David Brooks Smears Ronald Reagan
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A column by David Brooks about Ronald Reagan includes this passage: "When he erred it was often on the utopian side of things, believing that tax cuts could pay for themselves, believing that he and Mikhail Gorbachev could shed history and eliminate all nuclear weapons."
The two big Reagan tax cuts were enacted in 1981 and 1986.
Here are the federal revenue receipts numbers for the relevant years, according to the Office of Management and Budget historical tables archived from the Obama administration:
In "current dollars":
Here it is in what the OMB calls "constant (FY 2009) dollars," which is a way of adjusting for inflation:
Anyone without ideological blinders on should be able to look at these columns of numbers and realize that federal revenue grew during the Reagan administration even as tax rates were cut. The economic growth effects of the tax cuts helped the government revenues increase, on both a nominal and an inflation-adjusted basis, even though the rates were reduced. To dismiss this as "utopian" or an instance of Reagan having "erred" is itself an error; if anyone is in error here it is Mr. Brooks, not President Reagan.
As for the accusation that the elimination of nuclear weapons is a utopian error, the evidence on that isn't in as decisively as the evidence on the Reagan tax cuts is, but even there Mr. Brooks seems off-base. Reagan's alleged "utopianism" on the point is shared by such legendarily realistic strategic thinkers as George P. Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn. Back during the Reagan administration, the Times editorialists were criticizing missile defense (a now well-proven technology with bipartisan support) as utopian, and faulting Reagan for abandoning the zero option on nuclear missiles to pursue what the Times considered a missile defense fantasy. These days, the Times editorialists have been slightly critical of President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry for failing to move fast enough toward Obama's stated goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.
What's important for our point is that even in a column devoted to praising Reagan in comparison to President Trump, even in a column by what passes for a token conservative or at least center-right columnist at the New York Times, David Brooks manages to sneak in a totally unjustified cheap shot or two at the Gipper. Would it be a utopian error on my part to hope the Times can ever stop this sort of nonsense? Probably the odds are better that 30 years from now some New York Times columnist is waxing nostalgic over how President Trump was such a reasonable moderate in comparison to whatever newly elected Republican president the Times is trying to demonize. That is, if the Times even still exists in 30 years; the paper's endurance that far into the future itself might be a fantasy, either of the utopian or dystopian variety, depending on one's view of the matter.
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