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.

Bryan Palumbo July 26, 2012 at 10:28 PM
You don't have to round up all 3 million (or 12 million now). You round up as many as you can, double that with really enforcing the law in regards to businesses and their hiring of illegals, and many will head home just out of fear of getting caught.
Bryan Palumbo July 26, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Damn Larry, I wrote a big ol' response and when I hit submit, it took me to the log in screen and when I got back here it was gone. I'll rewrite it just shorter. As far as the President's speech. I think that the RNC's latest ad sums up what a lot of conservatives feel about it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwWW2DQS_DU We've all had great teachers (I've had a few, Mr. Annarummo being my favorite. Those who went to BHS in the 80s and earlier will remember him), we've all used the roads, we've all gotten loans. Obama seems to think that because of that, those that start and run businesses aren't special, that they wouldn't have gotten there without all that "help". Since it's true about all of us using the above, how come there aren't 300 million businesses? Also, how come prior to all that neat stuff above (say in the 18th century when only a small percentage of people "had a teacher" or used a government built road) did we still have businesses since they didn't receive "all that help"? Obama's point, was that without those services, business wouldn't exist and because of them... they somehow owe more than everyone else. Sorry, I don't agree with that. As far as Fox News, everyone acknowledges that it is biased to the right. Just like ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, ect. are biased to the left. That's just how our media is now and that's why I don't use them for sources. Though what they talk about does lead me to research certain things.
Howard Johnson July 26, 2012 at 10:51 PM
You asked: "how come prior to all that neat stuff above (say in the 18th century when only a small percentage of people "had a teacher" or used a government built road) did we still have businesses since they didn't receive "all that help"? " Seriously? Help, as in "the help'? Now don't go blaming Obama for me bringing up the fact that until 150 years ago, the ancestors of many of the ultra-wealthy in America (whose forebears were granted lands by the King prior to the Revolution, for instance), built their small businesses, railroads, oil companies, manufacturing companies first on the backs of slaves and and later on the backs of immigrants. All that after committing genocide on the aboriginal people of the New World. I said it, not Barack Obama, so jump my case for pointing it out.
John Coccio July 26, 2012 at 11:35 PM
True enough (as I said, I won't belittle the actual dollar amount). But the economy also boomed from '83 ish to early '90 (just after the '89 market crash). Personally, I'm not against some more Defense spending, it's just that I would eliminate the dept of Homeland Security, and allow our Military to do the airport and train station security. Maybe even re-institute the draft as a means to populate the AF's so they could do it, as well as alleviate the stress placed on our volunteers in the service and Guards.
John Coccio July 26, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Bryan, also don't forget that up until less than 100 yrs ago we were primarily an agrarian society. 90% of the time was spent on the farm. Special trips were made to gather supples, and not done daily. A trip to Providence (which I make daily) was a special event, and probably lasted all day!!! I think that the greater point that the President was trying to make is that it takes the whole country to make the country tick..............PAVED roads that allow us to go where we want 99% of the time as opposed to dirt roads that could be unpassable for days after heavy rains........organized police and fire as opposed to bucket brigades and posses.........employees to make the things that inventors and entrepeneurs design, and easier access to credit to get things started.
Howard Johnson July 27, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Interesting article on the history of Turnpikes in America, which I found as a result of researching some lunacy upthread. I offer it as just a fun read, not proving anything in particular. http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/klein.majewski.turnpikes
Bryan Palumbo July 27, 2012 at 12:18 AM
John and Larry, It does take a nation to build the roads, that's why the government was entrusted with that responsibility and of course, businessmen 150 years ago employed people (they still do, you know) to work for them. They get paid for it, paid for it out of the pockets of the business owner. Our point (my point specifically here) is that we ALL have access to those roads, that fire department, that education system. If that's what "Built businesses" then there would be 185 million businesses, but there isn't. Someone had to come up with the idea, someone had to take out loans, refinance their home, come up with the plan, get all the unnecessary licenses and zoning and on and on and on. Then that person had to run the business, make sure he hired the right people, make sure they spent their money wisely, paid back the loans, and on and on and on. Those business owners, in the past and now, built those businesses. They took the risk, they either end up going bankrupt or they get rich. They don't owe us, or anyone but whomever loaned or invested capital so they could get started or keep going... they don't owe the government anymore than anyone else because, like I said... we ALL use that stuff. Yes Larry, we all know liberals hate the nation and think we exploited everyone. We exploited them so much that we have a Black President and past(and recent) immigrant families are successful now. Evil land of opportunity and all that.
Bryan Palumbo July 27, 2012 at 12:25 AM
I agree with you on Homeland Security. The military couldn't do it though, Posse comitatus(horrible spelling there) doesn't allow it. I wouldn't support a draft either, as a leader in the army I would hate to have to deal with people who didn't want to be in. Right now, everyone(ish) works hard and tries their best because everyone wanted to be in. The DoD could definitely stand to lose a few hundred billion dollars in bull crap spending though. The problem with government institutions, including the military, is that it isn't their money so they don't care.
