Why doesn’t GOP follow the Gipper, 104 today?

Reagan choppingToday is Ronald Reagan’s 104th birthday. He died in 2004 at age 93. He has become a beloved figure for most Americans, even Democrats, much as President John F. Kennedy has for different reasons, including for Republicans.

JFK is remembered for the New Frontier, for staring down Khrushchev over Cuba, for early civil rights actions, for “Ich bin ein Berliner,” for youth, optimism and Jackie.

The Gipper is remembered for making America again “stand tall,” for “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!,” for restoring prosperity and for being the Great Communicator with a dash of Hollywood style.

The question I keep wondering about is: Why hasn’t any Republican since advocated Reagan’s economic recovery plan, which won him a landslide over President Carter in 1980, then propelled the country to strong economic growth that lasted until President George H.W. Bush raised taxes in 1990, sparking a recession? Indeed, the Reagan policies even were followed for the most part by President Clinton, who first raised taxes in 1993, then cut taxes three times with Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich from 1995 to 2000.

Reagan program

Reagan’s program was simple:

1. Cut taxes 33 percent across the board. Working with Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill, Reagan settled for 25 percent — good enough for government work.

Note that Reagan did not seek “targeted tax cuts,” “tax cuts only for the middle class” or some other complication. It was simple: 33 percent (25 percent in practice).

2. Stable money, with gold kept at about $350 an ounce. Helping Reagan was Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, a Democrat first appointed by Carter, then re-appointed by Reagan.

3. Spending restraint. Reagan was less effective here, as spending actually rose 90 percent during his eight years in office. Hence the record deficits of that day. Much of the problem was that Reagan built up defense spending to push the Soviet Union into bankruptcy, which worked. There’s no Soviet Union today, and current defense spending — even if one thinks that’s the right amount — is 40 percent what it was under Reagan.

Clinton also worked with Gingrich to restrain spending, resulting in the brief budget surpluses of the late 1990s.

4. Regulation and bureaucracy reform. Reagan could have done more here. But as the late Nobel economics laureate Milton Friedman used to point out, Reagan was the only post-World War II president who actually cut the number of pages of federal regulations.

All the other presidents, including Republicans Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford and the Bushes, increased the regulations all of us must obey, upon penalty of fine or an orange jump suit. And the last Bush, George W., brought into law one convoluted economic package after another, culminating in the financial crash of Sept. 2008.

Contrast

Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign came up with “Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth” — 160 pages of details nobody read, even me.

Can anybody remember anything from his economic plan — from this tome or from his stump speech or TV ads, which used the “Believe in America” theme? Which always reminded me of the “I believe in America” opening scent from the first “Godfather” film.

The point is: Why do Republicans always praise Reagan, and want to be associated with him — but don’t run with his popular and successful economic plan?

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

8 comments

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  1. SkippingDpg
    SkippingDpg 6 February, 2015, 14:23

    Contemporary Republicans don’t follow Reagan’s faith based economics because they know it doesn’t really work. Reagan’s massive defense build up provided an example of Keynesian economics at its finest, stimulating the overall economy with massive influxes of federal defense dollars. The “peace dividend” resulting from the closure of Cold War hostilities allowed us to reduce the size of our military, particularly since it had received such a large influx of money during the previous decade, all of it on credit. There is no current or anticipated foreign enemy that would require that level of defense build up, and the ships, planes, and arms systems purchased during Reagan’s tenure are at the end of their useful service life.

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  2. AdamSmith
    AdamSmith 7 February, 2015, 09:17

    It is amazing that anyone would advocate failed economic policies like Keynesian economics. Squandering money on nonproductive things and activities produces no wealth at any level from household to national. Shifting resources from the government to the private sector through tax reduction under Reagan gave the U.S. a booming economy for decades. It reversed the Keynesian malaise of the Carter years. The relatively short term military expenditures under Reagan eliminated an existential threat of the Soviets and freed the U.S. economy to invest in the private sector where assets that people really want are produced. Military expenditures do not spread wealth to any but a few weapons manufacturers and do not produce wealth any more than hiring more police does. Threats are reduced but wealth and productivity are not increased. This can only be done in the private sector as Reagan knew.

