Sunday, February 06, 2011

Reagan and Today's Republicans

For the last few years the Democrats have insisted that the Republican Party has drifted so far to the right that even Reagan would not be welcome. This is on the basis of two main issues - taxes and immigration. How true is this?

Reagan is well-known for his cuts in the income tax rate. One of the first pieces of legislation passed under his administration was a cut in the tax rates which was phased in over three years. In 1986 he presided over the biggest overhaul of the tax code in decades. The number of tax brackets was cut and the nominal tax rate was reduced for most people. This was also the basis for the charge that he raised taxes. What happened?

The big goal of the 1986 tax overhaul was to simplify the taxes. Many wealthy were able to use loopholes and escape paying taxes. These loopholes had been enacted over decades and the reason for most had long since passed. Reagan made it clear that the tax simplification was to reduce tax rates while being revenue neutral. That meant eliminating most loopholes. Depending on how you look at it, eliminating these loopholes amounted to one of the largest peace-time tax increases in history. Regardless, the overhaul was popular. The existence of the loopholes meant that people were not being taxed evenly and that was a source of discontent. So, some people saw their taxes go down and some people saw their loopholes eliminated. It all evened out.

Since 1986 many loopholes have been added back into the tax code and some Republicans are calling for a new overhaul comparable to the 1986 one rather than continuing to fight over the Bush tax cuts. These calls include Tea Party members. That places Reagan well within the current Republican values.

What about amnesty for illegal immigrants? Reagan championed it but since then it has shifted from a conservative position to a liberal one, one that President Obama refuses to take a position on.

It is harder to say what Reagan would do now. The deal during his administration was that amnesty would be accompanied with increased border control. The Mexicans already here could choose to stay but we would stop more from joining them.

In the decades since the Reagan amnesty, border patrol has become a joke. Simply building a big fence has been called cruel. Border agents have been pulled back from the border. Cities have become "sanctuary cities" with orders to the police to stop illegal aliens from being deported. Arizona is being boycotted because of a law calling for tough enforcement.

So, the deal under Reagan was a giant failure. The number of illegal immigrants currently in the country is several times the number under Reagan and there is no progress on controlling the border. For all intents and purposes, the Democrats are calling for an open border with Mexico. Reagan was against this so he would probably side with the current anti-amnesty forces.

So, Reagan would still be welcome in today's Republican Party. What about JFK? Kennedy cut taxes and was pro-military. Would he be welcome among the today's Democrats?

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