Apparently Ronald Reagan would've loved a massive tax increase. That's news to most of us but according to President Obama, it's the truth. Before we get into the actual history, here's what Obama said:
"Some years ago, one of my predecessors traveled across the country pushing for the same concept. He gave a speech where he talked about a letter he had received from a wealthy executive who paid lower tax rates than his secretary and wanted to come to Washington and tell Congress why that was wrong."
"That wild-eyed socialist, tax-hiking class warrior was Ronald Reagan," he added. "I know that position might disqualify him from the Republican primaries these days, but what Ronald Reagan was calling for then is the same thing that we're calling for now … And if it will help convince folks in Congress to make the right choice, we could call it the 'Reagan Rule' instead of the 'Buffett Rule.'"
Unfortunately, as in so many cases where he invokes deceased Republicans to support his liberal ideas, Obama isn't providing an accurate history. Rather than referring to a desire to raise taxes, Obama's reference to Ronald Reagan actually is about his trying to drum up support for his 1986 tax reform bill which was about lowering taxes.
Obama's rationale in trying to raise taxes on people making more than $1 million annually is to extract more money from them. Reagan was trying to simplify the tax code, lower rates for everyone, and to eliminate loopholes. And his goal was to be revenue neutral, i.e. not take more money away from citizens.
We've heard Ronald Reagan's name invoked in some pretty absurd fashions but this one takes the cake. How could Obama's speechwriters possibly have thought this was relevant? Or that they would get away with it?
Maybe 20 years ago – before the Internet made it easy for people to fact-check such things – it would have been difficult for anyone to dig up the tape of that old Reagan speech and examine what Reagan really said, and realize that the truncated video clip first posted on line by the liberal blog Think Progress was extremely misleading. Today, thanks to the Internet and social media, Obama's claim was rather quickly exposed as a gross mischaracterization of what Reagan said. Conservative and mainstream media outlets quickly put Reagan's remarks in context – he was calling for tax cuts, not higher taxes.
"Lower, flatter tax rates will give Americans more confidence in the future," Reagan said in the speech referenced by Obama. "It'll mean if you work overtime or get a raise or a promotion or if you have a small business and are able to turn a profit, more of that extra income will end up where it belongs -- in your wallets, not in Uncle Sam's pockets."
The Washington Post's The Fact Checker blog gave Obama “Two Pinochios” for his lie, and some in the mainstream media actually laughed at Obama's attempt to paint himself as being on the same side of the issue as Ronald Reagan.
Maybe Obama will think twice before accepting an edited video clip posted by Think Progress or other left-wing sites as the gospel truth about what Reagan believed about taxes or any other issue about which Obama would like to pretend that Reagan and he are on the same page. It'd be better still if he'd stop believing they have any credibility at all.