The Last Great Conspiracy Theory?

 

conspiracytheorybig

Have we reached the last great conspiracy theory? We have been watching a conspiracy theory tennis tournament play out between the Democrats and the Republicans at least since 2012. The Benghazi tennis ball has been smashed back and forth for ages because the damning revelations were supposed to be timed to interfere with the 2016 election. Finally the anticlimactic report of the last Benghazi investigation (we hope it is the last because it’s costing the American people big bucks) concludes that all evidence suggests that Hillary Clinton was not guilty of any wrongdoing in this devastating attack in Libya. There was no assistance that could have arrived in time to save our people in Benghazi and Hillary Clinton was not, as many stated, asleep at the most crucial moments.

The fact that Hillary Clinton used a private server while at the State Department was the one juicy piece of info that came out of the Benghazi investigations. The Republicans put the Benghazi investigation to rest because they gleefully imagined that Hillary would be indicted by the FBI for something, treason, I guess. This seems a rather hyperbolic outcome to wish for given that it would suggest that Hillary is a seer who knew that the attacks in Benghazi would happen when she became Secretary of State and planned in advance to cover her tracks. But it sort of fits the Lucifer label that Republicans tried to attach to her at the RNC last week. (Republicans have a thing about Lucifer – they are so paranoid about the UN that they speak of something called the Luciferian Church of the UN, which does not exist.) I suspect they are saying that if Hillary is Lucifer on earth she could have known about the Benghazi attacks in advance. If you have to use this kind of bizarre reasoning to get where you want to go wouldn’t it seem that it is time to backtrack and start over, or just be quiet?

So now the GOP is left with just one more tennis ball to bat around and they must try to make the volley last until Hillary is tarred and feathered just before people go to the polls because Republicans cannot win this election without sliming their opponent, considering the caliber of their own candidate. This final round of our conspiracy tournament involves the Clinton Foundation and the arms deals made by the State Department while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. It is possible that these are two separate spheres that simply look like they overlap (a simple conflict of interest), or it is also possible that there was collusion between Bill and Hillary and that her arms deals while in the State Department were actually tied to the donations made to the Clinton Foundation. I have spoken before about the difficulty with seeing simple cause-effect relationships in complex matters. You must carefully connect the dots to prove that the money given to the Clinton Foundation was indeed used to influence arms deals in the State Department. The optics are bad, but is there actually any connection?

I don’t recall a time when we have had a husband and wife team where each partner had aspirations for the Presidency of the United States of America. Had the times been different for women would Eleanor Roosevelt have made a great Presidential candidate? Possibly. But that moment did not happen. But we are fifty plus years past those days. We now have a past President, Bill Clinton, doing his post Presidential best to help save the people on the planet from poverty and exploitation. And we have Hillary Clinton who believes she can do a good job as our first female President. I assume Bill Clinton’s goals are altruistic. Others assume he is using the Clinton Foundation to increase his personal wealth and bankroll his wife’s election campaign. People who hypothesize about this know that such activities are illegal and yet they believe that Bill and Hillary Clinton are so powerfully connected and privileged that they will not only steal from a charitable foundation with the family name right on it but also that their guilt will be covered up by powerful people. That all sounds pretty diabolical. But is it true?

Furthermore the argument goes on to say that Hillary drummed up contributions for the family charity while she made her rounds as Secretary of State and that she traded State Department arms deals for those contributions. There are the charts hanging out on the internet that look pretty damning.   http://www.ibtimes.com/clinton-foundation-donors-got-weapons-deals-hillary-clintons-state-department-1934187\

clinton foundation chart 1 big

 

 

clinton foundation chart 2 big

 

Yikes! I can see why people get all exercised over this. But just because events are contiguous does not prove a cause-effect relationship. If there is a true cause and effect connection between these two sets of data then perhaps Bill and Hillary Clinton should be in jail. But, even though Hillary’s judgment was called into question on the email server decision, it would take some pretty stunningly unrealistic rationalizations for the Clintons to sell arms through the State Department in exchange for campaign contributions from foreign governments and make those funds look like charitable donations. Why would anyone expect to get away with something so blatantly illegal when contemplating a run for the highest office in our nation? I still do not accept that the Clintons are corrupt enough to plan and execute a scheme like this. I believe that the Clinton Foundation is Bill’s project and does have charitable goals. I also believe that Hillary did not go around the globe trading ostensibly charitable contributions from foreign governments for arms offered to foreign nations by the State Department. Connect the dots if you can. If you can’t retire the ball and get off the court and end this third round of the great conspiracy tennis tournament.

