(Bloomberg News) Republicans seeking their party's 2012 presidential nomination are invoking Ronald Reagan when conveying their message of small government and low taxes.
Reagan championed tax cuts. He also agreed to raise taxes 11 times during his presidency from January 1981 to January 1989, tax historians say.
While it's impossible to know how Reagan would have adapted to today's strict no-new-tax Republican stance, the Reagan of the 1980s "would be run out of the party. He'd be to the left of the left-most candidate in the primary," tax historian Joseph Thorndike told Bloomberg Government.
Reagan pushed Congress to pass a $275 billion individual and business tax cut in 1981 and took back about half of it during his two terms in the White House with subsequent tax increases, said Bruce Bartlett, a columnist for Tax Notes who was a senior policy analyst in the Reagan administration.
"Except for the '81 tax cut, he raised taxes nearly every year he was in office, 11 times in all," Bartlett said in a telephone interview.
That contrasts somewhat with the Reagan who had "a vision of limited government" Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a Republican presidential candidate, referred to in a Sept. 23 address to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida.
Other Republican candidates have referred to Reagan's quest for limited government. In June Jon Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor and ambassador to China in the Obama administration, kicked off his run for the Republican presidential nomination in the same New Jersey park where Reagan announced his 1980 campaign. Huntsman said Reagan "assured us we could 'make America great again,' and through his leadership, he did."
When it came to taxes, Reagan raised them almost as much as he cut them during his tenure in the White House.
Receipts under the tax rate structure before Reagan's 1981 tax cut would have yielded $1.17 trillion if left in place until Jan. 1, 1990. That compares with $1.05 trillion raised by the tax system during that decade, according to the data, published in the The Tax Decade, a study of tax policy during the 1980s by Eugene Steuerle, a senior Treasury Department official during the Reagan administration.
Steuerle said Reagan was intent on lowering individual tax rates and "he paid for a lot of that by allowing tax breaks to be cut or pared back."