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  3. SeeSaw
    SeeSaw 7 February, 2015, 20:55

    How come the pundits who always extoll Reagan’s achievments never mention that he ushered in collective bargaining rights for public workers long before Jerry Brown was the Governor? The other thing I remember about Reagan: He gave the
    mentally ill residents the right to decide for
    themselves whether or not they want professional
    help and now, instead of being in Psychiatric
    Hospitals, they are wandering the streets and living in
    tents on the sidewalks.

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  4. AdamSmith
    AdamSmith 7 February, 2015, 21:01

    It is amazing that some misguided people still cling to debunked Keynesian economic theory. As Reagan knew, squandering money is not the way to prosperity at any level, household or federal government. It is the private sector that produces the goods and services people want and enhancing this sector through reduced taxes and smaller government results in prosperity. Defense spending only benefits a few defense contractors as no wealth is created any more than hiring more police creates prosperity. Additional defense spending by Reagan was necessary to win the cold war which resulted in a significant “peace dividend” later but building another bomb doesn’t provide prosperity. The Left likes Keynesianism because, like the Soviet Union, East Germany and North Korea, it leans toward greater government power and central planning to the detriment of the people it oppresses.

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  5. AdamSmith
    AdamSmith 7 February, 2015, 21:08

    It always amazes me that Reagan is criticized for the mentally ill now on our streets. He was governor of California in the 1960’s. We’ve had over 50 years of governors since Reagan, any one of whom could have changed this situation.

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    • SkippingDog
      SkippingDog 8 February, 2015, 12:59

      Two quick points, AdamSmith. Once Governor Reagan was able to shut down the state mental treatment institutions in favor of what he claimed would be cheaper “community based mental health” programs, it became practically impossible to recreate the previous mental health system. Unbreaking the egg, and all that.

      The vast expenditures on military equipment during the Reagen presidential administration were clearly Keynesian economics at work. When Reagan cut taxes and ran the largest annual deficits in history at that time, it was clearly an example of using the credit of the U.S. to provide stimulus through expenditures on military items. That’s why the aerospace industry of California did so well during that period, as did many other defense related businesses. That federal infusion of money moved throughout the economic system, allowing the defense industry workers to buy homes, cars, and other materials, while at the same time supporting the velocity of money through those supporting business ventures. You seem to forget that it was all federal money moving through the system, a clearly Keynesian approach that allowed Reagan and his apologists to claim their voodoo economics was the answer. Kansas is currently providing an example of tax cutting, faith-based economics when the executive doesn’t have the ability to create a budget deficit like Reagan did.

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  6. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 8 February, 2015, 13:04

    BTW, AdamSmith, even Forbes doesn’t credit Reagan with anything more than being the beneficiary of the Federal Reserve Chairman tightening interest rates and wringing the growing problem of inflation out of our 1970’s economy.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2014/09/18/the-obama-economy-vs-the-reagan-economy-its-literally-no-contest/2/

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    • Adamsmith
      Adamsmith 9 February, 2015, 11:17

      You are completely misrepresenting Forbes. One editorial by a contributor refers to both Reagan’s tax cuts and Volker’s raising interest rates as factors but the publication, and Steve Forbes in particular, attributes the economic boom to Reagan’s tax cuts 1981 Economic Recovery Act and Supply Side Economics.

      Governor Reagan’s decentralizing large “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” mental hospitals was part of a nation wide trend that could have been reversed any time in the last five decades. Numerous schools and prisons have been built. Why not mental hospitals if desired?

      Yes defense spending resulted in defense workers buying homes in Canoga Park and a few like areas but this did not create wealth throughout the country. Leaving money in the private sector of the whole country through reduced taxes created the boom. Products people wanted got produced and people had the money to buy them. Producing munitions to kill people may keep the wolf away from the door but it does not make for a productive society. Keynesians believe any big government centrally planned squandering of money is good. It isn’t as proved in the Soviet Union, East Germany and North Korea.

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John Seiler

John Seiler

John Seiler has been writing about California for 25 years. That includes 22 years as an editorial writer for the Orange County Register and two years for CalWatchDog.com, where he is managing editor. He attended the University of Michigan and graduated from Hillsdale College. He was a Russian linguist in U.S. Army military intelligence from 1978 to 1982. He was an editor and writer for Phillips Publishing Company from 1983 to 1986. He has written for Policy Review, Chronicles, LewRockwell.com, Flash Report and numerous other publications. His email: [email protected]

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