by John Grooms
Yesterday would have been Ronald Reagans 100th birthday, which was celebrated across the country by Republicans and other members of the American right. The farther we get from Reagans presidency, however, the more mythologized he becomes in the minds of todays conservatives.
For instance, a president whose favorable poll numbers hit a low of 35 percent just one year into his first term, and whose two-term average was only around 53 percent, is, in conservatives eyes, one of the most popular presidents in U.S. history. Like Franklin Roosevelt during his time in office, Reagan was intensely admired by many, but he was also despised and mocked by just as many others. So, that overwhelmingly popularity conservatives talk about? Sorry, but no.
Reagan is also usually portrayed by conservatives as the King of Tax Cuts. He did institute a sweeping tax cut mostly for the wealthy, big corporations and the oil industry in 1981; and he also lowered taxes a tiny bit in his last year in office. In between, however, Reagan signed measures that increased federal taxes every year, including 1982 when he signed what was, at the time, the largest peacetime tax increase in U.S. history. Sorry.
Its also hard to find a conservative these days who doesnt swear up and down that Reagan was a saintly, government-slashing, fiscal deficit hawk. The truth is that the number of federal employees grew from 2.8 million to 3 million under Reagan, and it was Pres. Bill Clinton who cut federal employee rolls back to 2.7 million. And although it makes conservatives redden and sputter when you point it out to them, the stone cold fact is that during Reagans terms in office, the federal deficit ballooned from around $700 billion to nearly $3 trillion. Sorry.
And as for Reagan being saintly? Check out this list of 21 Reagan administration staffers who were convicted of felonies as a result of crimes committed in the performance of their administration jobs. Again, sorry.
For more info on the wondrous times of our lives we all had under Reagan, also check out this Five Myths About Reagan Washington Post story by Will Bunch, which is part of that papers regular Five Myths series. Or read this piece from Alternet, which is titled 10 Things Conservatives Don't Want You to Know About Reagan, but should have been called 10 things most conservatives dont even know about Reagan.