Howard Johnson July 27, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Bryan, I don't hold Republicans responsible for the past, but I do hold them responsible for ignoring real history and inventing their own. Your tea-party version is completely made up, and the proof is that you snap whenever the real history is presented. You and I are wheere we are because our parents stood on the shoulders of those who stood on the shoulders of those who stood on the shoulders of those who stood on the necks of aboriginal Americans. You aren't responsible for those sins any more than I am, but you are guilty of denying the truth of our history.
Joe Sousa. July 27, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Reagan talked the talk but never walked the walk . He left us further in debt and with a bigger Government. Ronald Reagan’s First Term – $656 billion increase > Ronald Reagan’s Second Term – $1.036 trillion increase > George H.W. Bush’s Term – $1.587 trillion increase > Bill Clinton’s First Term – $1.122 trillion increase > Bill Clinton’s Second Term – $418 billion increase > George W. Bush’s First Term – $1.885 trillion increase > George W. Bush’s Second Term – $3.014 trillion increase” –
Bryan Palumbo July 27, 2012 at 03:19 AM
You didn't get my point, which is my fault because I didn't make it clear enough. Though I'd like you to point out where I denied any of it or where the Tea Party or any other group has denied any of that. I'm not denying anything in history. I know we had slavery, I know we defeated the Native Americans. I know we treated some groups of immigrants badly from the Irish, to the Chinese. Yet, with all your "America is BAD!" stuff, you're ignoring that those slaves, those Irish, Italians, Native Americans ALL own businesses of their own then and now. So, what is your point? The fact is, that because you can't defend your stance on "without the government all is doomed" that you even brought this up to begin with. There is no point to it. Did my poor Italian grandfather have to work for one of these business owners after WW2? Yes, and that doesn't change any of the facts mentioned above. Business from big to small existed whether there was a road (or as you linked, the business was the road) or not. Whether there was a school system or not. Paul Revere owned his own business, he was an immigrant, he wasn't rich... and didn't have one slave or kill anyone to have one.
Bryan Palumbo July 27, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Joe, you should read the blog. As I explained Reagan had a liberal House to deal with. They controlled the spending, he could only influence them as much as possible. Same for GHWB, and Clinton had a GOP Congress for his second term. GWB, had a liberal congress his second term... notice how it doubled? I like how you left out Obama, with his first two years (both with a liberal congress), he had a $3.6 Trillion increase. By his third year, because the Senate never took up the house's budget (it means it reverts to the last budget, which is the one passed by the liberal congress and Obama), it increased over $5.8 Trillion. Which is more than Clinton and GWB's 16 years COMBINED.
Howard Johnson July 27, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Well it seems that knowing history and refusing to deny it makes me an America hater. Saying that we all benefit from our shared contributions to building infrastructure makes our president a communist. Nice work, Bryan. You have concisely defined Conservative political theory in a way we can all understand.
Bryan Palumbo July 27, 2012 at 03:49 AM
It's funny how I also know history, also don't deny it, nor do I deny that we benefited from the hard work of our ancestors. So I'll ask again, and? Actually you are have concisely defined Liberal political theory yourself. If you lose an argument... then make up something that the conservative didn't say (Please point out where I called the President a communist, or that pointing out we all benefit from our infrastructure made him a communist. I dare you. ). Or even better, bring something up that has nothing to do with the conversation (which you have done twice so far). Those are both typical debating tactics for a liberal. Make up something that isn't factual about conservative and then attack that... if that doesn't work then bring up race and America's mistakes. My suggestion to you is to stick to the topic, and even if the conversation goes off on a tangent (sometimes it just happens), don't put words into other people's mouths. It would improve the conversation greatly. Also... If, based I how I responded, I didn't get your point... just explain it again or spell it out more clearly. There's no need to resort to the Liberal debating tactics, just stay focused.
Howard Johnson July 27, 2012 at 04:07 AM
You take yourself very seriously, Bryan. Over the course of these discussions about the nature of Conservatism and Conservatives,You have convinced me that you actually and deeply believe in their vastly superior moral and intellectual qualities when compared with any available alternatives. The more Conservative, the better. That government regulation outside the bedroom is evil. That unfettered Capitalism has the potential to make one percenters of as many people as will work hard - absent taxation and regulation. That we are what we are by virtue of our industriousness. And yet, I still disagree.
Jack Baillargeron July 27, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Actually Obama is a Marxist in my opinion anyway ;-}
Rhodeworrier July 27, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Larry makes a great point with (their vastly superior moral and intellectual qualities)the GOP or Conservatives in my opinion will do or say anything to make their point .A perfect example is Limbaugh or Fox News,and when other networks or other medias state their opinion the Conservitves start yelling THE LIBERAL MEDIA. As far as Deficits go the lowest had Clinton as President and a GOP controlled Congress.What happened today looks like the GOP took the bat ball and glove home ,if you don`t play my way you won`t play at all. In my opinion Rommeny and his Big Buisness backers are Commies their the ones Outsourcing to China.Disagree?next time you give Fido a Treat looks where its made.Brush your teeth?the paste is made in Mexico or other Countries.
