As the Times reporter points out, Reagan actually tripled the deficit, by cutting revenue while raising expenses. (No matter what they tell you, balancing a budget is simple: take in more than you spend. Period. There's no other way to do it. And no matter how you try to pretend military spending isn't really "spending," those tanks still cost money.)
But it gets better. Here's what McCain actually said: "When Ronald Reagan came into office, we had 10 percent unemployment, 20 percent interest rates, and 10 percent inflation, if I've got those numbers right. And so what did we do? We didn't raise taxes, and we didn't cut entitlements. What we did was we cut taxes and we put in governmental reductions in regulations ...."
Well. Where to begin? How about "if I've got those numbers right." Which he doesn't. To his credit, McCain is about right on interest rates. He's somewhat fuzzy on inflation, which peaked in the Carter administration, but never exceeded 14%. It was declining fast when Reagan took office, so let's call it 11%.
Where McCain blows it is employment. When Reagan took his oath of office, civilian unemployment was 7.5%; within a year, it was 8.6%, and within two years it was 10.8%. In other words, Reagan quickly helped push unemployment up to its postwar high.
Reagan didn't cut entitlements. Which is strange, really. The soi-disant "conservatives" like him, even though he tacitly continued the welfare state they used to complain about. Meanwhile, conservatives can't quit bitching about Clinton, who actually did enact massive welfare reform. All of which suggests that the people who call themselves conservatives in this country either (a) don't actually believe anything they say, or (b) can't count.
As for deregulation .... Hmm. Oh, yeah, Reagan deregulated like crazy. And how did that work out in the long run? Ask the airlines. Since the Reagan era, they have gone from flying comfortable jets and making a comfortable profit, down to bankrupt economic jokes flying airborne hellholes. Oh, make that terrifyingly unsafe airborne hellholes, since just yesterday, they had to ground big portions of the fleet. It turns out the FAA hasn't been making them inspect their planes. And are all struggling to stay in business. All told, we sort of like some regulation on our industries.
So McCain wants to take Reagan as his economic mentor? Get ready for him to double our present 5% unemployment rate, and cripple a few more of our industries. But hey, it won't all be bad news -- at least we'll get the dole back.