As former President Ronald Reagan's hundredth birthday approaches, Republicans continue to mythologize his political successes. Conservatives like to portray Reagan as the man who brought down the Berlin Wall, cut taxes and saved the economy. But when Reagan negotiated with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev over nuclear arms, many Republicans at the time felt he was wrong for his willingness to negotiate with an evil dictator. Many people forget that Reagan was divisive for the country and won almost no support among African-Americans. Conservatives also fail to acknowledge that Reagan raised taxes throughout his presidency, including one tax hike that at the time was the biggest in American history. Reagan's legacy is one of unprecedented federal budget deficits fueled by tax cuts made at the same time the federal budget grew due to massive increases in military spending. Reagan also willingly worked with Democrats on major policy issues, like Social Security. Praise for his economic policies is inflated, according to Lou Cannon, author of several books on Reagan. Cannon points out that the domestic accomplishment most attributed to Reagan -- ending runaway inflation in the late 1970s -- occurred not as a result of the "supply side" economics that conservatives embrace as part of Reagan's legacy, but because Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker drastically tightened interest rates at the time.
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