I like and respect Ronald Reagan a lot, I've always had even though I'm a Liberal Democrat. Which might be like hearing how much a Boston Red Sox fan loves a player for the New York Yankees. But in my case my affection for President Reagan is real. Both personally and politically, even though we don't agree on a whole lot. Except as it relates to the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, individual liberty and limited government.
But our policies look a lot different, not a difference between big government and small government. But more relating in the role of government, not so much the overall size, but what it should be doing. But to listen to Ron Reagan talk about the need for a balance budget, is like listening to an obese person talk about the need for a healthy diet and exercise. Whatever they know about what they are talking about, is only through bad experiences.
Its like saying, "we now know what doesn't work, had we known now then, we wouldn't of done a, because now we know a doesn't work. We would've done b or c instead, because we now know that b or c works". Its speaking in hindsight rather than foresight and not very visionary as far as this is what we should do, because we know it works based on this evidence.
Had President Reagan listened to then candidate Reagan back in 1975, when he was talking about deficit reduction, he probably wouldn't of proposed the Economic Recovery Act of 1981. At least in that form, the economy was awful and needed a lot of stimulus and perhaps he would've proposed the tax cuts he did, the taxes then were way too high on everyone. Ranging somewhere between 20-70%. But since he felt the need for a balanced budget, he would've at least proposed to pay for those tax cuts. He would've proposed the increases in the defense budget, but proposed to pay for them.
The fact is that President Reagan inherited a national debt of around 1T$ or more. Left office with around a 5T$ national debt, inherited a budget deficit from President Carter who had one of the worst economies we've ever seen. But it was 40B$, which thirty years ago wasn't a large deficit. Defenders of President Reagan like to say, "well thats the fault of the Democratic Congress's". The fact is President Reagan only had one Democratic Congress, his last two years.
He had a Republican Senate for his first six years. President Reagan never sent a balanced budget to Congress or proposed a balance budget plan. What they did was deficit reduction, including tax hikes during his presidency. To say the Reagan Administration spent money like drunken sailors, would be an insult to drunken sailors. To use Senator John McCain's joke, they spent money like drunken Congressmen at a Congressional pork party, who are worried about reelection. Ron Reagan should've trusted his first instincts.