Reagan took office promising tax cuts and less government. His was an important reminder that we can't turn to the government for solutions to every problem. He was a big advocate of free markets.
What was the reality? Well, measuring taxes as a percentage of GDP, he did lower taxes from what they were under Jimmy Carter. In the four years under Carter, taxes averaged 18.4% of GDP. In the eight years under Reagan, they averaged 18.2%. So, not a particularly big cut in taxes, but what about spending?
Under Carter, spending as a percentage of GDP averaged 20.8%. Under Reagan it averaged 22.3%.
Hard to reconcile this with fiscal conservatism. Reagan dropped taxes .2% and raised spending 1.5% of GDP. Unsurprisingly, Reagan created big deficits, hardly the mark of a fiscal conservative.
George W. Bush actually reduced government spending as a percentage of GDP from his predecessor. Under Clinton, government spending averaged 19.8% of GDP. Bush got that down to 19.6%, a drop of .2%. That cut was small but the the cut in taxes was huge. Bush got those down 1.4% of GDP, from Clinton's 19% to 17.6%. Like Reagan, Bush drove up the deficit. Again, not a sign of fiscal conservatism.
Fiscal conservative is not the right term. Tax cutter is. But as I've argued before: if you merely lower your monthly payment on your credit card but don't actually lower your spending, you hardly qualify as a fiscal conservative. The miracle is, voters still seem to think that it does.