FLASHBACK: Despite Deficits, Reagan Wanted To Increase EPA Funding

July 18, 2011 3:24 pm ET — Jamison Foser

Speaker John Boehner

Last week, I noted that in contrast to today's Republicans, GOP icon Ronald Reagan favored the extension of unemployment benefits during difficult economic times and the use of tax increases to close budget deficits. Reagan's support of economic policies that current Republicans denounce as socialism is just one way in which the conservative movement has lurched far to the right of its own heroes. 

Consider, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency. Current Republican leaders like Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann want to eliminate the EPA entirely, claiming it kills jobs and that carbon dioxide is "natural, it is not harmful." The GOP's anti-science hostility to the EPA hasn't won much public support; a CNN poll earlier this year found a whopping 71 percent of Americans want to continue funding EPA regulations on greenhouse gases. The gap between the Republican Party and the public at large isn't particularly surprising — the GOP is far to the right of the public on a wide range of issues. But take a look at Ronald Reagan's 1984 State of the Union address:

And as we develop the frontier of space, let us remember our responsibility to preserve our older resources here on Earth. Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it's common sense.

Though this is a time of budget constraints, I have requested for EPA one of the largest percentage budget increases of any agency. We will begin the long, necessary effort to clean up a productive recreational area and a special national resource — the Chesapeake Bay.

To reduce the threat posed by abandoned hazardous waste dumps, EPA will spend $410 million.

And I will request a supplemental increase of 50 million. And because the Superfund law expires in 1985, I've asked Bill Ruckelshaus to develop a proposal for its extension so there'll be additional time to complete this important task.

On the question of acid rain, which concerns people in many areas of the United States and Canada, I'm proposing a research program that doubles our current funding. And we'll take additional action to restore our lakes and develop new technology to reduce pollution that causes acid rain.

That's Ronald Reagan — not one of those squishy northeastern Republicans conservatives love to hate. Despite deficit concerns, Reagan wanted to dramatically increase funding for the Environmental Protection Agency. If today's leading Republicans stopped invoking Reagan's name long enough to read his praise for the EPA, they'd denounce him as a tree-hugging hippie.