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Learning from Reagan’s “Greatest Domestic Error”

Gumby Republicans – whose default negotiating position is usually wholesale capitulation – are squawking for the GOP to “compromise” with Democrats in the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations. A similar strain of “appease disease” runs strong among many Republicans in Carson City, as well.

An interesting development, however, has been the use of Ronald Reagan to excuse the rush to concession. For example, the Washington Examiner recently published an editorial in which Reagan is quoted to have said the following in 1983: “I have always figured that a half a loaf is better than none, and I know that in the democratic process you’re not going to always get everything you want.”

However, now consider the following from Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation:

“(Ronald Reagan) was willing to accept less than 100 percent if that was all he could get and if the agreement moved him toward his basic goal of minimizing government and maximizing individual freedom. As he once said of his landmark welfare reforms in California, ‘If I can get seventy percent of what I want from a legislature controlled by the opposition, I’ll take my chances on getting the other thirty when they see how well it works.’

“Sometimes Reagan went along with a pragmatist like chief-of-staff James Baker, who persuaded the president to accept the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA), which turned out to be the great tax increase of 1982 — $98 billion over the next three years. That was too much for eighty-nine House Republicans or for prominent conservative organizations from the American Conservative Union to the Conservative Caucus and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which all opposed the measure.

“Baker assured his boss that Congress would approve three dollars in spending cuts for every dollar of tax increase. To Reagan, TEFRA looked like a pretty good ‘70 percent’ deal. But Congress wound up cutting less than twenty-seven cents for every new tax dollar. What had seemed to be an acceptable 70-30 compromise turned out to be a 30-70 surrender. Ed Meese described TEFRA as ‘the greatest domestic error of the Reagan administration,’ although it did leave untouched the individual tax rate reductions approved the previous year.”

And now, as Paul Harvey says, you know the rest of the story.

Forget 70-30 or 30-70. Give us a budget deal where House Republicans get half a loaf and Obama gets half a loaf…and we’ll talk. But that’s not where we are. Obama’s insisting on 99 percent of the loaf.

So it’s simply not true that today’s House Republicans “have completely abandoned the wisdom of Reagan.” To the contrary, they’ve learned from his mistake. If only the same could be said for Gov. Sandoval and certain Republicans in the Nevada Legislature.


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