According to a new History Channel special on Ronald Reagan, the profound economic recovery of the early '80s can be credited to "the Reagan tax increases." The February 9 program contained this odd assertion while highlighting the President's path to reelection in 1984. Of course, the Economic Recovery Act of 1981 actually cut the top marginal rate from 70 percent to 50 percent.
Despite this, narrator David Jeremiah asserted, "By 1984, Ronald Reagan is cruising toward re-election. After enduring a recession that threatened his hopes for a second term, the economy, thanks in part to the Reagan tax increases, is bouncing back."
[See video below. MP3 audio here.]
The Kemp-Roth tax cuts of 1981 were mentioned earlier in the special with Jeremiah observing, "The measures include huge tax cuts and vastly increased military spending."
It's true that Reagan did sign the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA), removing some elements of the previous years legislation. It also increased some taxes as an attempt to cut the deficit. But it did not increase the marginal rates (which ultimately dropped to 28 percent).
In an otherwise fair program, the History Channel's crediting of "tax increases" for the recovery is a rather odd interpretation of history.
A transcript of the February 9 show's relevant sections can be found below:
RONALD REAGAN: We have much greatness before us. We can restore our economic strength and build opportunities like none we've ever had before. All we need to begin with is a dream that we can do better than before. All we need to have is faith, and that dream will come true. All we need to do is act, and the time for action is now. Thank you and good night.
NARRATOR DAVID JEREMIAH: The public response to Reagan is immediate and overwhelmingly positive. Congress is compelled to pass Reagan's economic agenda, legislation that had been stalled before the assassination attempt. The measures include huge tax cuts and vastly increased military spending.
REAGAN AD: It's morning again in America. And under the leadership of president Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than 4 short years ago?
NARRATOR: By 1984, Ronald Reagan is cruising toward re-election. After enduring a recession that threatened his hopes for a second term, the economy, thanks in part to the Reagan tax increases, is bouncing back.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.