Republicans Out of the White House vs. Republican Presidents on Taxes and the Deficit

The Republicans have moved far to the right of both Barry Goldwater, who opposed the religious right and considered himself a liberal in his later years, and even Ronald Reagan would not get along with today’s conservatives. Eric Cantor was confronted with this fact when interviewed on Sixty Minutes last night (video above):

Stahl: But you know, your idol, as I’ve read anyway, was Ronald Reagan. And he compromised.

Cantor: He never compromised his principles.

Stahl: Well, he raised taxes and it was one of his principles not to raise taxes.

Cantor: Well, he — he also cut taxes.

Stahl: But he did compromise —

Cantor: Well I —

Steve Benen comments:

At that point, Cantor’s press secretary, off camera, interrupted the interview, yelling that Stahl was lying when she said Reagan raised taxes. As Stahl told “60 Minutes” viewers, “There seemed to be some difficulty accepting the fact that even though Ronald Reagan cut taxes, he also pushed through several tax increases, including one in 1982 during a recession.”

Let’s call “some difficulty” a dramatic understatement.

Unfortunately for Cantor and his press secretary, reality is stubborn. The facts are indisputable: in Ronald Reagan’s first term, he signed off on a series of tax increases — even when unemployment was nearing 11% — and proceeded to raise taxes seven out of the eight years he was in office. The truth is, “no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people” as Reagan.

Of particular interest is the “Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982,” the largest of Reagan’s tax increases, and generally considered the largest tax increase — as a percentage of the economy — in modern American history. In fact, between 1982 and 1984, Reagan raised taxes four times, and as Bruce Bartlett has explained more than once, Reagan raised taxes 12 times during his eight years in office.

Last year’s irresponsible actions by the GOP, under pressure from the Tea Party, also highlights another difference. Reagan never had a problem with increasing the debt ceiling.

This is all really part of a pattern. Republicans out of office support tax cuts and cuts in government spending. Once in office, Republicans run up big bills and deficits, and in the case of Reagan, also raised taxes. When out of office they blame the Democrats for the bills which the Republicans have run up (and last summer the Tea Party even opposed paying the bills already run up by Republicans, causing a drop in the nation’s credit rating). Conservatives realize that George Bush was a big spending, but they retain their myths about Ronald Reagan.