Just How “Conservative” Was Reagan?


“…The only problem with this analysis is that it is historically inaccurate. Reagan may have resisted calls for tax increases, but he ultimately supported them. In 1982 alone, he signed into law not one but two major tax increases. The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) raised taxes by $37.5 billion per year and the Highway Revenue Act raised the gasoline tax by another $3.3 billion….”

The above quote did not come from a liberal publication, but from the august and conservative National Review.

Ronald Reagan did not appoint the most conservative judges in history.  George W. Bush did.

“…In a previous study that was released in August 2004, Carp and his team of researchers predicted that if Bush was re-elected that year, the federal judiciary could take on an even sharper conservative slant. At the time, Bush’s judicial appointees delivered liberal decisions 27.9 percent of the time in cases involving civil liberties and rights. For this latest study, researchers analyzed more data, and the figure has dropped to 27.2 percent.

“Our findings are significant because the general consensus is that President Reagan is the most modern conservative president on record, and yet the judges appointed by George W. Bush are even more conservative than the Reagan judges,” said Carp, the study’s lead investigator.

The new study, “The Voting Behavior of George W. Bush’s Judges: How Sharp a Turn to the Right?,” also found that only 33 percent of decisions handed down by Bush jurists were liberal. Presidents Johnson, Carter, and Clinton, scored 52, 51, and 44 percent, respectively. His GOP predecessors, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush Sr., ranked 38, 43, 36, and 37 percent, respectively. The overall scores of the Bush judges are not “off the charts” in their level of conservatism, but they are sharply right of center. …”


“…Political science professor Robert Carp and his team compiled a database of more than 75,000 opinions published by nearly 1,800 federal judges from 1933 to fall 2005, including 795 decisions handed down by judges appointed by President George W. Bush. The study examined cases in several issue areas where a liberal-conservative distinction was readily discernible, including civil rights, civil liberties, labor and economic regulation, criminal justice and the right to privacy.  The researchers found that this Administration’s trial court judges are not only the most conservative of those of the eight most recent presidents (three Democrats and five Republicans) but the most conservative of any president going back to Woodrow Wilson.  On civil rights and civil liberties, President Bush’s district court judges were found to be approximately 20% less likely than those appointed by Ronald Reagan – hardly known for being a liberal President or appointing liberal judges — to hand down an opinion that could be called liberal.  The Bush judges’ decisions on privacy issues including abortion were also significantly more conservative than those of other judges, although the researchers are careful to note that the sample in this area is not yet big enough to be conclusive….”

Did you know Ronald Reagan is responsible for the mess that is Social Security?

“…The following year, Reagan made one of the greatest ideological about-faces in the history of the presidency, agreeing to a $165 billion bailout of Social Security. In almost every way, the bailout flew in the face of conservative ideology. It dramatically increased payroll taxes on employees and employers, brought a whole new class of recipients–new federal workers–into the system, and, for the first time, taxed Social Security benefits, and did so in the most liberal way: only those of upper-income recipients. (As an added affront to conservatives, the tax wasn’t indexed to inflation, meaning that more and more people have gradually had to pay it over time.) By expanding rather than scaling back entitlements, Reagan–and Newt Gingrich after him–demonstrated that conservatives could not and would not launch a frontal assault on Social Security, effectively conceding that these cherished New Deal programs were central features of the American polity….”

Just love those Reagan tax INCREASES:

“…It’s conservative lore that Reagan the icon cut taxes, while George H.W. Bush the renegade raised them. As Stockman recalls, “No one was authorized to talk about tax increases on Ronald Reagan’s watch, no matter what kind of tax, no matter how justified it was.” Yet raising taxes is exactly what Reagan did. He did not always instigate those hikes or agree to them willingly–but he signed off on them. One year after his massive tax cut, Reagan agreed to a tax increase to reduce the deficit that restored fully one-third of the previous year’s reduction. (In a bizarre bit of self-deception, Reagan, who never came to terms with this episode of ideological apostasy, persuaded himself that the three-year, $100 billion tax hike–the largest since World War II–was actually “tax reform” that closed loopholes in his earlier cut and therefore didn’t count as raising taxes.)

Faced with looming deficits, Reagan raised taxes again in 1983 with a gasoline tax and once more in 1984, this time by $50 billion over three years, mainly through closing tax loopholes for business. Despite the fact that such increases were anathema to conservatives–and probably cost Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush, reelection–Reagan raised taxes a grand total of four times just between 1982-84….”

In 1986 Reagan created the largest corporate tax increase in history:

“…just two years after declaring, “there is no justification” for taxing corporate income, Reagan raised corporate taxes by $120 billion over five years and closed corporate tax loopholes worth about $300 billion over that same period. In addition to broadening the tax base, the plan increased standard deductions and personal exemptions to the point that no family with an income below the poverty line would have to pay federal income tax. Even at the time, conservatives within Reagan’s administration were aghast. …”