Kids say the darndest things:
People want to like Reagan. He's very likable. And what he had to say most of the time was a great message. But the deficits exploded under Reagan. The Democrats said, "Well, the deficit's going up because you reduced the tax rates and supply side economics doesn't work." But the interesting thing is, if you look at the numbers, tax rates went down in the early '80s, tax revenue did rise. The reason the deficits exploded is they ignored spending. Domestic spending went up at a greater clip under Reagan than it did under Carter.
Answer, and a little bit of commentary, to come.
UPDATE: When I say "kids," I mean Ron Paul's kids. This actually isn't part of the current Sen. Rand Paul "truth tour," but rather some old video that got leaked to my old college dorm-mate (yes, we're all in on the vast liberal conspiracy, from way back) David Corn, from back in 2008. But his assessment of the Gipper is true in many ways.
Reagan was, no doubt, the deficit president -- American went from creditor nation to debtor nation under his watch, and we've never looked back. Government spending rose in real dollars during his presidency (something you don't hear from the "Reagan on Mount Rushmore" crowd) and the number of federal employees increased. It would take Bill Clinton to a) shrink the size of the bureaucracy and b) end the deficit, at least until George W. Bush showed up.
Still, I have to quibble with some of Paul's analysis, and differ greatly with his conclusion. A lot of the domestic spending increase was at the Pentagon (which was his version of the stimulus, as defense-contractor hiring soared) -- Reagan still made devastating cuts in parts of the safety net, ignored the AIDS epidemic, etc. As far as increasing government revenue, this happened -- because the overall U.S. economy went from a deep recession to growth. But the bottom of the recession really came after the Gipper's 1981 tax cut; most economists credit the tight money policies of Fed chairman Paul Volcker (a Carter appointee) and a huge drop in gas prices.
But Rand Paul thinks -- in 2008, and now in 2014 from the clips that I've seen -- that it was all the tax cuts, which would be a mistake if 19 different things go wrong and the Rand Paul administration kicks off on Jan. 20, 2017. Although some tax reform was needed in the 1980s, Reagan's cut made the deficit much worse than it needed to be, and by favoring the rich he triggered the long slippery slope of income inequality. And when George W. Bush tried to prove he was another Reagan with his ill-advised tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, he created a new deficit hole from which we still struggle to recover.
So give a leading Republican partial credit for getting the facts (mostly) right on Reagan -- but the GOP still flunks reading comprehension.
UPDATE II: If you read this in the next couple of hours, you can watch me at 9 p.m. with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, discussing the very subject in my trademarked bubbling, untelegenic style (I'm lowering expectations here.)