So…about Ronald Reagan and the national debt

Referencing the fact that the federal debt didn’t decrease under both Presidents Bush, here’s what far-right conservative blogger Randy Hollenbeck said:

P.S. -You on the left, I know you don’t and cannot understand this, but both President Bushes were not Conservatives, but they were Republicans.

Interestingly, Hollenbeck didn’t include Ronald Reagan in his list of Republicans who weren’t conservatives, leaving one to assume Hollenbeck considers Reagan to be a true conservative. However, as the chart below shows, Ronald Reagan wasn’t exactly “conservative” when it came to running up the national debt.

(Click for full size - SOURCE)

As you can see, under President Reagan the national debt increased as a percentage of GDP from under 40% to well over 50%, and in real dollars Reagan increased the national debt from roughly $900 billion to over $3.2 trillion. What’s more, during Reagan’s time in office, federal government employment rose from 2,143,000 employees to 2,238,000 employees, so if there’s one thing that’s pretty clear about Ronald Reagan, it’s that he was no small government conservative, despite the mythologizing today about Reagan as the “patron saint” of small government conservatism.


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9 thoughts on “So…about Ronald Reagan and the national debt

  1. What we’ve seen over the past 30 years is that the right-wing certainly has no interest in debt reduction. What we have actually seen is simply a massive redistribution of the nation’s wealth, into the bank accounts of the few at the top. As a consequence, the US has fallen far behind all the modern nations in virtually every respect, the nation can no longer compete in the world market, and this threatens to result in the complete collapse of the United States.

  2. What we should keep in mind is that we all know Congress controls the purse strings in the US. I think a study on that besides presidents would be a little more telling.

    I think you should inch the graph over on the right there and I would be curious to see your prediction. I also find it funny how it stops at the beginning of 2010. We’re now over a quarter of the way through 2011.

    Also you could raise taxes by over 10% on the rich and it wouldnt come close. You must cut entitlements. But I would also be interested to hear your guys suggested tax on the rich in brakets.

    1. Pete, Congress controls the purse strings but the president has the power of the veto. Surely if President Reagan wanted to control spending he could have used the veto pen to do so.

  3. Its simple just go back to clinton level tax brackets and defense spending and it will go a long way to curing the deficit. The thing is we have a revenue problem because we keep shipping jobs overseas. Lets stop that also and get America back to work along with the rest and we would be rocking again.

  4. Nice take down Zach!

    Everyone knows RayGun can do or did no wrong. They even claim his emancipation proclamation of the illegals was a good thing for America. Yet, its bad for America now.

    1. Funny fact: Reagan actually raised the payroll tax to help fund Social Security.

      That’d make tea party heads spin, if only they cared to look at the facts.

  5. Those who run the GOP know the truth: to them running up deficits is a feature, not a flaw. Then they can create the excuse to “drown government in the bathtub”. Those who follow the GOP are ignorant of this or willfully deceitful about it.

    Besides, everybody knows Reagan would get crushed in a GOP primary these days, tax hiking, collective bargaining, immigrant “amnesty” lovin’ “liberal” that he was.

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