This weekend marks the 100th birthday of the most beloved Republican president ever – Ronald Reagan.Â Now, there is a lot for any American to like about President Reagan.Â He had unbridled optimism, a great sense of humor and actual respect for members of the opposing party.Â 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:Â the Tea Party would have throw him under the bus for spending too much, epxanding the size of governmentÂ and raising taxes, which is exactly whatÂ Reagan did as president.
From the CBS piece, these tidbits:Â
- Reagan entered office in 1980Â vowing to cut both spending and taxes; he passedÂ a major reduction in marginal tax rates whereÂ 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â Â When he left, we were the largest debtor nation.Â Â When Reagan took office, we were theÂ largest exporter of manufactured goods and the largest importer of raw materials; weâ€™re now the largest importer of finished goods andÂ manufactured goods, and the largest exporter of raw materials. And while Calle and Seiler rail against Obamaâ€™s stimulus package, its telling that neither gentlemen would mention the bailout of the Savings & Loan Industry.Â TheÂ cost of that crisisÂ totaled around $160 billion with nearly $125 billionÂ 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.Â This crisis helped contribute to the large budgetÂ deficitÂ that led Bush 41 to break his â€œno new taxesâ€ pledge.Â Any whining about *that* government bailout gentlemen?”
And I didn’t even mention Reagan’s 1986 amnesty for undocumented immigrants.Â 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.Â 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.Â From the New York Times Book Review about the new tome:
â€œHis children, if they were being honest,â€ Mr. Reagan writes in â€œMy Father at 100,â€ â€œwould 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 â€” like a visitor from an enchanted realm where theyâ€™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.â€
Though the younger Mr. Reagan â€” an avowed atheist with decidedly liberal leanings â€” 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 didnâ€™t love or care for him but that he often seemed to be â€œwandering somewhere in his own head.â€
â€œOccasionally,â€ Mr. Reagan writes, â€œhe seemed to need reminding about basic aspects of my life â€” 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 Iâ€™d walked out the door, get the uncanny feeling Iâ€™d disappeared into the wings of his mindâ€™s stage, like a character no longer necessary to the ongoing story line.â€
This suspicion that he was not central to his fatherâ€™s daily existence, that his fatherâ€™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 presidentâ€™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 Amisâ€™s â€œExperienceâ€ and Philip Rothâ€™s â€œPatrimony.â€ They are testaments both to the authorâ€™s deep, protective love for his father and to his puzzlement over his fatherâ€™s deeply solitary nature and frequent obliviousness to people around him.”