Ronald Reagan, supposed hero of the neo conservative right, would never have made it in today’s GOP.
Reagan passed massive tax cuts his first year in office, but then reversed many of them when he signed into law the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA). Former Reagan advisor Bruce Bartlett wrote in 2003 that “according to a recent Treasury Department study, TEFRA alone raised taxes by almost 1 percent of the gross domestic product, making it the largest peacetime tax increase in American history.”
And we cannot forget that when he was governor of California, Reagan signed into law the largest tax increase in the history of any state up until that point in an effort to balance the budget. Once president, Reagan raised taxes seven out of eight of his years in office — including four times in just two years for a total of 12 times as president. And one cannot forget that all but two of the budgets he submitted to Congress proposed more spending than Congress sent back to him to sign. Moreover, Reagan also backed a $3.3 billion gasoline tax and he bailed out the Social Security program to the tune of $165 billion.
Indeed, the tax increases Reagan agreed to, as part of negotiations with a Democratic Congress — increases that included raising the gasoline tax and payroll taxes — are actually bigger than anything the Obama White House is proposing now. When it came to debt reduction, Reagan accepted it as a given that any agreement with Congress would include a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. The debate would be over the ratio. Indeed, it’s one of the reasons Reagan ended up raising taxes in seven out of the eight years he was in office. (Remember, “no peacetime president has ever raised taxes so much on so many people” as Reagan as was noted by Paul Krugman of the New York Times back in 2004.) What about the debt ceiling? Reagan’s viewpoints there were crystal clear. In a November 1983 letter to then-Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.), Reagan warned that without a higher debt ceiling, the country could be forced to default for the first time in its history.
Reagan wrote: “The full consequences of a default — or even the serious prospect of default — by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar.” For a party that has worked tirelessly to destroy the civil rights of homosexuals, Reagan was a maverick in his strident opposition to the Briggs Initiative in California, which would’ve banned gays and lesbians from teaching in the public schools, and his opposition helped defeat the measure.
Reagan did little to tighten restrictions against abortion as president and actually passed the most liberal pro-choice legislation up until that time as governor of California. He grew the size of the federal government tremendously, adding 60,000 new government jobs (versus, for instance, Bill Clinton, who shrank government payrolls by 373,000). As governor of California, Reagan supported and ultimately expanded Medi-Cal, which is the nation’s largest Medicaid program. Both as governor and president, he was one of the most proactive presidents in restricting smog emissions and protecting wilderness. And after his press secretary was shot during an assassination attempt against him, the president came out in support of stricter gun-control laws. Lastly, let’s not forget that Reagan granted amnesty to aliens as president, giving citizenship to over a million illegals living in the USA with the stroke of a pen, a position antithetical to current GOP ideology. Any Republican today talking or governing like Ronald Reagan would earn a swift kick out of their party, labeled as a tax-raising, debt ceiling raising, gay-loving, amnesty- granting, abortion supporting, gun-control advocating big spender. You can then add “raising the debt ceiling” to that list, since Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times during his presidency.
But don’t take my word for it. What about Republicans like Rep. Duncan Hunter who called Reagan “a former liberal … who would never be elected today,” or Mike Huckabbee noting that “Ronald Reagan would have a very difficult, if not impossible, time being nominated in this atmosphere of the Republican Party”. What about Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, who recently observed: “Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican”.
Better yet, let’s hear from his Reagan’s own son, Michael Reagan, who noted on Fox News last September that his father would not have been able to get the GOP nomination today because he was far too liberal. “If you look at my father and you just knew him as governor — raised taxes, signed an abortion bill, no-fault divorce, and a few other things — today, the argument against him would come from the right, not from the left.
Give Ronny some credit. His is the administration that came up with that screwed up trickle down theory, that enabled the republicans to make the rich richer.