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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Myth of Reagan

Many at JAS often cite Reagan as a model conservative, especially from a small government point of view. However, I saw some claims on the net earlier this week that Reagans numbers just don't add up to the rhetoric. So I tested it myself using Federal Reserve Statistics...

According to the Fed stats, during Reagans time in office Federal Government spending peaked at 23.46% of GDP and never fell below 21.28%. In contrast, government spending under Bush peaked at 21% , with most of the time spent at 20%.

Also, the federal tax burden under Reagan fell to 17.8% in 1985 from a high of 19.8% when Reagan took office. Under Bush, the burden fell to a low of 16% from a high of nearly 21% in 2000.

The Conventional wisdom was that Bush's tax cuts were small compared to Reagans. These stats say otherwise.

If Bush is such a big spender, then he is only relative to the second half of Clinton's second term and Nixon in the 1960s. Compared to Reagan, Bush is a small government.

UPDATE: If you throw in state and local spending- during Bush's terms, State and local = 13.2% of GDP. Under Reagan, the amount was around 11.5%. Perhaps this is the missing link. However, state and local spending has been increasing at a regular pace. It is not up and down like the federal government. Hmmm...

Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

Conservatives have long acknowledged that spending was a problem in the '80's. But you must recall that Reagan was dealing with a wholly antagonistic House and Senate, where Bush should be able to get spending cuts through like melted butter.

6:50 AM, March 20, 2006  
Blogger festivus said...

The problem is that the Republican Congress is like a bunch of bread sitting there sopping up the butter and taking that tasty mix of earmarks back to their constituients.

7:15 AM, March 20, 2006  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

I agree Congress should cut spending more.

Say all you want, however, the Fed stats show that this Republican Congress has been spending far less than Congress in the 1980s and about the same as Cingress up to 1997. Only Congress from 1998-2000 spent less, and something makes me wonder if the big cuts during this time came in defense?

Maybe my stats are wrong....perhaps I am not including some sort of other number. Maybe Harsh Pencil can check some reports.... However, more likely is that Bush is just a bad communicator, something we all know.

8:29 AM, March 20, 2006  
Blogger Air Marshall said...

Sloanasaurus, do some more research and tell me what percentage of the spending was for defense under Reagan vs. Bush. How much for entitlements. How much for earmarked pork. Then tell me how many people were impacted by the Alternative Minimum Tax under Reagan compared to Bush.

1:59 PM, March 20, 2006  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Just for you Air Marshall I looked it up. It appears that Defense spending peaked in 1986 at about 6%. Today it is 3.5%. The difference of 2.5% does not change the previous analysis of the Reagan years. Even witout the extra defense spending, Reagan is no better at spending than Bush.

Isn't it strange that no one ever cites data when they make these criticims of Bush. You only hear about the deficit and earmarks... but no details. What if there are 5 x more earmarks but the average cost per earmark is 1/5th.....

12:20 AM, March 21, 2006  
Blogger Air Marshall said...

I am supprised that the percentage of defense spending as related to GDP is so similar. I would have thought the Reagan years would have been higher. Thanks for your efforts. Maybe the left is correct in hating GWB. Maybe he is a right wing nut.

10:32 AM, March 21, 2006  

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