The modern Republican party has an unhealthy love-affair with President Ronald Reagan. Each of the GOP candidates has compared their conservatism to that of our 40th president. But with the modern GOP moving further and further to the right in an effort to find the “true” conservative, they have failed to notice that they no longer resemble their hero.
I give you 6 facts that show a clear contradiction between Ronald Reagan’s record and the modern Republican Party.
- National Debt
The national debt quadrupled in the 8 years Reagan was in office going from $700 billion to $3 trillion. Of course, there is no proven track record for Republicans balancing the budget in the modern era so maybe this isn’t a contradiction after all. It does at least contradict their rhetoric.
Reagan did lower taxes when he first got into office. The country was in recession and this is always the standard response by Republicans. But in 2012, the modern GOP doesn’t need any reason at all to lower taxes, it’s just standard operating procedure. Republicans will lower taxes even if it means higher deficits, believing falsely that tax cuts pay for themselves. Reagan on the other hand took a more reasoned approach to taxation. It turns out “the Gipper” raised taxes in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1986. Unfortunately spending got the best of his administration. See #1.
The modern GOP has a problem with immigrants. Their focus is illegal immigrants of course, but I have a funny feeling many of them don’t like immigrants, period. Well, except the ones from Europe who could pass for long-lost cousins. Any talk of amnesty will result in a chorus of boos during Republican debates. Just ask Rick Perry. So it might surprise the Reagan-loving crowd that their beloved Ronnie signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act into law in 1986 which granted amnesty to 2.7 million illegal immigrants.
- Big Government
During Reagan’s 8 years, total federal government employment rose by over 300,000. Contrast that with Bill Clinton’s 8 years when federal employment decreased by 600,000. Contrast even further by comparing total federal employment in 1989 (when Reagan left office) with 2010 under President Obama. In 1989 there were 5.3 million federal workers. In 2010 that number was 4.4 million. And since population grew by 70 million during that time, it means significantly less federal workers per capita under Obama compared to under Reagan.
While governor of California, Reagan showed compassion when he expanded the nation’s largest Medicaid program, Medi-Cal. Modern Republicans want to slash spending that aids the poor and disadvantaged. They will tell you that taking money from the rich (increasing their taxes) makes the rich less motivated. What do they say makes the poor less motivated? Giving them money (tax breaks, Medicaid, unemployment insurance benefits). It’s Republican logic, don’t fight it.
As president, Reagan showed remarkable tolerance and acceptance for someone born in 1911 when he became the first president to invite an openly gay couple to stay overnight at the White House. If elected, would any of the current Republican candidates do the same 30 years later? Probably not.
It turns out conservative hero Ronald Reagan would not have a place at the table in the modern Republican Party.