I finished a biography on Ronald Reagan last fall. It was interesting to read because there is much mythology surrounding the Gipper. He was certainly a staunchly conservative ideologue, as those on the Right assert. However, he also compromised a good deal, when it came to actual policy.
So, regarding the current budget crisis, let’s ask the WWJD question: What Would Reagan Do?
Tom Raum had some interesting thoughts in an article he wrote, “Reagan looms over debt debate inspiring both sides.” I read this in The Daily Plainsman, the local paper here in rural Huron, South Dakota.
It is interesting that Reagan raised taxes several times:
Reagan did push through deep, across-the-board cuts in tax rates in his first year of the presidency in 1981, fulfilling a campaign promise.
But the following year he signed the largest peace-time tax increase in U.S. history, the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982. He raised taxes in every succeeding year of his presidency except the last. As California governor, Reagan also signed the biggest tax increase in state history.
“There was a consistency to Reagan on taxes, which was basically that he cut them when he could, but raised them when he had to. He was not dogmatic on this issue, as his current day followers seem to think,” said economist Bruce Bartlett, a senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House and a top Treasury official in President George H.W. Bush’s administration.
Bartlett noted that Reagan’s tax increases took back about half of his signature 1981 tax cut…
How did the Gipper respond to raising the debt ceiling?
During Reagan’s two terms, he presided over 18 increases in the debt ceiling. He even publicly scolded Congress for playing hardball politics with the debt limit and bringing the nation “to the edge of default before facing its responsibility.”
And how does the current tax rates compare to those of the past?
When he left office in 1989, federal taxes accounted for 18.4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, compared with the 18 percent average for the two decades before he took office. By contrast, tax revenues are forecast to be just 14.4 per cent of GDP in 2011.