Green Room

Similar to 1981?

posted at 6:10 pm on February 15, 2010 by

Minnesota Majority, a conservative advocacy group, has made a nice video of Ronald Reagan from his first inaugural address (text here.) Here’s the video they made:

I like this passage. But what I found in MM’s description was this:

When Ronald Reagan took office on January 20, 1981, our nation was facing a terrible economic crisis, similar to what we are experiencing today. This video contains excerpts of Reagan’s first inaugural address. His prescription to solve the economic crisis was vastly different than the policies being pursued by the Obama administration.

Emphasis mine. But the speech describes a far different world than the one Obama is in. Reagan said:

These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our national history. It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people. Idle industries have cast workers into unemployment, human misery and personal indignity.

Those who do work are denied a fair return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity. But great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.

You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why then should we think that collectively, as a nation, we are not bound by that same limitation?

Who among us would think that story is similar to today? Inflation has not been an issue this past decade — if anything, we faced deflationary pressures in the recession and may yet face more. Tax rates in 1980, particularly on high-income earners, were much higher than they are now — in fact, twice as high at the top end. Productivity growth was substantially higher in the late 1980s and 1990s than in the 1970s, and so far has accelerated through this recession.

I certainly have said enough to readers to understand that I think Obama fiscal policy has made several missteps. But a simple hearkening to the days of the Gipper is a poor substitute to thinking through new policies.

This isn’t new. We have people constantly holding up conservatives against the Reagan yardstick and finding out nobody measures up. The recent kicking of Paul Ryan is but one example. But none of them would know what Reagan would have said about this current situation or how he would have voted. Rep. Ryan has explained his votes; you can draw your own conclusions, but suffice to say purity is a rare thing.

As are parallels between 1981 and 2008-09.

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The heart of the matter is that Reagan seems to have had the knowledge needed to get some expert advice, reviewed the history lessons available, applied some common sense and tossed in a good moral compass in forging an approach. Same thing could work today: unique problem, unique solution.

Robert17 on February 15, 2010 at 7:42 PM

Robert17 on February 15, 2010 at 7:42 PM

Perfectly stated. We don’t need Reagan Republicans or Reaganomics; we need conservative clarity on a unique problem.

I’m glad to see more writing that I interpret as argument against invoking Reagan’s 1980’s approach to the 2010 situation. However, I’m not so sure all those who have dubbed themselves as Reagan Republicans have the mettle to actually be one.

ericdijon on February 15, 2010 at 9:15 PM

To be fair, Reagan would have failed the purity nonsense also. Gov’t grew slightly under his watch. Yes, he had a Democrat Congress, but still.

The big issue, is that the future is uncertain, and Obama is doing all that he can to keep it that way. Reagan created an environment where the future held potential. That’s the big difference between Reagan and today.

It’s about the perception of the future, in Reagan’s days, businesses and individuals felt optimistic about the days ahead because of Reagan’s speeches and moves.

Today, Obama has the future looking like a dark and stormy place. He has zero plans to make people more confident about their future.

Obama thinks that if we know our healthcare and whatever else is paid for by the Gov’t, then we will be more optimistic. This is true if you are poor or lazy or unproductive. If you are a producer, then Obama’s plans lead to pessimistic approaches and tighter grasps on money, from banks, to seniors, to young adults, to investors.

uknowmorethanme on February 16, 2010 at 9:54 AM