02 February 2010

The Republicans' Reagan Amnesia

The resurgent GOP wants a Gipper purity test. Does the party faithful know he raised taxes, grew the federal government, and granted amnesty to illegal immigrants? Smaller government: Federal employment grew by 61,000 during Reagan’s presidency—in part because Reagan created a whole new cabinet department, the department of veterans affairs. (Under Bill Clinton, by contrast, federal employment dropped by 373,000). Smaller deficits and debt: Both nearly tripled on Reagan’s watch. Lower taxes: Although Reagan muscled through a major tax cut in 1981, he followed up by raising taxes in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1986. In 1983, in fact, he not only raised payroll taxes; he raised them to pay for Social Security and Medicare. Let’s put this in language today’s tea-baggers can understand: Reagan raised taxes to pay for government-run health care. Then there’s plank number five: Reaganite candidates must “oppos[e] amnesty for illegal immigrants.” Really? Because if you look up the word “amnesty” in Black’s Law Dictionary, you’ll find a reference to the 1986 bill that Reagan signed, which ended up granting amnesty to 2.7 million illegal immigrants. Then there’s foreign policy. Plank number six demands that candidates back the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what did Reagan do in his biggest confrontation with jihadist terror? When Hezbollah murdered 241 U.S. servicemen in Beirut in 1983, the Gipper didn’t surge; he withdrew the remaining American troops, and fast. Plank number 7 calls for “effective [read military] action to eliminate” Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs. But Reagan condemned Israel’s 1981 preventive strike against an Iraqi nuclear reactor. And plank number nine requires steadfast opposition to abortion. Yet two of Reagan’s three Supreme Court nominees voted to uphold Roe v. Wade. Turns out this Reagan guy wasn’t really that Reaganite after all... ~ Peter Beinart at The Daily Beast

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