 

 

IRS, No IRS, the ACA and the flat tax – Sexy

 
 
While watching Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday evening, June 5,
2013, my ears were sort of quiescent as they were being assaulted with more of
the usual Republican bile about the 157 times that Mr. Shulman of the IRS
visited the White House during the past four years, and the sad tales of small-time
Tea Party 501(C)(4) filers who got audited, and Bill O’Reilly opining that all
this definitely gives powerful credence to Obama’s involvement in profiling and
targeting right wing political groups. The problem is that the clues are not
adding up the way the GOP would like. It turns out that Mr. Shulman of the IRS
was cleared to attend meetings at the White House 157 times, but he only
appeared at the White House 11 times over the past four years. Apparently
people have to sign in when they actually enter the White House and its precincts.
As to the tears of Tea Partiers we can all relate. Not one of us would enjoy
being audited by the IRS, especially with the intensity of perusal these folks
were subjected to. But most of us would not file a 501 (C)(4) either. Because
of the nature of this tax form and tax classification and because of the huge
number of these organizations that have filed since Obama took office, it makes
perfect sense that the IRS would do an in-depth investigation of these groups.
So, although this may look like something a person trying to win an election
might do, no connection to the President has been found so far. As for Bill
O’Reilly’s opinion and the footage he aired of Senator Issa convicting Obama
because of what his gut tells him, neither of these things represents any
empirical data nor even a concrete lead.

However, all of a sudden my ears perked up because I heard
something new, something I hadn’t thought of. I heard a Senator say that given
the chaos within the IRS it would be impossible for the IRS to perform the new
duties connected to the Affordable Care Act. This brought me to a real ah-ha
moment because I know how hard the Republicans have worked to get rid of
Obama’s Health Care plan. I am astounded that I didn’t see this coming. If the
GOP cannot connect the dots between the IRS and the oval office, they can still
win by driving a huge IRS wedge in front of the ACA, hopefully postponing the
ability of the IRS to add the people it needs to add in order to deal with the
additional load that Health Care documentation will require. And so, for
logistical reasons, the administration might have to postpone implementation of
the Affordable Care Act and, if the GOP can stop this plan which they call
Obama Care, then the Party will not need to vote for repeal for the 38th
time, and they will have succeeded in derailing Obama’s biggest accomplishment.
They just keep pulling these rotten apples out of their pockets and displaying them as if they were fresh fruit. I’m still a
bit astounded by this tactic which I did not see coming. If only all this Machiavellian
strategy was at work to create jobs and invent clean energy solutions and
better schools, then America would be winning instead of watching a bunch of
old men turn Washington into a mud wrestling pit. Elect Democrats in 2014. It
is our only hope.

Following fast on the heels of Tuesday night’s exercise in
creative governance we see a movement to do away with the IRS completely!
Yikes! First of all think about the soaring unemployment. A lot of people work
for the IRS or in IRS related businesses. Second of all, we would still pay
taxes, even in a same-flat-tax-for-all scenario. Who would we pay our taxes
to? Who would make sure we paid our taxes correctly? Who would go after people
who did not pay their taxes? If there were no IRS, taxes might seem optional.
Despite these rather hefty disadvantages, this plan would have one great
advantage, at least if you are a Republican, it would finally, once and for
all, end Obama Care, aka the Affordable Care Act. Getting the drop on Obama
obviously trumps continued employment for Americans. If we are going to have
smaller government all these people need to find jobs elsewhere anyway, so let’s
just dump them all into the job market at once and see if they sink or swim. It
will be a real test if we also take away all the “taker” programs and see if
these ex-IRS people can become “makers”. If you dread this extreme social
experiment, then elect Democrats in 2014. It is our only hope.

