Under President Reagan, Congress reformed the income tax code and balanced pay-as-you-go Social Security despite deep partisan divisions. Yet by Reagan’s self-assessment, the Reagan Revolution was incomplete when he left office.
We believe the monetary and budget reforms left unfinished in the 1980s now seem finally doable.
“When a conservative says it is bad for the government to spend more than it takes in, he is simply showing the same common sense that tells him to come in out of the rain,” Reagan had remarked in a February 1977 address outlining his presidential strategy.
He was restating in common language the first principle of successful economic policy that went back to George Washington and Alexander Hamilton: Don’t print money to fund the federal budget.
Yet after leaving office, Reagan assessed the result this way: “With the tax cuts of 1981 and Tax Reform Act of 1986, I’d accomplished a lot of what I’d come to Washington to do. But on the other side of the ledger, cutting federal spending and balancing the budget, I was less successful than I wanted to be. This was one of my biggest disappointments as president. I just didn’t deliver as much to the people as I’d promised.”