Flashback Friday: Reagan Tax Cuts and Florida

Perhaps no piece of legislation has been more damaging to the ideal of the American dream than Ronald Reagan’s irresponsible tax cuts passed in 1981. These tax cuts sent the US economy into a deep recession and allowed Reagan to build up a bigger Federal deficit than the every previous President combined. Much of the US economic engine and manufacturing base never fully recovered from the irresponsible economics of the 1980s pushed by Reagan’s “Supply Side” theorists and big business who benefited from the tax cut. Reagan’s economic policies were almost direct contrarian responses to the Nixon/Ford years when Republican Presidents managed international monetary and oil crises by responsibly managing the US budget and economy. While modern conservative pundits have criticized Nixon’s policies on the economy, he steered the United States through a potentially devastating period of time by actively using executive power, a floating currency and price controls to curb inflationary potential. Perhaps it was an excessive anti-capitalist reaction, but it may have prevented a depression.

The Republicans captured the US Senate in 1980 and that meant the Reagan Tax Cuts were part of the Budget bill that was backed by the Senate leadership. The previous instincts of many Senate Republicans was along the lines of the Nixon model- prior to 1980 the GOP had always been a fiscally conservative party (which meant caution about tax cuts and a desire to control deficits and inflation), but with Reagan’s election conservatism was replaced by recklessness and blind loyalty to ideology and free markets. The Democrats offered an amendment to restore fiscal sanity to the process. It was rejected 57-42 with 4 Senate Democrats joining all the Republicans in rejecting it.

Florida’s Senators Lawton Chiles (D-Lakeland) and Paula Hawkins (R-Winter Park) split along party lines on this vote.

In the House the Democrats maintained a majority after the 1980 election but with the “Boll Weevils” (somewhat like future Blue Dogs but probably more conservative particularly on economics…the Blue Dogs were more centrist than conservative) holding a significant number of southern and western Democratic seats, the GOP essentially gained a working majority. Future Republican Presidential Candidate Phil Gramm, then a Texas Democrat sabotaged the Budget Committee Chairman Jim Jones (D-Oklahoma), no liberal himself,  by working with the committee GOPers to undermine the leadership bill. Joining with  Ranking Member Delbert Latta (R-Ohio), Gramm offered a substitute that included tax cuts. It passed the House 238-195 with 47 Democrats crossing the aisle to vote for the bill. That number included six of the eleven Democrats in the Florida delegation.

Full Florida House Delegation vote below.


Remember an AYE vote was a vote in favor of the Reagan Tax Cuts, a NAY vote was against them.

AYE   D Hutto, Earl FL 1st
AYE   D Fuqua, Don FL 2nd
NAY   D Bennett, Charles FL 3rd
AYE   D Chappell, William FL 4th
AYE   R McCollum, Bill FL 5th
AYE   R Young, Bill FL 6th
NAY   D Gibbons, Sam FL 7th
AYE   D Ireland, Andy FL 8th
AYE   D Nelson, Bill FL 9th
AYE   R Bafalis, Skip FL 10th
AYE   D Mica, Daniel FL 11th
AYE   R Shaw, Clay FL 12th
NAY   D Lehman, William FL 13th
NAY   D Pepper, Claude FL 14th
NAY   D Fascell, Dante FL 15th 


  1. Glad to see Mr. Bennett didn’t vote for this; although he would later be held responsible for the deficits (debt) it created.


    1. How? He voted the right way! One of the few from outside Miami-Dade County in Florida that did.


      1. He was a member of Congress in the 1980s, and the GOP conviced many that the Congress, not Reagan, was responsible for anything negative. Factually, this was a joke, as Reagan requested far more than the appropriations committees ever spent.


  2. Floridian · ·

    A great cause of libertarians like Ron Paul today are to get us back on the gold standard which Nixon took us off.

    The “floating currency” as it is called has been largely successful.


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