by Karl Frisch
At this Wednesday night’s debate between 2012 Republican White House hopefuls at the Reagan Presidential Library, the former movie actor and president was name-dropped like a top Hollywood agent during awards season.
I guess you could say the endless Reagan-worshiping is the modern GOP equivalent of praying to a false golden idol.
Since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in January following the midterm elections, we’ve been treated to the endless, tired mantra of “now isn’t the time to raise taxes,” “we can’t tax the job creators,” “government jobs aren’t real jobs,” and “what we really need are massive cuts to government spending.”
The chorus of presidential wannabes appearing at the Reagan Library echoed these sentiments like a well-rehearsed screenplay.
It was hardly surprising.
To say that Republicans have become recalcitrant when it comes to issues of taxes and spending is an understatement of epic proportions. Ronald Reagan himself couldn’t pass today’s GOP purity test were he alive, healthy, and constitutionally eligible to run for the White House again:
The 2012 Republican frontrunners — Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Michele Bachmann — would not have to look too far for material with which to attack rival candidate Reagan on the debate stage. They could simply rely on his record.
Contrast the 2012 rhetoric with Reagan’s record and the former president would have had to do some serious explaining. He added 60,000 federal workers to the government payroll. That’s certainly a lot of “fake jobs” especially when you consider the fact that Bill Clinton cut the government workforce by nearly 400,000 during his presidency.
Perhaps Romney and Perry wouldn’t go there with the Reagan on government jobs. After all, Romney increased the state workforce of Massachusetts by thousands in his four years as Governor and Perry’s so-called “Texas Miracle” of job creation rests largely on the jobs he added to the state payroll whichnearly doubled the rate of private-sector jobs during his decade as Governor. Heck, during the recession Perry has actually overseen a decline in private-sector jobs while the government workforce continues to grow in the Lone Star State.
When it comes to taxes, things are equally messy for today’s Republican hopefuls. Nearly every major GOP candidate for president has signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes under any circumstances (even war) — a pledge that Reagan could only sign today with a pen in one hand and the other behind his back with fingers crossed.
As an aside, it is almost impossible to ignore the hilarious juxtaposition on display with Norquist simultaneously pushing his anti-tax pledge while also serving as head of the Reagan Legacy Project.
Though it may be tough for Norquist and Republicans to accept, it is a fact that Ronald Reagan raised taxes a total of 11 times. Not only did he sign into law the largest tax increase in American history at the time, he raised taxes nearly every year that he sat in the Oval Office.
More than anything, today’s GOP assails President Obama for spending. Of course, to do so, they must ignore the fact that Obama’s new spending of $1.44 trillion pails in comparison to that of George W. Bush who clocked in at $5.07 trillion in new spending. Bush must have been drawing inspiration from Reagan who increased government spending by 69 percent and more than tripled our national debt from $700 billion to $3 trillion.
Just think of the attack ads Bachmann, Perry, and Romney might run against Reagan with those kinds of numbers. I can just hear it now, “There is a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. But Ronald Reagan increased our debt to $3 trillion and now we can’t afford any bear traps.”
And that’s just what they could throw at Reagan on the economy. Don’t forget, the nation’s 40th president also gave amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants, negotiated with terrorists in Iran,supported the conservative maligned Earned Income Tax Credit, sought to eliminate nuclear weapons, and signed an abortion rights law in California.
Instead of dropping Reagan’s name, perhaps today’s GOP would do better by the American people if it dropped its idol worship of the Gipper and worked with President Obama to create jobs and fix our struggling economy.
Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and Democratic strategist at Bullfight Strategies in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and YouTube, or sign up to receive his columns and updates by email.
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