Brainwashed

 
 
Obama acts like a man grappling with a big problem. His
approach is flexible and nimble within limits. He can respond to new ideas and
amend his strategy if necessary. His opponents act like robots. They intone the
same economic policy again and again and have not changed at all over the last
four years. How is that possible? They appear to be single-minded zombies
controlled by their extreme base. Their very inflexibility makes them
worrisome. They don’t seem to respond to new trends, to economists, or to their
colleagues. Nothing changes their prescription for the future, certainly not
the reality of what has happened when their strategies have been applied and
found wanting in Europe.

Austerity has not brought growth in Europe and I am
convinced that it will not bring prosperity to America; first, because so many
economists say it won’t and, second, because common sense suggests that it is
impossible for the economy to grow if no one tries to grow it. But the
Republicans, even with the advantage of having had someone try out the strategy
they recommend right before our eyes and having it fail, have not changed a
word of their doomsday message. Why? They seem to be so blinded by dogma that
they can only ignore contrary evidence and repeat their nay saying. Their very
inflexibility smacks of a group who must stick to a script and not deviate from
it in any particulars. Doesn’t the word “brainwashed” sort of come to mind?
Spooky!
 
 

It is important for us to keep Republicans from achieving
their economic agenda which includes their prescription for small government.
Since they consistently support the wealthy and protect them from having to
contribute to America in the form of paying more taxes, we must consider
ourselves, the not rich, at war with the GOP; a war to win votes. They
definitely see themselves in a war to win votes. Why else would they want to
get rid of that section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which requires certain
states to clear voting changes with the federal courts? Obviously they have
pointed out the exact section of the Voting Rights Act that we need to
preserve. When that section is truly no longer needed there will be no
controversy about it.

An article in the NYT’s this morning (March 7, 2013) by
Thomas B. Edsall discusses in great detail ways that Social Security and
Medicare can be saved without means testing or raising the retirement age.
Edsall points out how each of these suggestions have been approved by the GOP
because they still protect the wealthiest Americans from having to pay any more
taxes (even though he agrees that US taxes are the lowest they have been since
1950). Could you live on the salary someone made in 1950? I doubt it. My father
supported a family of ten in the 50’s on a salary of $10,000, although
certainly not without operating in crisis mode almost all of the time. Edsall
says we could easily save Social Security. Here is what he had to say about why
we should not favor means testing:  

“First, insofar as benefits for the affluent are reduced or
eliminated under means-testing, social insurance programs are no longer
universal and are seen, instead, as a form of welfare. Public support would
almost certainly decline, encouraging further cuts in the future.

Second, the focus on means-testing and raising the age of
eligibility diverts attention from a much simpler and more equitable approach:
raising the payroll tax to apply to the earnings of the well-to-do, a step
strongly opposed by the ideological right.

In
this kind of conflict over limited goods, one of the most valuable resources
that can get lost in the fray is the wisdom of the electorate at large.

Third, and most important in terms of the policy debate,
while both means-testing and eliminating the $113,700 cap on earnings subject
to the payroll tax hurt the affluent, the latter would inflict twice as much
pain.”

Here
he discusses the impact on the wealthy:

“Contrary
to the claims Heritage (The Heritage Foundation) is making, current levels of
federal taxation are at historically low levels, and the increases needed to
finance restoration of the Social Security trust fund will not break the bank.

Federal
tax revenues in 2009, 2010 and 2011 have been 15.1
percent, 15.1 percent and 15.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product, lower than
any level since 1950.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the
amount of new revenue required to bring the Social Security trust fund into
balance over the next 75 years would amount to 0.6 percent of G.D.P.

The
same C.B.O. document presents a series of alternative ways to achieve such a
goal, including the elimination of the current $113,700 cap on income subject
to the Social Security payroll tax. If the cap or ceiling were lifted, the
amount of money raised would be 0.6 percent of G.D.P., the exact amount of
income needed to get Social Security out of the red — a striking coincidence”

Here’s the link to the NYT’s
article and it contains plenty of the charts and graphs so beloved by the GOP:.

The Republican strategy that stresses America’s deficit and asks
us to tighten our belts has been presented to us over and over again, sometimes
as an impassioned plea to save our children from inheriting our debt, sometimes
as  an appeal to “reason”, sometimes as threats that America will end up like
Europe or Greece. Since the Republicans seem to believe this message so
strongly, we begin to question our economists and our own common sense which
tells us that the GOP is not on our side. Small government does not really
benefit those of us who are not rich, especially at a time when our employment
opportunities are in transition and so many of us cannot find appropriate work
that will allow us to support our families and grow the wealth of our families.

