 more in federal taxes for every child. Unless you act, small businesses will pay higher taxes. Unless you act, the death tax will eventually come back to life. Unless you act, Americans face a tax increase. What Congress has given, the Congress should not take away. For the sake of job growth, the tax cuts you passed should be permanent," Bush said in 2004.
In 2004 the top tax rate on regular income had dropped to 35%, down from 40% in 2000, and the top rate on capital gains fell to 15%, down from 20% in 2000. Bush won re-election 286 to 251.
-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.
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