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If Don is a Con, So is Ron: Reagan vs. Trump

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

President Trump’s meetings with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi over the debt ceiling and DACA provoked some of his high-profile supporters to abandon him—or at least to speak as if they were ready to do so.

Admittedly, neither am I particularly impressed by some of Trump’s latest moves.  That being said, given that, as I explained on numerous occasions during the campaign, my support of Trump always had infinitely more to do with what he had already succeeded in accomplishing as a candidate, as opposed to what he promised to achieve as President, I am without the grave disappointment that others are now expressing.    

Ann Coulter is among those high-profile Trump supporters who now speak as if they regret ever having backed the President.Interestingly, however, these same people continue to herald Ronald Reagan as a great “conservative” president, perhaps the greatest president in American history, and self-identify as “Reagan conservatives.”

This is telling, for Trump has been in office for only eight months.  As of yet, he has not kept some of his promises.Reagan, in stark contrast, spent eight years in office.  We can now see that our 40th POTUS positively failed to fulfill his pledge to “check and reverse the growth of government.”

Government spending under Reagan exceeded that which transpired under President Carter—who Reagan blasted as a big spender during their contest over the presidency: Government spending comprised 27.9% of “national income” under Carter as opposed to 28.7% of “national income” under Reagan.

Carter (like President Ford before him) increased the percentage of “national income” that consisted of government spending by 1.4%, compared to Reagan’s 3%.

Social Security, Medicare, Federal entitlement, and foreign aid spending all increased astronomically under Reagan, as did the price of farm programs.

Reagan’s budget cuts weren’t real cuts at all but, rather, cuts in projected spending.  As Sheldon Richman, writing for the Mises Institute nearly 30 years ago observed: “The result [of Reagan’s spending] has been unprecedented government debt.  Reagan has tripled the Gross Federal Debt, from $900 billion to $2.7 trillion.”

He added: “Ford and Carter in their combined terms could only double it. It took 31 years to accomplish the first postwar debt tripling, yet Reagan did it in eight.”

Government revenues by the end of Reagan’s second term were only slightly less than what they were by the end of Carter’s term. 

Reagan continues to elicit praise from “Reagan conservatives” for his tax cuts.  Indeed, he delivered on tax cuts.  Yet what he gave with one hand he took with the other, for Reagan also gave us what by 1982 amounted to the largest tax increase in American history: TEFRA (Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982).

Beyond this, Reagan raised taxes on gasoline, businesses, the trucking industry, and Social Security.  When it was all said and done with, he raised taxes 11 times during his tenure. 

Far from deregulating the economy, as one would expect from a “limited government” conservative and the namesake of the “Revolution” in which his time as president is said to have ushered, regulation increased during the Reagan years. Carter, by abolishing the Civil Aeronautics Board and deregulating oil prices, actually cut more regulation than Reagan ever succeeded in doing.  Reagan added more regulation with respect to automobile safety, and in the area of the environment, regulatory costs remained as burdensome as ever.

Reagan pledged to abolish the Departments of Education and Energy.  Not only do these agencies remain even larger and more intrusive today than they were when he took office; Reagan as well created a new agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs.

And let us never forget that Reagan granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants in 1986 while appointing such liberal Supreme Court Justices as Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor, both of whom have unfailingly voted to uphold “abortion rights.”

Reagan was and remained a New Deal Democrat at heart. He voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt four times and not once expressed an ounce of regret for having done so.  Quite the contrary, for FDR was one of the presidents who Reagan quoted most frequently. 

Reagan remained formally affiliated with the Democratic Party until 1962—decades after the Roosevelt era had ended.  It must have been by this point that he realized, as he would famously declare later, that it wasn’t he that left the Party; it was the Party that left him.

In fact, while campaigning for the presidency in 1980, Reagan made it clear that he had no intention of undoing any of the New Deal.

This was one promise that he kept.

Trump may or may not prove to be the con-artist that some suspect that he is.  We will have to wait and see.  However, if the Don is a con for what he’s failed to accomplish but eight months into his presidency, then the Ron is that much more of a con for not only failing to accomplish over two terms in the White House what he said he would achieve, but for doing just the opposite of what he promised that he would do.

If Trump is a “loser,” as Coulter recently described him, then, by her lights, Reagan must be the Loser extraordinaire.

To be clear, the presentation of these facts is intended neither as a defense of Trump nor a critique of Reagan. The purpose here is to reveal the profound inconsistency (or is it cynical opportunism?) of “Reagan conservatives” who are now threatening to abandon President Trump, not even a year into his presidency, for not doing yet what he declared he would do.

In short, if they were consistent, then they would’ve ceased self-identifying as Reagan conservatives well before Reagan left office.  

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