The GOP has been trying to make us feel guilty, to feel as
if we are robbing the wealthy to subsidize the poor. But our Mr. Edsall from
this morning’s NYT’s is calling their bluff and saying not so much. He suggests
that it would cost the wealthy very little to stabilize the social safety net
and rescue seniors who are being especially harmed by the current job market
and who cannot afford to lose any of the monies that they were promised and
that they paid for with their FICA contributions. He further suggests that by
taxing themselves at rates that are close to those for the 1950’s the wealthy are
out of sync with the present and actually should be paying more taxes given
that 1950 rates are inappropriate in 2012.

We need to keep pushing back against the “brainwashed”
Republicans who are trying to brainwash us. We need to keep saying no to the “fixes”
they suggest for the safety net and we need to keep finding ways to get more
revenue by dismantling the privileged tax rates that the “elite” are looking to
the GOP to protect. It will not be easy to push back against the rich, the
powerful, and the actually “entitled” because they have been getting their way
for quite some time and because their wealth does give them a lot a power. What
we are really fighting for is our Democracy. Will America truly be a government
“of the people, by the people and for the people” or will it end up just the
oligarchy that it is trying so hard to become. Can we relegate the rich to just
one group of Americans or will they become the only Americans who matter?

 

If You Can’t Buy a Law Maker, Buy a Political Party

Corporations obviously expect to have an influence on Mitt Romney’s campaign because they are pumping huge amounts of money into it. Once Mitt Romney gets the official nomination at the GOP convention he will “come into” a really big sum of money (according to the WSJ) only available to an official nominee.
You have to ask yourself why corporations are piling money into the Romney campaign and, of course, there is his enthusiastic espousal of things like cutting corporate tax rates and getting rid of regulations that create barriers for businesses to do as they please. With an administration sensitive to the needs of corporations they could have their way in arenas like those pesky environmental considerations, pay scales, benefits, energy sources, free trade and the whole panoply of items on their wish lists. Wouldn’t you give your money to someone if they promised to give you your heart’s desire? The corporations are barely part of our communities any longer but they still exert the power of their wealth in Washington and since law makers are hopeful that they can bring these corporation back to the U.S. if they can create the perfect set of conditions many lawmakers are ready to pass laws that please big business.  Then they will be heroes for bringing back jobs. We do need jobs, but letting corporations dictate the policies America makes in Washington is not what we ever wanted.
After all, isn’t corporate influence in Washington one of the “biggies” on our list of things that we would like to change about the way our government functions these days? Aren’t they a big part of the “special interest groups” that we say are buying our Congress people? Haven’t we felt that corporations have been calling the shots, playing “Let’s Make A Deal”? I know the Supreme Court says that corporations are people. However, I don’t think our forefathers intended to write “of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations” into the Constitution.
Oddly enough, as I said, in these days when many of our corporations have deserted us for larger profits in Asia and elsewhere, their influence does seem even stronger. Of course we all yearn for the good old affluent days of plentiful jobs. Corporations are in great demand. Everyone wants one. We can’t blame them for trying to have their cake and eat it too. We can blame what has become acceptable behavior in Washington; if you can’t buy an elected law maker (and perhaps you still can), buy a political party. Isn’t this a kind of political blackmail; I’ll pay for your campaign but only if you ditch the federal environmental requirements. Isn’t this the very definition of a quid pro quo that should be guarded against in a democracy?
We would love to have the corporations back in our communities. We miss them. Will we sell out the soul of America and all that we represent to create the conditions they say they require to profit? If we do we will never get the corporations out of our government. Money is powerful, and if government favors can be bought then money becomes all powerful. Then we will truly be an oligarchy instead of a democracy. So if we follow the money that is coming into Romney’s campaign we can’t vote for him because we will be getting exactly what we have been saying we did not want. There will never be a better chance to free our democracy from undue corporate influence and from the practice of putting the will of the people up for sale.

