Even Jeb Bush says that Ronald Reagan would have a hard time fitting into today’s GOP.
Republicans still often speak lovingly of their adored “Gipper,” but the debate in Washington shows just how far the party has drifted from its idol.
Here’s one example. The Republican talking point these days is that raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans would be bad for the economy and hurt job creation. Reagan himself had a different view. He made the case for tax fairness this way in a 1985 speech:
We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. In theory, some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying ten percent of his salary, and that’s crazy… Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver or less?
Today, that sounds a lot more like something in an Obama speech than anything you’d hear from a Republican.
The rhetoric of painfully high taxes doesn’t match up with reality either. A new New York Times report has found that most Americans today pay less in total taxes than they would have paid during the Reagan administration 30 years ago. Someone making between $50,000 and $75,000 would have paid an effective rate of 31% in 1981. In 2009 that was down to 27%.
It’s possible Reagan would still want to lower rates for some. But the man who thought a millionaire shouldn’t be paying less than a bus driver would have a hard time finding a place in today’s Republican party.