Would the Tea Party Throw Reagan Under the Bus?

This weekend marks the 100th birthday of the most beloved Republican president ever – Ronald Reagan.  Now, there is a lot for any American to like about President Reagan.  He had unbridled optimism, a great sense of humor and actual respect for members of the opposing party.  But as a Democrat who survived the Reagan years, there was also a lot not to like about Reagan’s policies and many scandals (Iran-Contra comes to mind).

If Ronald Reagan were alive today, and if he was a candidate for office, let’s be honest about something: the Tea Party would have throw him under the bus for spending too much, epxanding the size of government and raising taxes, which is exactly what Reagan did as president.

This CBS News story documents some of what I mean and I wrote some posts last year here and here that spell it out.

From the CBS piece, these tidbits: 

  • Reagan entered office in 1980 vowing to cut both spending and taxes; he passed a major reduction in marginal tax rates where the top marginal rate fell from 70 percent when he came into office to 28 percent when he left. It’s now about 35 percent.
  • National debt went from $700 billion to $3 trillion under Reagan.
  • He grew the Federal Government by creating the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and increased the government payroll by 60,000 people.
  • In 1983, he bailed out the Social Security program with $165 billion and increased the budget for the Defense Department dramatically.
  • Reagan raised federal taxes 11 times as president.  There’s no typo there; he raised taxes 11 times. And those tax increases ate up about half of his 1981 tax cut.
  • His 1983 tax increase to help Medicare means Reagan raised taxes to fund government run healthcare.
  • Reagan signed the largest corporate tax increase in our nation’s history.

What the CBS story fails to mention is Ronald Reagan’s multi-billion dollar bailout of the Savings & Loan industry.  Last year, I wrote this in response to an OC Register story:

“When Reagan took office, the United States was the largest creditor nation in the world.  When he left, we were the largest debtor nation.  When Reagan took office, we were the largest exporter of manufactured goods and the largest importer of raw materials; we’re now the largest importer of finished goods and manufactured goods, and the largest exporter of raw materials. And while Calle and Seiler rail against Obama’s stimulus package, its telling that neither gentlemen would mention the bailout of the Savings & Loan Industry.  The cost of that crisis totaled around $160 billion with nearly $125 billion directly paid for by the US government via a financial bailout from President Bush 41 through new charges on their savings and loan accounts and increased taxes.  This crisis helped contribute to the large budget deficit that led Bush 41 to break his “no new taxes” pledge.  Any whining about *that* government bailout gentlemen?”

And I didn’t even mention Reagan’s 1986 amnesty for undocumented immigrants.  Opps, I just did.

How would the Tea Party react to this record?

Senator Scott Brown is already getting flack from the Tea Party for being a RINO (Republican in Name Only), but, as a former Bay state resident, Brown can’t run to the hard right and expect to win re-election in Massachusetts. Try telling that to the Tea Party.

I do admire President Reagan for his optimistim and positive outlook about America.  It’s easy to see why he still stand so tall in a party now dominated by a blowhard radio talkshow host who’s a known bigot, a conspiracy-theory minded TV host who weeps at the drop of a hat, a former small state/population-wise ex-governor who quit midway through her term and declares Sputnik to be the reason the Soviet Union fell, or a Minnesota Congresswoman who believes that the Founding Fathers sought to eliminate slavery while in fact owning slaves. What these people all have in common is a loose grasp of facts and a party first/country second mentality.

Ronald Reagan Jr. has a new book about about his father that’s worth a read.  From the New York Times Book Review about the new tome:

“His children, if they were being honest,” Mr. Reagan writes in “My Father at 100,” “would agree that he was as strange a fellow as any of us had ever met. Not darkly strange, mind you. In fact, he was so naturally sunny, so utterly without guile, so devoid of cynicism or pettiness as to create for himself a whole new category of strangeness. He was, in some respects, too good — like a visitor from an enchanted realm where they’d never even consider inventing a Double Down sandwich or credit default swaps. I often felt I had to check my natural sarcasm and sense of absurdity at the door for fear of inducing in him a fit of psychological disequilibrium.”

Though the younger Mr. Reagan — an avowed atheist with decidedly liberal leanings — would have philosophical arguments with his father over the years, their difficulties had nothing to do with politics but with emotional connection. The author says that he never felt that his father didn’t love or care for him but that he often seemed to be “wandering somewhere in his own head.”

“Occasionally,” Mr. Reagan writes, “he seemed to need reminding about basic aspects of my life — like birthdays, who my friends were or how I was doing in school. I could share an hour of warm camaraderie with Dad, then once I’d walked out the door, get the uncanny feeling I’d disappeared into the wings of his mind’s stage, like a character no longer necessary to the ongoing story line.”

This suspicion that he was not central to his father’s daily existence, that his father’s inner life was both elusive and impregnable lends a wistful tone to the memoir. Ron Reagan, who writes in charming, lucid prose, clearly wants to try to know his father, and his travels to the small Midwestern towns where his dad grew up become a Telemachus-like search for understanding as he deconstructs the former president’s earliest dreams and ambitions and his relationships with his parents, his brother and his classmates. These chapters of the book have the emotional detail and heartfelt power of recent classics of filial devotion like Martin Amis’s “Experience” and Philip Roth’s “Patrimony.” They are testaments both to the author’s deep, protective love for his father and to his puzzlement over his father’s deeply solitary nature and frequent obliviousness to people around him.”

  4 comments for “Would the Tea Party Throw Reagan Under the Bus?

  1. junior
    February 4, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Reagan cut taxes deeper and broader than he raised some taxes.

  2. Steve
    February 4, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    Reagan cut taxes deep and broad and then realized he cut them TOO deep and broad. He saw the deficit ballooning with his own eyes.

    At least he was capable of a little thing called “balance”, as opposed to most current-day Republicans who preach no tax raises under ANY circumstances…none, ever, ever, never.

  3. February 5, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Ronald Reagan is a political cult figure.
    Obama is a political cult figure.

    Politics is marketing, deception, emotional response conditioning, and most importantly, directing activists into NON ISSUES.

    An issue that matters is below.
    The Constitutionality of the National Bank
    Why Monroe and John Quincy Adams were true patriots, fighting for the strengthening of America, and Andrew Jackson was a racist pro-British Tory.

  4. Steve
    February 6, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Ummm, yeah…Washington and Hamilton won that National Bank debate, and we’ve been the greatest country on the face of the planet since then…even better once slavery was abolished.

    Get over it dude.

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