Mitt Romney and Pretty Woman

Mitt Romney, in ad after ad, speech after speech, promises us that if we elect him as our President he will “fix” our economy and set it moving again. He implies that his business sense is so good that he will know exactly what to do to bring back good jobs and middle-class affluence. He was a successful businessman and he did make millions of dollars, although he seems to have enriched himself in the same way that Edward did in Pretty Woman. He didn’t make anything or create any thing; he bought and sold companies, took them apart, sometimes shipped them overseas and was often responsible for firing people. Now we are told that, also like Edward, he wants to come back from the dark side (I know, mixed movie references) and help build the American economy once again. But he is a Republican, and he will be locked in to the current GOP mantra that small government (translate as end “entitlements”), a huge military, and tax cuts for everyone including the wealthiest Americans will do the trick. This is the course he will have to pursue; this is the bargain he has made to be President.
So if you believe that austerity is the path to prosperity you will believe Romney’s promises. If you believe that putting money in the pockets of wealthy people will encourage them to invest in small businesses and start-ups, then you will want Mitt Romney to be our next President, because he will rubber stamp the GOP party line. He is also in the good old boys club (he’s white) (he’s rich) (he knows lots of corporate movers and shakers) so no one will threaten to put a stop to his agenda from Day One; instead Congress will be chock full of Republicans passing bill after bill in support of the agenda they have been insisting on for the past three years. If we let these people win after all they have done to stonewall, all they have done to keep us from seeing if a less austere approach that offered a combination of cuts and injections of economic stimulation would have worked, then we deserve to follow Europe into financial disarray.
Maybe Mitt Romney will be able to get things done, after all the Republicans will not stonewall him, he is their beast. Whether or not the things he gets done will be good for America remains to be seen, but since he can only back those who “have” and not those who “have-not” life may get pretty grim for some of us (the middle class) while he conducts the “Great Republican Economic Experiment.” In a sense he will be putting us on the roof of his car along with his dog, he will assume that we like it up there, and we will fend for ourselves as best we can. And the regrettable stubbornness of the GOP will look more and more like racism and classism (and sexism).

The Single-Minded Party

One of the most difficult things for me to accept from the Republican Party has been their nearly single-minded attempt to protect the wealth of their richest constituents (can’t ignore their attacks on women’s health concerns either), as if they have no members who are not wealthy. When they fight for small government they mean they want the government to get its hands off their dollars. When they throw our benefits and our safety net under the bus it is because they recognize that honoring these promises will probably cost them more money. When they stuff the Supreme Court so they can get a decision like Citizen’s United they are protecting their profits and standing with corporations over the rest of us for financial reasons. When they sign a pledge written by a stand-up comedian that they know will be binding (have they been threatened, have they been hypnotized, are they being blackmailed), a pledge which says they will not raise taxes in any way, they are still protecting their bank accounts, both on and off shore.
It’s not wrong to look after your earnings and to not want them squandered. It’s not wrong unless you have arranged to corner the market on money and have basically stolen it through skewed tax codes, tax loopholes, budgets, laws, and rules. It is wrong to kick other Americans when they are down, to act as if American workers are lazy and unproductive and greedy and have brought the calumny on themselves. American workers did join unions. We all can learn the lessons on unrestricted Capitalism from the history of our own nation. Unions always tried to negotiate raises in pay. That is the way the American economy works, everything is always supposed to keep rising, rising, rising on clouds of optimism and prosperity. Things did not keep rising. Unions did not accept what was happening and kept trying for business as usual. This was not wrong, just short-sighted. This does not take away from the productivity of the American worker or the quality products they made.
We can certainly understand that American workers are probably a bit “gob-smacked”.. Before this when they lost a job they could get another job. Now they are told they don’t have the necessary skills. They are told there are no jobs. They are told that their investments have lost value, their homes have lost value, their cars are polluters, their pensions are bankrupt and they are bad people for expecting the government to back them up. Our governments (federal, state, and local)  are also suffering from the downturn in our economy and are worried that they will be putting themselves on a financial ledge if they honor the America people by continuing to provide the safety net. In some places where overly generous promises were made, safety net costs are driving governments to bankruptcy. Rich people have a fearful vision of their hard-earned (really?)(how many CEO’s require back surgery when they retire) incomes disappearing into a money pit of impoverished and shiftless humanity and they look to the GOP to protect their partly well-deserved and partly bloated gains.
We cannot afford to elect people who have such a selfish, one-sided agenda. In order for America to thrive we need opportunities across the board, not just for the 1%. As I always say, most of us cannot afford to be Republicans right now.

