By: Ryan Jaroncyk, THL Contributor
Since 2007, the GOP has been prolifically citing President Ronald Reagan as its primary source of inspiration.
In 2007-2008, the presidential candidates mentioned Reagan a dizzying number of times in the debates, and popular conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity frequently appeal to him as the standard bearer of the Republican Party.
Reagan is viewed as the epitome of conservatism, a man whose tax cuts produced a veritable economic boom in the 1980s, whose foreign policy defeated the mighty Soviets, and whose philosophy of limited government, individual responsibility, and traditional family values shaped a nation.
While Reagan's reputation is unmatched in the conservative community, perhaps we should take a closer look at what he himself called his "greatest disappointment." For even great men make mistakes.
Real median family income rose by $4,000 during the Reagan years, while it remained static pre-Reagan, and fell by almost $1,500 post-Reagan. Interest rates, inflation, and unemployment fell faster under President Reagan than they did immediately before or immediately after his presidency.
Finally, the stock market rose by about 14% under his tenure. That's the good news. Now, here's the bad news.
On Reagan's watch, the national debt more than doubled, from about $1 trillion to a little over $2 trillion, in real terms. Federal spending grew by 22% in real terms, with military spending accounting for most of the increase. And finally, the US Dollar lost about 6% of its value.
Didn't the GOP just go this route with George W. Bush? Bush, like Reagan, was a champion of tax cuts and limited government, yet he increased federal spending, ran huge deficits, added trillions to the national debt, and devalued the Dollar.
How about a leader who can defend America without growing the size of government and exploding the size of the military budget? If the GOP is going to rail against Obama's excessive spending, deficits, debt, and Dollar devaluation, then how can it unreservedly fawn over a past icon who committed many of the same fiscal mistakes?
Is it because Reagan's spending, deficits, debt, and Dollar devaluation were merely less egregious than Obama's? Until the standard is raised, and until this contradiction is addressed in an honest manner, the GOP will continue to suffer a credibility problem on fiscal matters.