Budget hawks bafflingly idealize big spender Reagan

This morning, Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, senior House Republican on the Joint Economic Committee, wondered aloud why Democrats faced with the recent recession didn’t adopt the same policies favored by Ronald Reagan during the economic downturn nearly 30 years ago.

“President Reagan pursued pro-growth policies, including large reductions in marginal tax rates, deregulation and open trade,” Brady said, arguing that those moves “laid the foundation for two decades of prosperity.”

In contrast, Brady continued, the Obama White House has tackled the current crisis by relying largely on deficit spending — a strategy Brady called “reckless” and “clearly unsustainable.”

“Unless these excessive spending deficits and debt accumulation are quickly reversed, the United States may experience its own debt crisis,” Brady said. He was warning that the U.S. is en route to becoming the next Greece.

What is Brady talking about?

When Reagan was elected to the White House in 1980, the federal debt stood at roughly $908 billion. Eight years and several tax cuts later, it was $2.6 trillion — a leap of 186 percent.

Put another way: Reagan racked up more debt in eight years than the previous seven presidents had managed in 35 — a span that included the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Some conservatives get this. Earlier this year, Libertarian Party Executive Director Wes Benedict noted that Reagan ran “the biggest-spending administration (as a percentage of GDP) since World War II.”

Why he remains a conservative icon, despite that track record, is a mystery.

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Mike Lillis

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