Why doesn’t GOP follow the Gipper, 104 today?

Reagan choppingToday is Ronald Reagan’s 104th birthday. He died in 2004 at age 93. He has become a beloved figure for most Americans, even Democrats, much as President John F. Kennedy has for different reasons, including for Republicans.

JFK is remembered for the New Frontier, for staring down Khrushchev over Cuba, for early civil rights actions, for “Ich bin ein Berliner,” for youth, optimism and Jackie.

The Gipper is remembered for making America again “stand tall,” for “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!,” for restoring prosperity and for being the Great Communicator with a dash of Hollywood style.

The question I keep wondering about is: Why hasn’t any Republican since advocated Reagan’s economic recovery plan, which won him a landslide over President Carter in 1980, then propelled the country to strong economic growth that lasted until President George H.W. Bush raised taxes in 1990, sparking a recession? Indeed, the Reagan policies even were followed for the most part by President Clinton, who first raised taxes in 1993, then cut taxes three times with Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich from 1995 to 2000.

Reagan program

Reagan’s program was simple:

1. Cut taxes 33 percent across the board. Working with Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill, Reagan settled for 25 percent — good enough for government work.

Note that Reagan did not seek “targeted tax cuts,” “tax cuts only for the middle class” or some other complication. It was simple: 33 percent (25 percent in practice).

2. Stable money, with gold kept at about $350 an ounce. Helping Reagan was Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, a Democrat first appointed by Carter, then re-appointed by Reagan.

3. Spending restraint. Reagan was less effective here, as spending actually rose 90 percent during his eight years in office. Hence the record deficits of that day. Much of the problem was that Reagan built up defense spending to push the Soviet Union into bankruptcy, which worked. There’s no Soviet Union today, and current defense spending — even if one thinks that’s the right amount — is 40 percent what it was under Reagan.

Clinton also worked with Gingrich to restrain spending, resulting in the brief budget surpluses of the late 1990s.

4. Regulation and bureaucracy reform. Reagan could have done more here. But as the late Nobel economics laureate Milton Friedman used to point out, Reagan was the only post-World War II president who actually cut the number of pages of federal regulations.

All the other presidents, including Republicans Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford and the Bushes, increased the regulations all of us must obey, upon penalty of fine or an orange jump suit. And the last Bush, George W., brought into law one convoluted economic package after another, culminating in the financial crash of Sept. 2008.


Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign came up with “Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth” — 160 pages of details nobody read, even me.

Can anybody remember anything from his economic plan — from this tome or from his stump speech or TV ads, which used the “Believe in America” theme? Which always reminded me of the “I believe in America” opening scent from the first “Godfather” film.

The point is: Why do Republicans always praise Reagan, and want to be associated with him — but don’t run with his popular and successful economic plan?

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

Tags assigned to this article:
George W. BushJFKJohn SeilerRonald Reagan

John Seiler

John Seiler

John Seiler has been writing about California for 25 years. That includes 22 years as an editorial writer for the Orange County Register and two years for CalWatchDog.com, where he is managing editor. He attended the University of Michigan and graduated from Hillsdale College. He was a Russian linguist in U.S. Army military intelligence from 1978 to 1982. He was an editor and writer for Phillips Publishing Company from 1983 to 1986. He has written for Policy Review, Chronicles, LewRockwell.com, Flash Report and numerous other publications. His email: [email protected]

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