Just after I posted my blog for today I found this is the opinion section of the local newspaper. This guy feels the same way I do. Take a moment to listen if you have the time.

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Winning by Stealth and Circumstance

If you watched Grover Norquist on CNN this Sunday afternoon on Fareed Zakaria GPS then you are probably feeling either quite secure, or like me, you are astounded at the audacity of this man, or, also like me, you are shaking in your boots because you afraid that what he says may be true. I have been impressed with the Republican chutzpah which has allowed them, even though they lost in 2008, to use America’s economic woes and a President who naively wanted to be inclusive to hijack the political dialogue in America. They have seized this as the perfect moment to exploit a crisis and get limited government, no tax increases for the wealthy, deregulation, and to overturn both the Obama Health Care revisions and the laws that allow abortions (Roe v. Wade).
Some of us may think that we are still fighting against these initiatives (albeitin a sort of wimpy way), but I am afraid that the battle is going to be won by a group that has held together and pushed its agenda nonstop. I have never heard anyone’s ideas stated as clearly and as often as the Republicans over the last four years. Because of the help they are getting from behing the scenes, because of the failure of the Supercommittee, because of the state of the American economy, and because of the straitjacket they have place on Congress they are winning their agenda by stealth and by circumstance.
After seeing Grover Norquist’s self-satisfied face on Sunday afternoon I am thinking that the American agenda is actually being manipulated by those “gray men” of literary fame who pull the strings from behind. He insists that even if Obama wins the Presidency in 2012 Obama will be faced with a Republican majority in both the House and the Senate. He basically said “we (or perhaps the royal WE) have planned it and it will be so.” Even if this didn’t suggest behind the scenes manipulation, even if it was just like the “trash talking” at a baseball game, it was chilling. Will we let the GOP win their majorities? Will we let them implement their agenda? Even if we could prevent the first the fact that we have no cogent and detailed plan will probably doom us to live with (in fact we already are living with) some of that agenda they’ve been pushing ad nauseum. We are already seeing the cuts without the spending and I am betting we are in for more of it. I bet in a few years America will be the poorer for it.
It will be our fault. We are the “masses” that politicians sneer at and lead around by the nose. We are the “masses” who have let ourselves be swayed by drama, propaganda and (shame on us) political rhetoric.

