Time for Reagan's American Optimism
Happy New Year! Welcome to one of the most critical years in America's history. The economy continues to limp along. Many citizens are unemployed or underemployed; even more are at the end of their financial rope. Polls indicate that both the president and congress have lost the trust of most Americans. Many are equally frustrated with the slate of Republican candidates who are emerging in the primaries. But in 2012, we will elect a president to lead us into an uncertain future fraught with both challenges and opportunities. Will the coming years be the new "good old days" for America or is America destined for decline?
While President Obama and his potential challengers try to convince us to put our confidence in them, it may be time to take inspiration from one of America's most beloved presidents.
On a recent trip to the Reagan Presidential Library I was struck over and over again by the confidence President Ronald Reagan had in Americans--in American workers, leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, the young and the old. Quote after quote leaped off the walls and from the video clips. Any candidate today would do well to embrace and adopt his unflappable American optimism.
Though adapted from many disconnected quotes, here is a New Year's letter true to his words that he might write to us today...
My Fellow Americans,
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day you will spend your sunset years telling your children and your children’s children what it was once like in the United States when you were free.
Once again America faces difficult times and an important election. May I remind you that “status quo" is Latin for “the mess we are in.” A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. Recovery is when President Obama loses his.
Now, I’m not taking your time to ask you to trust me or any leader. Instead, I ask you to trust yourself. That is what America is all about. It’s the power of millions of people like you who will determine what will make America great again.
For the solutions America seeks must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price. All must contribute to the turnaround, but don't fear. You still have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that you’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look. They’re the individuals and families whose taxes support the government and those whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art and education. Their patriotism is deep, and their values sustain our national life.
They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. You must have the courage to do what you know is morally right. You have a rendezvous with destiny. In 2012, you will make a choice that will preserve for your children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or you will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness.
But who among you would trade America’s future for that of any other country in the world? And who could possibly have so little faith in the American people that they would trade your tomorrow’s for your yesterdays?
When I was your president, I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence not your doubts. I implore you not to put your confidence in big government or any leader; have confidence in yourself. That's what has always made America strong, and, God willing, you will do so again.
Ron Paul, Reagan, and Republican Youth
In the twenty plus years that I have worked as a conservative activist, I’ve spoken on almost 200 university campuses. Usually these are talks to campus Republican and conservative groups.
Over time I have observed changes in attitude among many young Republicans and I believe the shifts in attitude I see help explain the rise of Ron Paul.
When I first started lecturing early in the 1990’s, leading heroes of Republican youth were Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley, Jr.
Individual freedom, respect for constitutional limitations on government, and traditional values was the message. There was a sense of purpose. America as a “shining city on a hill,” quoted so often by Reagan, taken from the Puritan pilgrim John Winthrop, captured the picture.
Now, increasing numbers of my campus hosts ask that I not talk about “values.” Leave out the stuff about marriage, family, and abortion, please, and just talk about the economy.
The materialism and moral relativism that created our left wing culture is now infecting our youth on the right. Young Republicans may be pushing back on government, but too often now their motivation is like their left wing contemporaries. A sense of entitlement and an interest in claiming rights with little interest in corresponding personal responsibilities.
David Yepsen, who directs the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, recently described Ron Paul's success as a "resurgence of the libertarian and isolationist wings of the Republican Party," resulting from "hard times and unpopular wars."
But overlooked is the important role of youth. Of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents that support Paul, 67 percent are under 34, compared to 37 percent of Romney’s and 20 percent of Gingrich’s support.
This youthful surge has helped Paul’s very successful fundraising, heavily driven by small contributions on the internet. Compared to Republicans who have raised the most funds, 48 percent of Paul’s is from small donors, compared to 10 percent of Romney’s and 4 percent of Rick Perry’s.
And youth have been critical in Paul’s on the ground organization. I watched this play out when Paul won the straw poll at the Values Voters Summit in Washington where I spoke last October.
Busloads of youthful Paul supporters arrived only to hear his speech and to pay and register so that they could vote. They put him over the top.
They have little interest in a Reagan-like “shining city on a hill” message, or talk about a threatening “evil empire” abroad. To the contrary, they are excited by the “leave me alone” candidate who thinks the rest of the world is not our business. Apparently they share Paul’s indifference to the looming threat of a nuclear Iran or the almost complete absence of the freedom they think is so important in most Islamic nations.
Chicago Sun Times columnist Steve Huntley reports one estimate of over 200,000 persecuted Coptic Christians leaving Egypt by year end. He reports a dramatic drop in the presence of Christians throughout the Middle East (the Christian population of Bethlehem is now a third of what it was 35 years ago).
The only exception is Israel, where the Christian population has more than quadrupled since 1948. But Ron Paul sees no distinction between Israel and its neighbors nor does he think Americans should care.
Self centered materialism that leads our youth to support such indifference to global realities is also driving collapse of the American family.
Census Bureau statistics show that today 20 percent of America’s population between ages 18 and 29 is married. This compared to 59 percent fifty years ago.
In his farewell speech, Reagan issued a warning to the nation: “…are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world?”
