Sunday, 6 February 2011

How libertarian was Reagan?

The quote I provided in the previous post is one of many good ones from Reagan, and there was some very good stuff in his 1964 speech "A Time for Choosing", given in support of Barry Goldwater.

Like Thatcher, though, Regan's accomplishments didn't live up to his rhetoric. Jeffrey Miron has highlighted a Washington Post article exposing "Five myths about Ronald Reagan's legacy":

Consider his record on taxes:

Ultimately, Reagan signed measures that increased federal taxes every year of his two-term presidency except the first and the last. These included a higher gasoline levy, a 1986 tax reform deal that included the largest corporate tax increase in American history, and a substantial raise in payroll taxes in 1983 as part of a deal to keep Social Security solvent. While wealthy Americans benefitted from Reagan’s tax policies, blue-collar Americans paid a higher percentage of their income in taxes when Reagan left office than when he came in.

Likewise, Reagan’s reputation for shrinking government is mainly myth:

Reagan famously declared at his 1981 inauguration that “in the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” This rhetorical flourish didn’t stop the 40th president from increasing the federal government’s size by every possible measure during his eight years in office.

Federal spending grew by an average of 2.5 percent a year, adjusted for inflation, while Reagan was president. The national debt exploded, increasing from about $700 billion to nearly $3 trillion.

Miron notes that Reagan also "presided over a major escalation of the War on Drugs".

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