Why the GOP Loves Reagan

It is difficult to remember what things occurred during the term or terms of each of the Presidents, even the ones who were my contemporaries. So when the Republicans started acting like Ronald Reagan was the best thing that ever happened to America (just as LBJ was the worst) I had to do a quick presidential review. I went to Wikipedia, which although not a scholarly choice is pretty trustworthy when it comes to our Presidents and what they have accomplished. I know you could read Wikipedia yourself but I am planning to condense the information and focus the information, because the things the Republicans admire about Ronald Reagan pretty much all have to do with his economics.
Ronald Reagan actually started out as a Democrat. He became a Republican as he got older and his marriage to Nancy Davis, who was already a Republican, cemented the switch in 1962. He had strong feeling against racism, but he had even stronger feelings against communism. Reagan served as the Governor of California in 1966 and again in 1970. He was defeated twice in his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 and 1976. In 1980 Reagan won the nomination and the general election defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter.
In his first term, 1981-1985:
1.       This term began with an assassination attempt by John Hinckley.
2.       Air Traffic Controllers Strike
3.       “Reaganomics” (supply side economics, trickle-down economics)
4.       Lebanon and Operation Urgent Fury (Grenada) 1983
5.       Escalation of the Cold War – Reagan was very worried about communism and its spread. He felt it was truly “evil” and that Russian was an “evil empire”. He had played a role in the McCarthy Hearings on Un-American Activities during his Hollywood years.
In his second term, 1985-1989
1.       War on Drugs
2.       Libya Bombing
3.       Immigration (Amnesty)
4.       Iran-Contra Affair (money from sale of arms to Iran was given to the Contras in Nicaragua, an act outlawed by an act of Congress. Reagan avoided blame, but it hurt his popularity.)
5.       End of Cold War (“tear down this wall” speech) (the Berlin Wall was torn down in November, 1989) – (ironically Ronald Reagan ended up going to the Soviet Union in 1988 and he was treated like a celebrity. He said he no longer considered Russia the “evil empire”).
There were also accomplishments in the judiciary. Reagan said in his 1980 campaign that he would, if given the opportunity, appoint the first female Supreme Court Justice. In his first year in office he was able to nominate Sandra Day O’Conner. He also elevated William Rehnquist to succeed Warren Burger as Chief Justice and named Antonin Scalia. His last nominee who was approved was Anthony Kennedy.
The Republicans love the blow that Reagan struck against the unions when he fired over 11,000 air traffic controllers who did not return to work on August 5, 1981. He replaced them with supervisors and managers until new air traffic controller were trained and ready to work. Republicans, who back a free marketplace with as few regulations as possible have never been fans of labor unions. However it is in the area of economics that the GOP of 2012 seems to be channeling Ronald Reagan. He was a classic Republican in spite of his Democratic roots and he approached the economy in ways that are traditionally Republican. He had some economic issues to face. When Carter left office in 1980 inflation was 12.5%. In the last year that Reagan was in office, 1988, inflation was 4.4%. The highest rates of unemployment during his terms in office were in 1982 (10.8%) and in 1983 (10.4%). His average over eight years was 7.5%. (I do not believe that America was feeling strong effects of globalization or out-sourcing yet.)
Reagan believed that cutting taxes would stimulate the economy, that cuts to the budget and less government would help the economy and that cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans would bring benefits that would “trickle-down” to the rest of Americans. This is exactly the same agenda which we hear the GOP touting today and it was successful for Reagan. The economy was healthier when he left office although the national debt increased from $997b to $2.82 trillion. It would make sense to repeat a successful economic strategy if the details of the American economy had not changed so much since then.
Reagan had a laissez-faire philosophy and believed he could stimulate the economy with large across the board cuts. He supported returning the US to some sort of gold standard and had Congress appoint a commission to study the possibilities. Reagan subscribed to the economic theories of Arthur Laffer. Reagan promoted tax cuts as potentially stimulating the economy enough to expand the tax base offsetting the revenue loss due to reduced rates of taxation, an effect known as the “Laffer curve”. Because his defense strategy was “peace through strength” and “firm but fair”, America saw a 40% real increase in defense spending between 1981 and 1985. He did not have the “political nirvana” experienced by LBJ. Democrats were in charge of the Congress, but he did not have to battle the extremes of partisanship we have today.
Reagan’s policies proposed that economic growth would occur when marginal tax rates were low enough to spur investment which would lead to increased economic growth and higher employment and wages. Does this belief that tax policies that benefit the wealthy will create a “trickle-down” effect to the poor sound familiar? You betcha. This belief has been encased in the concrete of the GOP agenda and may soon be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Wikipedia notes that “questions arose about whether Reagan’s policies benefited the wealthy more than those living in poverty, and many poor and minority citizens viewed Reagan as indifferent to their struggles.”
Reagan also worked to create less government, a direction the GOP still promotes today as we know. He froze the minimum wage at $3.35 per hour and slashed federal assistance to local governments by 60%. He cut the budget for public housing and Section 8 rent subsidies in half, and eliminated the Community Development Block Grant Program. Wikipedia notes that “the widening of the gap between rich and poor begun in the 1970’s grew wider under Reagan.” They go on to say that Reagan “has remained popular as an antitax hero despite raising taxes eleven times.”
There’s more, but not much. We’re done here. I think you can clearly see the connections between the policies Reagan put into effect and the policies the Republicans wish to see enacted today as they tell us every day, over and over again. They obviously wish for the return to Reagonomics with every fiber of their beings. Reagan’s Presidency represents, they believe, a true test of the efficacy of their view of economic and government and they feel that it all worked “like a charm”. Many poorer Americans did not feel the same way and Reagan did not face nearly the same issues the American economy does today. But now I feel I understand why we have been hearing so much about Ronald Reagan.