Lately, I’ve noticed some folks of a leftist persuasion making the point that President Reagan really ballooned the deficit. They even have a nifty chart showing how Democrats were minding their own business and only passed the budget that Reagan asked for.
Gather ‘round kiddies, PeePaw wants to tell you a story. You may not realize this, but once upon a time the President had to work with members of Congress to pass a budget. Why, back in your old PeePaw’s day, the President had to cut deals with congress to get his agenda funded.
For instance, President Ronald Reagan had a vision for America that included the defeat of Communism through the defeat of their chief supporter, the Soviet Union. Over the decades Communists have been responsible for the death of untold millions. Reagan knew we had to invest in a strong military.
Reagan also succeeded in passing tax cuts, and in turn revenue collected from greater economic growth skyrocketed. Unfortunately, spending went up even more than the new revenues. Why did this happen? Reagan talked about smaller government, but why did he propose budgets that increased the deficit? Why did he sign those budgets into law?
Well kids, back then there were a whole lot of Democrats who wanted to exact a price for Reagan’s vision of a strong military and the defeat of the Soviet Union. If President Reagan wanted a military buildup, Democrats in control of congress demanded new domestic spending. Subsidies, entitlements, cost of living increases, all of these were added in as part of the budget negotiations.
President Reagan could have presented Congress with a deficit-reducing budget, but that budget would never have passed the House of Representatives, particularly given the leadership of liberal Tip O’Neil who was speaker of the house at the time.
Don’t laugh, but back then passing a budget was important. He had to work out a deal with Congress to make a budget that had a chance of passing the House and Senate. Remember this fact when today’s liberals act as if the Democrats were innocent bystanders to a spendthrift Ronald Reagan. Had Tip O’Neil and the rest of the liberals in congress not held a strong national defense hostage to secure funding for an ever-expanding welfare state, those deficits would have been manageable, if not ended altogether.
It is possible that President Reagan was secretly unconcerned about overspending, and he and Tip O’Neil privately had a good laugh as the national debt exploded. It is also possible that President Reagan thought that given the brutal history of communism, defeating the Soviet Union was worth going into debt.
I was just a kid back then, but more than thirty years later the Cold War is long over, and we won. The war on poverty is still going on, and despite the trillions spent America has no fewer impoverished people than when Lyndon B. Johnson started. At least with Reagan’s spending, we have something to show for it.