You may have heard the old expression about "being more Catholic than the Pope."
Well, in 2011 we have a gaggle of GOPers who are more Reagan than Ronald Reagan. While Reagan felt that government had grown too large, he never spoke of shrinking it down to the size where it could be drowned in the bathtub.
He also never made the second-most famous quote (We can say "tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev" was the most famous) attributed to him about government not being the solution, government being the problem.
What Reagan did say in his 1981 inaugural address was that the economic problem of stagflation (stagnant growth yet high inflation) could not be solved by government action.
To quote him exactly:
"The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we, as Americans, have the capacity now, as we have had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom.
"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem."
That is exactly what Ronald Reagan said that has been expanded upon and misquoted by so many people who never had Reagan's love for America and its people.
That one quote has been used to tear down the government and destroy the people's faith in it -- and in themselves. We apparently have come to believe our problems are so difficult that we have to turn them over to the richest and most powerful among us, so that we can live off the scraps from their banquets.
Yes, Reagan believed in smaller government and lower taxes, but he was willing to raise taxes when necessary, and he would have leaped at the deal if given the chance to get $10 in spending cuts for every $1 of tax increases.
Of course, that's something every single Republican candidate for 2012 has rejected. Most of them seem to believe that government is so completely incompetent that it can't be trusted to do anything at all.
That is certainly a point of view, but it was never Reagan's point of view. Despite the way he has been presented to the people in the years since his death, Reagan was not a plutocrat or an oligarch.
What was he? Well, if he was running for president in the current cycle, he would be the most liberal candidate in the Republican Party.
Funny how time changes our perspective.