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Sacrifice theme returns to US politics

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Americans have long honored the sacrifice of its warriors. During World War II, average Americans also stepped up, planting victory gardens, buying war bonds, and recycling rubbish for the war effort.

They paid more taxes, too. The Revenue Act of 1942 subjected millions to the income tax for the first time. Most seemed not to mind. In 1944, 90 percent said the amount of income tax they paid was “fair,” according to Joseph Thorndike, coauthor of “War and Taxes” and a visiting scholar at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

“The federal government launched an all-out campaign to market the new tax changes, including Disney-produced animated shorts featuring Donald Duck touting the importance of ‘taxes to beat the Axis!’ ” Dr. Thorndike writes in the book.

But in the past four decades, asking voters to sacrifice has been fraught with political risk. Just ask Walter Mondale. When the former vice president became the Democratic presidential nominee in 1984, the US faced a budget deficit of about $180 billion, considered massive at the time. During his nominating speech, Mr. Mondale decided to tell Americans what he believed had to be done.

“Let’s tell the truth,...” he told Democratic conventiongoers in San Francisco. “Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.”

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