Gene Lyons: The GOP Turns Its Back on Reagan

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of "The Hunting of the President" (St. Martin's Press, 2000). You can e-mail Lyons at

...Here's how President Reagan reacted to crazy talk about not raising the national debt limit in 1983: "The full consequences of a default -- or even the serious prospect of default -- by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar."

Congress gave Reagan the tax increases he wanted and lifted the debt ceiling. Anti-tax zealots predicted economic disaster. Events proved them wrong, precisely as they did after 1993 when President Bill Clinton won an increase in marginal income-tax rates that put the nation's balance sheet in order.

Despite unanimous GOP opposition, the United States saw sustained job growth, prosperity and balanced budgets. Then came President George W. Bush and his celebrated tax cuts. "Reagan," Vice President Dick Cheney famously observed, "proved deficits don't matter."...

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