If Ronald Reagan were still alive, he would celebrate his 100th birthday Sunday, Feb. 6. Since Reagan left office in 1989, he has come to be venerated as a saint by conservative Republicans. But while so-called “Reagan Republicans” revise Reagan’s record to support their political beliefs, “the Gipper,” who died in 2004 at 93, couldn’t even get elected as a Republican if he ran in 2012.
The Reagan Republican mythology
On Ronald Reagan’s would-be 100th birthday, he remains a polarizing figure. To some he was responsible for winning the cold war and launching the idea of limited government. Others remember him for allowing the federal deficit to skyrocket and creating the still-widening gap between the rich and middle class. To Reagan Republicans, Reagan was a tax-cutting, budget-cutting role model who proudly defended American ideals. His name is conveniently used as a catch-phrase to validate tax cuts for the rich, deep cuts in government, aggressive military spending and hard-line immigration policies.
Ronald Reagan and taxes
Ronald Reagan at 100 would disagree with the Reagan Republican notion that deficit reduction can be accomplished without tax increases. Former Republican Senator from Wyoming Alan Simpson, co-chair of the president’s commission on deficit reduction, worked with Reagan on the federal budget during the Reagan administration. Simpson called the conservative assertion that Reagan didn’t raise taxes “plain damn lies.” In a Congressional hearing, he pointed out that tax increases under Reagan included the 1982 Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act that raised corporate taxes and income taxes by nearly 1 percent of GDP, the largest peacetime tax increase ever at the time.
Reagan on spending and other Republican demons
Reagan ended up raising taxes seven of the eight years he was president. When it comes to spending, Reagan increased spending 177 percent while he was governor of California from 1967-1975. As president, he expanded government and tripled the federal deficit despite raising taxes. Reagan also supported the Brady Bill gun-control measure and wanted to abolish nuclear weapons. Instead of demonizing immigrants, he signed legislation in 1986 granting amnesty to millions of undocumented aliens. If Reagan Republicans were honest in their convictions, they would have nothing to do with Ronald Reagan.