POLITICS Making Myths

Article excerpt

This year, as in every election year since 1988, friends of big government and foes of free enterprise are trying diligently to establish and perpetuate the myth that America took a wrong turn in the 1980s.

Helping to keep the effort going will be the media. Tom Brokaw of NBC put key elements of the myth into words in 1990:

"Reagan, as commander in chief, was the military's best friend. He gave the Pentagon almost everything it wanted. That spending, combined with a broad tax cut, contributed to a trillion-dollar deficit ... Social programs? They suffered under Reagan."

The charges are untrue, in every respect. But facts do not always prevail in the political realm.

Democrats -- suffering, after the abortive effort to rescue hostages in Iran, from the revelation that the military was "hollowed out" by defense reductions -- already had built in military spending increases from 1980 through 1985. President Reagan wisely proposed increases. Three years after U.S. defense spending peaked came the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Strange, that Reagan's detractors never complain about the defense spending that won World War II but left the United States with its largest debt in history. That massive debt, incidentally, was brought down by postwar prosperity, without tax increases.

Reagan's 1981 tax cuts set off a similar burst of prosperity. Contrary to the propaganda, Reagan never claimed revenues would remain the same. At the time, as now, budget surpluses were predicted for the foreseeable future. Reagan proposed tax relief amounting to $726 billion over six years, Edwin Rubenstein said in The Right Data. …