Ask a Conservative - Is Reagan a Conservative?

Reagan conservatism is covered in this week's blog.

This week's blog will cover, "Is Reagan a Conservative?" Later on this week I will cover the "Bush Tax Cuts."


Right off the bat I can say a big fat "NO" for the Obama part of the question.

As for Reagan...

This link was posted as a citation for, "Debt grew at a faster rate under Reagan than under any president in history," which is not true. As we can see, the debt under the Reagan administration grew from $907 billion (in today's dollars) to $2.6 trillion when he left office 8 years later. During those 8 years, liberals controlled the House for all 8 years, and the Senate for the last two. Why this is important, I will explain later.

Under the Obama administration with a liberal-controlled Congress, our debt increased from $10 trillion when he took office to $13.5 trillion just two years later. That's an increase of $3.5 trillion over two years, as compared to an increase of $1.6 trillion over the whole 8 years of Reagan's term.

To compare budget deficits, Reagan had an average of $186 billion a year, while the current administration has had an average of $1.3 trillion a year.

I noted above that it was important to remember who controlled Congress during Reagan's administration. Congress controls the budget. They decide what the tax rates are and they decide how much is spent and where. Like any other law, the most Reagan or any president can do is veto it.

Luckily for Reagan, he wasn't stuck with a veto-proof Congress like so many Rhode Island governors have been stuck with for the past 80 years. He had some leeway and could negotiate and compromise with them (namely with Tip O'Neil, the Speaker at the time).

None the less, Reagan was able to cut taxes significantly over the course of his administration. As you can see in the citation, effective tax rates went from 15 percent to 10 percent for the bottom tier and 70 percent to 28 percent for the top tier. He also rewrote the tax code so that it was indexed for inflation, which would sometimes push people into a higher tax bracket even though they did not actually make more money.

Because the tax rate fell so quickly, Reagan advocated a closing of loopholes. Shri compared it to Obama's call and stated it showed "Class Warfare." The difference between the two are astronomical. While Obama wants to not only raise taxes and close the loopholes, Reagan would only close certain loopholes after the tax rate fell dramatically, since some of them were unnecessary once that occurred.

To get the above tax cut, and other items of importance to him (increased Defense spending, for instance) Reagan would agree to different tax and spending increases that the liberal-controlled House wanted. For instance, in 1986 he agreed to raising the national fuel tax from 4 to 9 cents. He also agreed to start taxing cigarettes during his administration.

As you can see from the above citation, Reagan only raised taxes once, in 1982. He was promised by Tip O'Neil that for every $1 in tax increases, $3 would be cut in spending. Reagan agreed to the compromise, but guess what? One week later, over Reagan's veto, they passed the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1982, which effectively erased any spending cuts (it in fact, increased spending)... which means Reagan received nothing in return for his agreeing to raise taxes.

To see Reagan's fiscal policy fully, you should read his platform for 1984. In it, you see much of the same conservative thinking that dominates our ideology today.

Shri also asked about some foreign policy decisions. Of course he concentrated on the failures, but what he didn't concentrate on were the successes.

Reagan believed in the simple adage, "Peace through Strength." He modernized and built up our military strength, knowing that if the USSR were to try to match it, it would cause them to collapse (which it did).

Should Reagan have ever traded arms for hostages? No. Should he have pulled out of Lebanon after the bombing? No. These are mistakes, no doubt, and they do not reflect today's conservative ideology.

So while there are exceptions, some of which are noted in Shri's post, some of which I noted above, Reagan rarely swayed from a conservative line of thinking. Because of this my answer is Yes, Reagan is a Conservative.

Expect the next blog to be published on either Friday or Saturday when I will cover on the Bush Tax Cuts.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jack Baillargeron August 02, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Also, whose side would “Harry Reid or DEMS” in general be on if a Union in Contract Negotiations, sent their counter proposals on the contract they are negotiating to management and were thrown into the shredder and ignored, with out discussing the proposals? Like me I suspect on the side of the Union and filing an unfair Labor Practice for management not bargaining in good faith which the Union would win in court, with out a problem.
Local Yokal August 02, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Bryan, Thanks for your quick answer. One more question - We all choose our candidates based to a certain degree on our own self interests. Why are you happier voting for a group that given a choice, would reject tax cuts for anyone rather than tax cuts that benefit you directly (again, I am assuming you are in the middle class)? Thanks again.
Bryan Palumbo August 02, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Local, you have to look at the whole picture. They are not the one's rejecting tax cuts for anyone. They just voted to keep the tax rates low(ish) for not only myself but everyone. The fact is, and I go over this in the future blog with citations, that over 52 million middle class people are employed by small businesses that are either sole proprietors or S-Type Corporations. Many of those 52 million "middle class" (like myself, yes) will lose their jobs because those small businesses will be forced to make changes in order to stay afloat... never mind that it would, at the minimum, effect the growth of these businesses and stop them from future expansion (and creating more jobs). So by wanting to keep the current tax rates for everyone, I am in fact, voting for a group that wants to keep the tax cuts that benefit me directly. How does keeping just my personal taxes low help me if I get laid off or can't find a job? You have to have an income for income tax rates to matter.
Bryan Palumbo August 09, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Jack! I missed this. The last budget passed was in May of 2009. May 16th to be exact.
paul August 14, 2012 at 12:54 PM
I remember The Reagan 2nd term as very messy with the Iran-Contra Affair. Reagan didn't know what was going on in his own administration and his wife was running the country by using fortune tellers and psychics. I don't know if he was conservative but if he was, he didn't know it.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »