For the past few years, liberals have tried various ways to appropriate Ronald Reagan’s legacy, since apparently they have run out of people of their own persuasion they can look up to. The latest sad attempt is enlisting the Gipper to defend the White House plan to exploit the debt ceiling crisis to impose a trillion dollars of new taxes. “I find myself these days quoting Ronald Reagan,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, California Democrat. “‘The full consequences of a default,’ he said, ‘or even the serious prospect of a default by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar in exchange markets. The nation can ill afford to allow such a result.’” But we can imagine the Gipper in heaven smiling sadly and shaking his head. There they go again.
Mr. Reagan is not about to become a co-conspirator in this scheme to impose the largest tax increase in American history. The big-tax proponents are completely misrepresenting his views. When the debt ceiling was being debated during the 1980 campaign season, Republicans in Congress introduced a plan by then-candidate Ronald Reagan that would have tied an across-the-board 10% tax cut to any expansion of the government’s ability to borrow. Democrats dismissed this as a campaign stunt, but it accurately reflected Mr. Reagan’s policy priorities. In a 1983 debt ceiling debate Mr. Reagan threatened to veto any measure that contained tax hikes. “I am unalterably opposed to Congress’ efforts to raise taxes on individuals and businesses,” he said. His administration “did not come to Washington to raise the peoples’ taxes. We came here to restore opportunity and get this economy moving again. We do not face large deficits because Americans aren’t taxed enough. We face those deficits because the Congress still spends too much.”
Liberals are also seeking to use the debt ceiling crisis to slash America’s military budget, something they tried during the Reagan era. But the Great Communicator was a man of strong principle and straight talk. “For those who say further responsible spending reductions are not possible,” Mr. Reagan said in a 1987 radio address to the nation, “they are wrong. For those who say the only choice is undermining our national security… they are wrong. For those who say more taxes will solve our deficit problems, they are wrong.” If tax-and-spend liberals like Senator Boxer want something to quote from the Reagan record, let them use that one. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now.