There is no former President of the United States more vilified or more heralded than is Ronald Reagan. The reasons for this discrepancy are based purely upon ideology, the vilification coming from those who embrace leftist policies. The Reagan presidency proved Conservatism works where Liberalism fails. No one likes to be proven wrong, but when it happens to the leftist elite, it produces especially high levels of disdain. The modern mode of attack is to twist and spin the history, such as the claims that Reagan favored gun control, raised taxes and was responsible for large deficits.
The gun control legislation Reagan signed as Governor of California was specifically aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and thugs - specifically, the Black Panthers, who wanted to carry guns to use against the police. Later, as President, Reagan had also been the victim of an assassination attempt that nearly took his life, as well as left his own Press Secretary deeply impaired. Contrary to liberal portrayals, Reagan was very much a man of great empathy, and this had a great impact on his views. The historical record of the man, and his presidency, proves that his legacy is one that is very much in favor of the Second Amendment. For this reason, Reagan is recalled favorably by those who continue to fight for the unalienable right to keep and bear arms.
Regarding taxes, as President, Reagan implemented a plan which would have lowered the top marginal rate from 70% down to 25%. He later agreed to a modest readjustment to 28%. It is this modest readjustment which liberals cite to support the faulty notion that Reagan raised taxes. There were some minor individual taxes Reagan did allow to be increased, but there is no credible argument that can be made against the facts, that the effect of Reagan's presidency upon the American taxpayer was to reduce the tax burden, for everyone.
The only caveat to this is that there are many people, including minorities, who saw their taxes go up under Reagan, but the reason for this had nothing to do with tax increases. While Reagan was president, a great number of American families saw their incomes increase to the point that they advanced one or even two levels in the tax bracket structure. In fact, during the Reagan years, Black families prospered. More Black families jumped two income tax brackets than stayed where they were. This has never happened before or since Ronald Reagan's presidency.
The assertion that the Reagan tax cuts were in any way responsible for the deficits relies upon the faulty assumption that higher tax rates equal more revenue. Therefore, since Reagan cut tax rates, revenue fell, producing large deficits. A simple review of IRS collection data reveals that the Reagan strategy for increasing revenue by lowering tax rates actually worked. Under Reagan, tax revenues increased from $440 B to almost $900 B.
If revenue increased, then why did Reagan have such large deficits? The reason for this is simple. While Reagan had the bully pulpit with regard to his tax rates and military spending, he also had to work with a Democrat Congress, which attached a great deal of pork to Reagan's spending proposals, Even with all the spending, Reagan did manage to keep the increases in check, not allowing the federal budget to grow faster than the economy.
Reagan's belief in America and Americans, and the actions he took which stemmed from those beliefs, produced results from which we still benefit to this day. Even Democrats clamor for a piece of Reagan's greatness. Neither they, nor any modern Republican measure up to Reagan.
It is one thing to get legislation passed. It is another to see positive results for our country, and still another to see those results reverberate throughout the entire world.
Reagan's presidency left America economically strong and free from the threat of our greatest enemy in our history. He ended the Cold War. His Cold War policy was simple, but very new - "We win, they lose." This offended the liberals and the Republican elites. When everyone else had accepted the policy of Containment and Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), Reagan rejected those. He knew that a strong America meant a freer and safer world, whereas a stronger Soviet Union meant a world that would be enslaved in communism. So he put the Soviet Empire out of business, and he won the Cold War. This led to freedom for other nations, like Poland, and the eventual removal of the Berlin Wall in Germany.
A review of the campaign promises made by Reagan which were kept in his presidency is truly astonishing. No other president even comes close. He took the mess inherited from his predecessor and he turned it around, never offering any excuse or blame when it did not happen fast enough for some.
One of the best books to capture the legacy of Ronald Reagan was penned by Peggy Noonan. The title she chose for that book highlights what is perhaps the most dominant strength of Ronald Reagan: Character. The book is titled, "When Character Was King." In this book, Ms. Noonan provides an amazing account of the promises made and kept by President Ronald Wilson Reagan:
...(O)ne way to judge the character of a president is to see if he came through on the things he said he would do when he ran for office. My impression was that Reagan had, on all the big issues. But as I researched it, comparing what he promised in 1980 with what he had done by 1988, the sheer mounting of fact upon fact left me not only pleased but, in a way, moved.
In 1980, on the campaign trail, he promised he would cut the inflation rate. It was running at 12.8% then, the last year of the Carter Administration. It had reached its peak of 14.8% in March of that year. By 1983, Reagan had taken the actions - tough, politically damaging actions such as backing a tighter monetary supply and taking a recession in turn - that produced an inflation rate of less than 4%. Most important, inflation remained at 3-4% throughout the Reagan presidency. So he had cut inflation by more than half, almost since the beginning, and by the end, it was less than a third of what it had been.
That is only one of the many promises made and kept by Ronald Reagan. He said he would cut the rate of inflation, and he did, reducing it to numbers any and every president would be happy to achieve. Considering the condition of the issue when Reagan assumed the helm only makes the accomplishment that much more remarkable.
Ms. Noonan goes on to chronicle the rest of the promises made and how they were kept by President Reagan:
- Cut taxes to produce an economic boom
- Decontrol oil prices to make gas/oil more affordable
- Reduced unemployment, from double-digits to 5.4%
- Lower interest rates, from more than 21% to less than 11%
- Reduced federal regulation and beurocracy
- Cut the federal budget, not allowing the budget to grow faster than the economy.
- Named a woman to the US Supreme Court
- Opposed racial quotas
- Appointed Conservatives to the federal bench
- Oppose abortion
- Work to create a defense system against incoming missiles (SDI would become the bargaining chip that would break the Soviets in arms reduction talks)
- Rebuilt the depleted Armed Forces and restore the US military to greatness
- Reshaped world opinion of the Soviet Communist state
- Won the Cold War
America owes a huge debt of gratitude to President Reagan. On this, the occasion of his 102nd birthday, from a nation that remains grateful: Happy Birthday, Mr. President, and thank you.