This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published April 13 2012 on The Washington Times website.
The Titanic went down 100 years ago, on April 15, 1912. It took just two hours and 40 minutes for the sea to swallow the ship that “God Himself couldn’t sink.”
It’s taken longer – a few decades – to sink the United States under massive debt, but we’re not at the sea bottom – yet. What happens in November may well determine whether we go there.
Politicians often cloak themselves in the mantle of statesmen from other eras who exemplified virtues that they lack. Barack Obama, like other politicians who sense Americans’ deep appreciation of Ronald Reagan, is out there invoking the Gipper. It’s like Pee-wee Herman quoting Chuck Norris.
On Wednesday, Mr. Obama recalled Reagan’s statement in 1985 to a high school audience about the injustice of a bus driver paying 10 percent of his income in taxes while a millionaire used loopholes to pay nothing. Of course, under a truly fair tax, the millionaire would pay the same rate, but more dollars. Reagan did close some loopholes, and he lowered tax rates across the board. His reforms were not remotely akin to Obama-style income redistribution.
Mr. Obama tried to make Reagan the inspiration for the “Buffett rule,” a proposal to soak people making a million or more that is named after investor and tax dodger Warren Buffett.
“Some years ago,” Mr. Obama said, “one of my predecessors traveled across the country pushing for the same concept. … That wild-eyed socialist, tax-hiking class warrior was Ronald Reagan. … If it will help convince folks in Congress to make the right choice, we could call it the ‘Reagan Rule’ instead of the ‘Buffett Rule.’ “
Mr. Obama ignored the fact that Reagan cut the top tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent and turned around a moribund economy by reversing progressive tax disincentives to investment and job creation.
Unlike Mr. Obama, he did not have an adoring, sycophantic press. In a speech last October at Hillsdale College, historian Andrew Roberts said “The defining feature of Ronald Reagan was his moral courage. It takes tremendous moral courage to resist the overwhelming tide of received opinion and so-called expert wisdom and to say and do exactly the opposite.”
When air traffic controllers went on strike in 1981, challenging the new president’s mettle, Reagan fired 11,000 of them. The sky did not fall. Nor did any planes.
When he launched the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the media ridiculed it as “Star Wars.” They were so out of touch that they didn’t know most Americans loved that heroic film trilogy. In 1983, to liberal hysteria, Reagan proclaimed the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” Four years later, he went to Berlin and said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” More liberal hysteria. Two years later, in November 1989, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. By 1991, the Soviet Union had collapsed.
In 1992, Vladimir Lukin, a Soviet foreign-policy expert and ambassador to the U.S., admitted, according to Mr. Roberts, “It is clear that SDI accelerated our catastrophe by at least five years.”
Meanwhile, amid liberal cries that Reagan was kicking orphans into the snow, America’s economy soared under his economic policies. Pretty good for an ignorant cowboy. I was at the Los Angeles Times working as a news editor during Reagan’s terms in the Oval Office. Many in the newsroom often expressed disgust, which signaled to me that he was doing the right thing.
By contrast, Mr. Obama’s foreign policy is appeasement, and his strategy for governing and for re-election is boilerplate Marxism: confiscatory taxation, income redistribution and class warfare; rich against poor; whites against blacks; Republicans against women; green activists against industrialists; homosexual activists against Christians and Jews; oil and coal companies against the planet; the Supreme Court against Obamacare, and Occupy Wall Street against basic hygiene.
But this titanic cultural and political struggle we are undergoing is about more than Mr. Obama. A litany of negative cultural influences has brought America to the brink of bankruptcy, decadence and decline. Anyone who isn’t brain dead knows America is at a crossroads.
Karl Marx thought economics dictate culture. But it’s really the other way around. When people worship false gods, they lose their God-given freedoms and prosperity and fall into dependency.
The left has turned government into a false god. If not countered by a citizenry versed in personal responsibility and God-given unalienable rights, that false god cripples its competitors – the family, churches and community groups – what Edmund Burke called the “little platoons” of civilization. Obamacare’s attack on Catholic hospitals is only the beginning if that monstrous law is not overturned or repealed.
We don’t have to imagine what Ronald Reagan would have thought of Obamacare. Long before he became president, he recorded a video against socialized medicine. You can find it at theccpp.org, the website of the Carleson Center for Public Policy – by clicking on “The Reagan Resolve,” a compilation of Reagan’s actions and statements on domestic policy that tells us what he would do if he were here today.
Reagan’s first deal with the Democrats was a promise of $3 in cuts for every new dollar in taxes. You can guess what happened. The tax hikes went into effect, but the cuts did not. In fact, spending went up. Reagan did not forget this. His subsequent policies led to the longest sustained recovery in history.
Unfortunately, his successors kept buying the liberal moonshine, hoping against history that they were dealing with honest brokers. When Republicans “reach across the aisle,” they come back looking like Captain Hook.
We are indeed in a titanic battle of worldviews. One of them will refloat America’s economy, guided by the Constitution and America’s heritage; the other will sink it like a rock.
It’s too bad that tax time, which inspires reflection on government spending, is not closer to Election Day. Mr. Obama’s absurd attempt to compare himself to Ronald Reagan would be fresher in the public mind.