The president spoke at a high school and insisted that Washington “close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.” He said, as a practical matter, these loopholes made it possible for millionaires to pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than a bus driver. “That’s crazy,” the president said.

This is the kind of rhetoric the Republican Party and the right in general finds deeply offensive. It’s “class warfare,” they say. It’s evidence of pitting one class against another, dividing the nation. Some even call the rhetoric “socialism.”

The president who made the remarks, however, was Ronald Reagan in 1985. Pat Garofalo posted this gem, showing the similarities between what Reagan called for in tax reform 16 years ago, and what President Obama is calling for now. The two are practically reading from the same script.

I’ve argued on more than a few occasions that the modern-day Republican Party wouldn’t just reject Reagan and his policies, but would actually find him quite offensive. This seems to bolster the point. When Obama is far more in line with the Reagan legacy than the congressional GOP, it’s safe to say the radicalized Republican Party is wildly out of step with its traditions.

Forget “Buffett Rule”; the White House would be justified in calling the tax idea the “Reagan Rule.”

Jay Bookman added that Reagan, a few weeks later, spoke in Chicago about overcoming the influence of “the lobbyists,” who were fighting against tax reform, “trying to keep the special interests in and the people’s interests out.” Reagan added:

“[T]hey’ve forgotten one thing — this time they’re going to have to contend with the allied forces of the President and Chicago’s own Dan Rostenkowski, (Democratic) chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. And if they think that things have been hot so far, Ron and Rosty have got news for them — [laughter] — you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

“Now, this issue goes beyond Democrat or Republican — it’s simply a matter of doing what’s right for America. And if we work together with good faith and determination, the people can win this time, and they will win.”

In 2011, Republicans find this kind of talk insulting, if not completely ridiculous. The notion that a Republican president (and icon, really) would partner with a Democratic Chicago liberal to combat lobbyists and pass tax reform is just laughable on its face.

And yet, this was American politics before the radicalization of the Republican Party.

As Jay concluded, “Once more, history offers compelling evidence of just how fanatical and extreme the conservative movement has become in this country. They have moved so far beyond what Reagan himself advocated that they threaten to turn ‘the Gipper’ into a RINO if not an outright liberal.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.