It doesn’t have a name, but it probably should: the axiom that when budgets and taxes and debt increasingly dominate politics in Washington, utterances of the words “Reagan” and “Thatcher” climb exponentially.
As detailed at length here, high-profile GOP presidential hopefuls constantly extol the former British Prime Minister. That’s true whether it’s to bash President Obama, or burnish their own conservative bona fides, or both.
And, of course, Ronald Reagan’s decades-long reign as the Patron Saint of conservatism never really lets up, no matter what the issue du jour in DC.
But two days after Congressional Republicans took a pass on a $4 trillion fiscal reform grand bargain because Democrats insisted that a minority of the deficit reduction come from new tax revenue, it’s worth reviewing the Thatcher and Reagan records on spending, taxes, and debt — and recalling that the transatlantic Tory twins didn’t mind spending money, and weren’t nearly as averse to tax increases as are their idolators in the U.S. Congress today.
Data courtesy of Bruce Bartlett, Reagan’s former domestic policy chief.
It’s fair to say that if Margaret Thatcher pursued her fiscal policies in the United States today, Sarah Palin wouldn’t be angling for a meeting with her. During her reign, taxes rose, spending climbed and fell, and deficits shrunk fairly steadily, without dramatically undermining the welfare state. It’s a record that’s closer to Bill Clinton’s than to Paul Ryan’s.
Reagan’s record looks more like a modern Republican’s than like a new Democrat’s, but by today’s standards, he’d still basically be a RINO. The giant tax cut he signed at the outset of his presidency assured that, on net, over eight years, he actually reduced revenue. Spending declined as well, but, according to data compiled by The American Presidency Project, not enough to make up for the revenue loss.
But, as Bartlett details here, he also raised taxes — over and over and over again.