Local Yokal July 30, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Bryan, when comparing the tax rate on the richest Americans, what is the average tax rate for Obama's three years in office compared to Reagan's eight year average? Thanks.
Rhodeworrier July 30, 2012 at 02:33 PM
I got this article from ThinkProgress .com For a family of four, the “average income tax rate under Reagan in 1983 was 11.06 percent. Under Clinton in 1992, it was 9.18 percent. And under Obama in 2010, it was 4.68 percent.” During Reagan’s time, income tax revenue ranged from 7.8 to 9.4 percent of GDP. Last year, it was 6.2 percent and is not projected to climb back to 9 percent until 2016. In fact, in 2009, Americans paid their lowest taxes in 60 years. Republicans are very fond of saying that the U.S. has “a spending problem, not a revenue problem.” But the truth is that revenue has plunged due to the recession and to continued misguided tax cuts, and revenue needs to be raised to eventually bring the budget into balance. And Reagan knew that taxes were an important part of the budget equation. After all, he “raised taxes in seven of his eight years in office,” including four times in just two years.
Shripathi Kamath July 31, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Yes, Reagan spent all that money because liberals in Congress made him do it. He did not even veto them even as a token protest, because .. who knows why. But wait, can we at least check what Reagan actually requested? Because you know, if he requested five dollars, and the liberals really spent 20, then we can figure this out. We can. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-CDOC-107sdoc18/pdf/GPO-CDOC-107sdoc18-1-12-4.pdf One could add the numbers up I suppose, but in the end, why bother? It'll show that Reagan requested something like $7,350 billion, and Congress gave him some $7,500 billion a 3% increase. Just like we can verify that marginal rates under The Great Socialist Obama were lower than under St. Reagan most of the time (6/8 years at least). No, really, they were and are. Besides, if you are going to take the line that "liberals forced Reagan to raise rates and spent like drunken sailors", then surely, you need to give the same liberals the credit for the roaring economies of the 80s, right? Or does that revert back to Reagan, magically? Funny how that logic works.
Bryan Palumbo July 31, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Shripathi, I understand that you don't get how our government works. It's okay. You can start to learn by reading this link... http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html As noted in the blog, the GOP held the Presidency and the Senate. Yet all revenue and spending bills must originate from the House. Due to that, Reagan would compromise with them, there were some things he wouldn't budge on (like defense or taxes... except that once) and some things he would agree to. Because the House HAS to be the one where budget and tax bills must originate, they couldn't just ignore them (like the current President and Senate are doing now). As I also explained in the blog, Reagan didn't raise rates, he lowered them to 28% (for the highest bracket) and 10% (for the lowest).... I'm not quite sure how you can say Obama has had lower rates when they are almost a full seven percentage points higher than those of Reagan's with the exception of that one year (1982). That comes from your own citation. As for your veto point... http://www.senate.gov/reference/Legislation/Vetoes/Presidents/ReaganR.pdf You are not correct. This next link is a great speech in all, but you'll be interested in it at around the 14 minute mark. If you don't even want to watch that part, at least watch him at 15:45. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rG-DZqOX_wc
Local Yokal August 02, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Bryan, yesterday the Republican controlled House voted down a tax cut for the middle class. This passed the Democratic controlled Senate last week. Not a single Republican in the House voted to cut taxes on the middle class and all but 14 Democrats voted for this tax cut. Since you have put yourself out here as a conservative and are most likely a member of the middle class, I have a few questions. 1. Do you still feel Republicans are voting in YOUR best interests? 2. How do you feel about Republicans taking Grover Norquist's vow not to raise taxes in any way, considering he is not an elected official? 3. The automatic spending cuts to both defense and domestic programs are due to kick in at the end of the year. As you know, this was a condition in the formation of the "Super Committee", that failed to come to an agreement. Republicans are now trying to void this agreement. Do you support these automatic cuts?
Bryan Palumbo August 02, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Local, I wrote a blog answering your first question and I'm just waiting for the editor to approve and post it. The other two are both really good questions, I'll consider them for this weekend.
Bryan Palumbo August 02, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Oh, because I wrote a detailed answer already for #1. I'll just say now that Yes, they are... because right after voting down the Senate proposal, they not only voted for keeping the middle class tax cuts, but voted to keep the whole of the tax cuts. Meaning that the 52.6 million Americans employed by small businesses that weren't covered by the Senate plan, won't have to worry about getting laid off like they would if the Senate plan was passed by the House. Unfortunately, the Senate is unlikely to pass it. I wonder though, Local, when they don't (they probably won't even vote on it) pass it... if you'll be asking the same question to yourself about the Democrats? Finally, the Senate bill was unconstitutional. See Article II, section 7. "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills."
Jack Baillargeron August 02, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I would add Bryan, that there has not been a budget passed since Obama took office, even when they had control of both houses also. The GOP huse has put forth I believe no less that 16 budget Bills now sent to the Senate and not one has been allowed to go to the Floor to be debated by the head of the Senate, Harry Reid!
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.


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