Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bill Clinton: The Real Ronald Reagan

Reagan's 100th birthday is being celebrated by those who revere him as the patron saint of small government and fiscal responsibility. But a lot of people seem to forget that Ronald Reagan was no Ronald Reagan. There's myth and then there's reality... and the real guy does not match the myth. As Jacob Heilbrunn's LA Times op-ed reminds us:

It's more illuminating to focus on what he did rather than the bombast delivered to the rubber-chicken-and-mashed-potato circuit. Early in his political career, as governor of California, Reagan displayed his pragmatic side, signing an abortion bill and agreeing to a $1-billion state tax hike. Similarly, as president, he paid lip service to ending abortion but never did anything about it, and he worked with congressional Democrats on a massive tax hike in 1982, thereby averting the worst effects of the supply-side deficit spending he had endorsed when he entered office the year before.

Moreover, Reagan, the putative foe of big government, accumulated hundreds of billions in debt by the end of his second term. It was Democrat Bill Clinton who cleaned up the mess, leaving a budget surplus behind in 2000.

Those anti-big government wingnuts also conveniently forget that Reagan expanded the federal payroll by 61,000 employees during his tenure while Clinton reduced it by 373,000. So if Ronald Reagan is to be defined by small government and balanced budgets, Bill Clinton should be regarded as the real Ronald Reagan. How much does that sting, wingnuts?

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