I doubt that Ron Paul’s vision of America is what Reagan had in mind.
Ominous parallels between Obama, Roosevelt grow
By Walter Williams
People are beginning to compare Barack Obama's administration to the failed administration of Jimmy Carter, but a better comparison is to the Roosevelt administration of the 1930s and '40s.
Let's look at it with the help of a publication from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Foundation for Economic Education titled "Great Myths of the Great Depression," by Lawrence Reed.
During the first year of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, he called for increasing federal spending to $10 billion while revenues were only $3 billion.
Between 1933 and 1936, government expenditures rose by more than 83 percent. Federal debt skyrocketed by 73 percent. Roosevelt signed off on legislation that raised the top income tax rate to 79 percent and then later to 90 percent.
Hillsdale College economics historian and professor Burt Folsom -- author of "New Deal or Raw Deal?" -- notes that in 1941, Roosevelt even proposed a 99.5 percent marginal tax rate on all incomes more than $100,000. When a top adviser questioned the idea, Roosevelt replied, "Why not?"
Roosevelt had other ideas for the economy, including the National Recovery Act. Reed says:
"The economic impact of the NRA was immediate and powerful. In the five months leading up to the act's passage, signs of recovery were evident: Factory employment and payrolls had increased by 23 and 35 percent, respectively.
"Then came the NRA, shortening hours of work, raising wages arbitrarily and imposing other new costs on enterprise. In the six months after the law took effect, industrial production dropped 25 percent."
Blacks were especially hard hit by the NRA. Black spokesmen and the black press often referred to the NRA as the "Negro Run Around," Negroes Rarely Allowed," "Negroes Ruined Again," "Negroes Robbed Again," "No Roosevelt Again" and the "Negro Removal Act."
Fortunately, the courts ruled the NRA unconstitutional. As a result, unemployment fell to 14 percent in 1936 and lower by 1937.
Roosevelt had more plans for the economy, namely the National Labor Relations Act, better known as the "Wagner Act." This was a payoff to labor unions, and with these new powers, labor unions went on a militant organizing frenzy that included threats, boycotts, strikes, seizures of plants, widespread violence and other acts that pushed productivity down sharply and unemployment up dramatically.
In 1938, Roosevelt's New Deal produced the nation's first depression within a depression. The stock market crashed again, losing nearly 50 percent of its value between August 1937 and March 1938, and unemployment climbed back to 20 percent.
Columnist Walter Lippmann wrote in March 1938 that "with almost no important exception every measure [Roosevelt] has been interested in for the past five months has been to reduce or discourage the production of wealth."
Roosevelt's agenda was not without its international admirers. The chief Nazi newspaper, Volkischer Beobachter, repeatedly praised "Roosevelt's adoption of National Socialist strains of thought in his economic and social policies," and "the development toward an authoritarian state" based on the "demand that collective good be put before individual self-interest."
Roosevelt himself called Benito Mussolini "admirable" and professed that he was "deeply impressed by what he [had] accomplished."
FDR's very own Treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, saw the folly of the New Deal, writing: "We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. ... We have never made good on our promises. ... I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started ... and an enormous debt to boot!"
The bottom line is that Roosevelt's New Deal policies turned what would have been a three- or four-year sharp downturn into a 16-year affair.
The 1930s depression was caused by and aggravated by acts of government, and so was the current financial mess that we're in. Do we want to repeat history by listening to those who created the calamity? That's like calling on an arsonist to help put out a fire.
A book for our times
One small American town offers lessons that the whole of America needs at the moment.
REVIEW of "The JOB Messiahs" a history of the Port of Coos Bay in Oregon
There has been a lot of space dedicated on this blog documenting the failed economic development efforts in Coos County paid for at taxpayer expense and much of that directed specifically at the Port of Coos Bay but it seems I have barely scratched the surface of a decades long system that plunders state and federal treasuries all in the name of government sponsored economic development.
Local author, Wim de Vriend has compiled a long history that proves Einstein’s oft quoted axiom, “You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.”
The JOB Messiahs, How government destroys our prosperity and our freedoms to “create jobs” is a twenty year effort by the author to chronicling from the 1970s when the Port of Coos Bay decided to become an economic development agency and the series of follies that followed: “…the Crosline Ferry, the unused T-Dock, money losing fish plants in Charleston, an obnoxious fish-waste plant that went broke, the unused barge-slip on the North Spit, and many more.”
It belies the local myth that “if you build it, they will come”, so commonly employed by the economic development crowd. De Vriend’s effort is a vivid reminder of the past promotional schemes, eerily similar to those we see today, like a coal export terminal in the eighties promising JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, and proudly trumpeted by the local press.
He makes the compelling argument that the Port policies thwart small business development, the real engine behind job creation. The title of his book describes people known as Industrial Recruiters, or as Economic Development Specialists, or maybe, he adds with a wink, “the Executive Director of the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay.” So why call them JOB-Messiahs? “. . . because small towns hungry for JOBS see them as saviors, and they are delighted to play the part. But they are no saviors, and what few JOBS they cause to appear are not worth the expense.”
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