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LP Monday Message: How to handle Ronald Reagan?

August 23, 2010

Dear Friend of Liberty,

As the 2010 election approaches, a lot of Republican politicians are trying to posture as government-cutters, and they often hold up Ronald Reagan as an example.

But although Reagan often talked about supporting smaller government, most Libertarians know that in practice he did exactly the opposite. For example:

  • Reagan boosted import tariffs and trade restrictions.
  • Reagan cut marginal income tax rates, but he also raised Social Security taxes.
  • Reagan increased farm subsidies.
  • Reagan sent the federal debt through the roof.
  • Federal spending under Reagan grew from $678 billion to $1.14 trillion.
  • Reagan set the record for the highest average spending as a percent of GDP over his administration. (Obama may beat him.)

Many people are complaining right now about unemployment under Barack Obama. In the first 18 months of Obama's presidency, unemployment has increased from 7.7 percent to 9.5 percent.

Did you know that during the first 18 months of Reagan's presidency, unemployment increased from 7.5 percent to 9.8 percent? That's even worse, but I don't hear a lot of Republicans mentioning it.

Many Republican politicians, operatives and talk show hosts like to talk positively about Reagan and try to portray him as delivering smaller government. They don't say that about George W. Bush. I presume that's to try and convince voters that Bush was bad in some ways, and we should all try to be more like Reagan.

Some polls show Reagan is reasonably well-respected these days. I think the positive reactions are often based on misconceptions, and that brings up an interesting point: how should Libertarians deal with the Ronald Reagan myth?

To address that question, we put up a new poll today. Please share your opinion.

Sincerely,

Wes Benedict
Executive Director
Libertarian National Committee

P.S. If you have not already done so, please join the Libertarian Party. We are the only political party dedicated to free markets and civil liberties. You can also renew your membership. Or, you can make a contribution separate from membership.