Over at The Body Politic, Joshua Gross’ apologia for the neo-con disaster that is giving even giving Bush-Groupie Gresham Barrett heartburn, you can read his about dream candidate for the White House in 2008. Right beside his picture of a dapper, smiling Ronald Reagan, he says he wants a Presidential candidate who has/will:
1. A National Survival Instinct
1A. Will Protect Our Borders
2. The Courage of His Convictions
3. Vision, and the ability to clearly articulate that vision.
4. An Understanding of Basic Economics
5. Can Delegate Authority to Empowered and Qualified People
I presume that he means to imply that Reagan had and did those things. I beg to differ. Reagan certainly had a survival instinct, which led him to pander to the Religious Right, while effectively neutering its grandest schemes. He was an effective communicator, no doubt, but he never delivered on his promises to shrink government. And he certainly didn’t bring down the Soviet Union with his “tear down this wall” speech. That was left to Mikhail Gorbachev and the thousands of Eastern Europeans and Russians who risked their lives to remove the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain.
As far as a national survival instinct, what about Reagan’s negotiating with terrorists, support for Iran and contempt for the Constitutional separation of powers? Reagan set the stage for the current regime’s utter disgust for Congress and the federal courts. That does not bode well for our “national survival,” at least in any form remotely recognizable to Americans who lived before 9-11.
As Business Week pointed out a couple of years ago, Reagan was a pragmatist who often did just the opposite of his rhetoric in order to govern effectively. Comparing the Reagan and Clinton years, Business Week said, “Decisive Presidential leadership that tackles the greatest threat of the day produces the policy mix best suited for growth. Sometimes that means lower taxes, sometimes higher. Sometimes it means less regulation, sometimes more. In the end, perhaps the most important inheritance President Reagan has to offer is not his philosophy but his pragmatism, not his specific policies but his willingness to act decisively, not his partisanship but his ability to reach across political boundaries. The hagiography surrounding President Reagan today presents him as an ideologue with a cause. The truth, as usual, is much more complex.”
Reagan may had the courage of his convictions, but those convictions appear to be far less doctrinaire than Gross and the rest of the Reagan acolytes want to admit. Gross wants to focus on Reagan’s tax cuts, but it was Reagan’s tax increases that did far more to stimulate economic growth, end inflation and protect Social Security. And as far as deregulation goes, do the words “savings and loan scandal” mean anything to you, Josh? (By the way, quoting scripture is no guarantee of righteousness. Witness Satan in Luke 4, who used scripture to tempt Jesus, if I recall.)
Reagan’s economic pragmatism showed that he did understand the complexities of the U.S, economy far better than Gross does when he cites the Laffer Curve as the basis of his mythical candidate’s economic platform. According to an article in Wikkipedia, “In 2005, the Congressional Budget Office released a paper called "Analyzing the Economic and Budgetary Effects of a 10 Percent Cut in Income Tax Rates" that casts doubt on the idea that tax cuts ultimately improve the government's fiscal situation. Unlike earlier research, the CBO paper estimates the budgetary impact of possible macroeconomic effects of tax policies, i.e., it attempts to account for how reductions in individual income tax rates might affect the overall future growth of the economy, and therefore influence future government tax revenues; and ultimately, impact deficits or surpluses. The paper's author forecasts the effects using various assumptions (e.g., people's foresight, the mobility of capital, and the ways in which the federal government might make up for a lower percentage revenue). Even in the paper's most generous estimated growth scenario, only 28% of the projected lower tax revenue would be recouped over a 10-year period after a 10% across-the-board reduction in all individual income tax rates. The paper points out that these projected shortfalls in revenue would have to be made up by federal borrowing: the paper estimates that the federal government would pay an extra $200 billion in interest over the decade covered by his analysis. To support these calculations, the paper assumes that the 10% reduction in individual tax rates would only result in a 1% increase in gross national product, a figure some economists consider too low for current marginal tax rates in the United States.” In other words, the Laffer Curve might be a Comedy Central routine after all, and all the “growth” of the past five years might just be simple, old fashioned Keynesian stimulus. So much for Voodoo-nee-Reaganomics.
As far as delegating authority to “Empowered and Qualified People,” does that mean an end to American imperialism, as promoted by the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz cabal? Or as George Bush said a day before the 2000 election, “Let me tell you what else I'm worried about: I'm worried about an opponent who uses nation building and the military in the same sentence. See, our view of the military is for our military to be properly prepared to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.” I wonder if the families of the 50 people who were blown to bits in Iraq today as a result of Bush’s failed “courage of his convictions” would consider anybody in the current administration to be “qualified,” though they’re certainly “empowered.”
Pray tell, Josh, who’s your man or woman? And what kind of America will he or she want to create?