Having read many editorials and heard talking points espoused by GOP candidates and the Republican Party, a reverence to Ronald Reagan has created this mythical being which sometimes runs counter to history. Mind you, President Reagan was far from perfect, but as a leader he did accomplish things to which he deserves credit. His grandstanding at a speech in Berlin to “tear down this wall” was probably one of his finest moments and from what I have learned it was an ad lib line. It took someone to speak the words for others to believe it could happen.
I mention this now as Newt Gingrich among others talks about how the mythical Ronald Reagan grew this country directly due to a major tax reduction. He did help pass a major Tax Reform which greatly reduced taxes early on his presidency. I can remember clearly his State of the Union speech where he printed off the entire tax code and stacked it in a three feet high stack in front of him. He was never at a loss for theatrics.
What is not discussed today by our GOP friends that he was also very concerned by deficits. And, after realizing his tax cut was too severe proceeded to oversee five tax increases to make up for budget shortfalls later in his presidency. That is not a misprint. He was smart enough to use euphemisms and call them revenue enhancements, yet he knew we needed to raise revenue as well as cut spending to better balance the budget.
Why is this important? We are at a critical time in our country. We have revenue at its lowest rate per GDP (roughly 15%) in fifty years and spending at a 24% of GDP, a 9% difference. We cannot cut spending enough to bring this in balance or even consider paying off debt. Since we want to call on Ronald Reagan, let’s call upon the real one and not the mythical one. And, let’s throw in a little Bill Clinton as well, as he was the last President to get the budget balanced. I mention the two of them as the country prospered under both and both raised taxes. While we are at it, President George H.W. Bush also increased taxes going back on a campaign promise to his own detriment. We need to not only balance the budget this time, we need to have more revenue than expenses to pay off debt, just like you and I would.
I have been a broken record on our need to embrace the Bowles-Simpson Deficit Reduction plan. Let’s work from that. It simplifies the tax code, but eliminates the deductions for a net revenue increase. It should not be lost on anyone, but a fellow named Erskine Bowles was President Clinton’s chief of staff during this balanced budget period, the same one whose name appears on the Bowles-Simpson plan.This is probably my biggest complaint about President Obama – he should have embraced it, but he listened too much to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and backed away thirteen months ago.
So, don’t believe Dick Cheney when he purports the mythical Ronald Reagan proved deficits don’t matter. They do and the real President Reagan, not only believed it, he did something about it. And, don’t believe any GOP candidate who touts a lesser tax rate. Per an earlier post, that is the height of irresponsibility and people who do this are pandering to an audience to get elected. Those candidates along with Grover Norquist need to be asked to leave the room, as it is time for the sober people to discuss our problems. Finally, President Obama, it is time for you to act on Bowles-Simpson and give everyone something real to shoot at. And, Congress, you need to heed this request and stop acting like two year olds.