Roll Call announced this morning that “the House Republican Conference will unveil today its latest prize for rewarding GOP lawmakers: the Ronald Reagan awards.” The honor “will be given to Members who excel at disseminating the party’s message on Social Security reform in their districts.”
There’s more to this story than the sad fact that conservatives now have to bribe lawmakers with made-up contest prizes to dredge up support for the president’s plan. What House Republicans are willfully ignoring: In 1983, President Reagan stepped away from privatization ideas to work with Congress to pass smaller, more manageable reforms which shored up the program. Washington Monthly’s Josh Green pointed out in 2003 that, during his time in office, Ronald Reagan “vastly expanded” the Social Security system. He signed into law a $165 billion legislative package which upped payroll taxes, brought new recipients into the system and “for the first time, taxed Social Security benefits, and did so in the most liberal way: only those of upper-income recipients.” It’s time for the right to stop trying to capitalize on The Gipper’s iconic status to maipulate conservatives into supporting President Bush’s plan.