Wednesday, February 09, 2011

In Defense of President Reagan

Not that our greatest 20th Century President needs defending, but commenter NE posted a few issues that he has with The Gipper, so I felt like responding here in a new post rather than sully the President's commemorative post.

NE said:
Hey, I'm the guy out of my comfort zone reading and commenting on a conservative blog. I don't see much attempt to understand my viewpoints. Other conservative bloggers have have successfully altered my views on gun-control and immigration, so it's not like I'm set in stone. It's better not to use sweeping generalizations that cannot be proven like “most of Reagan's critics are failures” or all liberal policies fail as they tend to discredit your argument.

Perhaps I was being overly dramatic when I said I spent my life trying to undo Reagan's policies. While I do believe he did significant harm to America as president, it is the Reagan myths and simplifications I have worked to eliminate. Reagan presented the world in black and white terms - us good, them bad, deregulation good, government bad. He gave credence to falsehoods like "welfare queens" and short-sightedly supported some truly awful extra-national organizations in a knee-jerk response to communism. That mindset has stuck with us and now we have news channels that just bark talking points at us 24/7. The world is much more complicated and we deserve leaders who speak to American like critical-thinking adults, not children content to clap whenever anyone says a buzzword into a microphone.

So I researched and wrote up a whole big long history of how Reagan systematically worked to dismantle public education in both California (as governor) and the nation as a whole (as president), but it occurred to me that you might not see that as a bad thing. We might need to establish that public education is good thing first. To answer your question, Reagan's education policy is what has affected me the most personally. I see his face in the crumbling walls and moldy textbooks of the schools I volunteer at. I am reminded everyday that Reagan continued to cut the nation's ED budget despite his own commission on education warning against it for reasons of national security. He blamed falling test scores on excessive federal intervention even after several credible studies showed the exact opposite was true. Public education has never recovered, and now we find ourselves struggling to compete globally in a field we dominated for most of the 20th century. If you want to know more on Reagan's education policies I could finish it up and post the whole sad story, or you could pick out another issue and I'll do my best to back up my views on it.

Also,

Social justice is a movement for equity. It is a term used to describe the efforts of many in moving wealth and power from those that have a lot of it to those that have very little. If that concept flashes an image of Karl Marx in your head, it shouldn't, because the basic philosophy is rooted in the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic saint. Social justice has furthered by everyone from Andrew Jackson to MLK Jr.


And by way of reply, NE you say that I don't understand your viewpoints. But it's difficult when you refuse to be specific about what exactly President Reagan has done that has made your life harder. You claim that he's supported some awful extra-national organizations in the fight against Communism, but then you don't say which ones. Are you trying to say that Communism wasn't the scourge and threat to the world that those of us who were here and operating in the adult world in the 1980's remember it as being? I note that you haven't told us yet how old you are, and that's you're right, but it would help to know if I'm talking to a generational peer who, like me, was actually there, or just someone who only knows about those days from reading history books and listening to leftist professors talk about them. Fact is, everyone who was of age to understand in the 1980's knew that Communism had to be stopped, and it was, chiefly by President Reagan and the like-minded patriots in his administration along with our military, which he built back up to credible levels after President Carter gutted it. If you can't appreciate a strong military, it's most likely because you can't remember a time when America needed one, and for that you can thank President Reagan.

You next say that you don't like Presidents who speak to us like children. Well if that's the case, you must be beside yourself with Obama in office. He's always belittling someone for not understanding his greatness or his agenda. But President Reagan never did that to anyone. He was known as The Great Communicator precisely because he was able to explain his plans, ideas and concepts for government to the people of this country in such a way that people understood and agreed. He did not talk down to people like Obama does, nor did he ever insult either his critics or this country as Obama does routinely. President Reagan actually engaged people and talked straight to people, and he gave people reasons to be proud of this country and our place in the world. That's why he was so popular: he was a leader, not a term-limited dictator, and he respected the American people enough to regularly address them, unlike Obama, who generally refuses to do press conferences and never takes questions.

And as for cutting education, well in the first place, there's nothing wrong with cutting the federal government out of what should be a state's task exclusively. As a citizen and taxpayer in the State of West Virginia, I should not be given a bill for schools in California, Texas or anywhere outside of my state. This nation is supposed to be made up of 50 largely sovereign states, after all, not one big kingdom run by a room full of jokers in Washington, DC who don't know jack about the needs and issues of any one state. President Reagan understood that. He also understood that the biggest impediment to schools actually teaching was and still is the teachers' unions. To the extent that his policies weakened those, America owes him a debt of gratitude. However, I doubt that his efforts to take control of the schools away from the unions and the DC bureaucrats back in the 1980's can be blamed for the state of schools today. That's just silly.

Finally, on your bit about “Social Justice” in the form of wealth redistribution—taking from those who earned it and doling it out among those who chose not to bother—that is socialism at it's rawest, and it's something that our country's founders sought to prevent here. You name a few other people—without specific cites again—and accuse them of supporting government-sponsored theft, but that, even if true, doesn't make it right. President Reagan knew that when Americans are free to acquire wealth by hard work and innovation, the whole country prospers and the world is a better place. And the only ones who oppose such things are the ones too lazy to go out and work hard enough to make it, and the Democrats who cater to those lazy ones in exchange for their votes. (Frankly, it's the liberal elites and their followers talking about such "social justice" that spurs gun purchases by the rest of us who worked for what we have and intend to keep it. But that's for another post.)

In summation, even with a Democratic Congress trying to undermine him for eight years, Ronald Reagan gave our country a period of great prosperity and made us safer than we've been at any time since the end of World War Two. He beat the Russians, he checked terrorists and the states that sponsored them, and he brought freedom and democracy to several other nations as well, all while championing greater freedom and independence from oppressive government and cutting taxes here at home. he was also an unabashed Christian and a Patriot. That's why he's remembered so fondly today while lesser Presidents like Carter, Clinton and Bush Sr. are but footnotes in the history books.

It's truly a pity that you weren't here to experience President Reagan's terms firsthand, because they were eight great years for this country, and that was despite the best efforts of the Democrats and the mainstream media, who failed to stop him from restoring hope and pride to every American and making the world a better place.

8 comments:

  1. Would someone please explain to me when "social justice" changed from achieving equality under the law to wealth redistribution? I know we are far from achieving equal justice under the law (look no further than the progressive tax code for proof of that), but wealth redistribution shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath as equal justice.

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  2. Don't even let me get started on the Progressive move toward their definition of "social justice," or the need for a strong, well-trained military. You skillfully countered whatever anemic arguments he offered.

    As for me, I learned something new today -- and I was a highly active volunteer in public schools in Littlle Rock (the home of school desegregation) in addition to working as a college prof for nearly 10 years, so I didn't appreciate there was much new I could learn about what happened as I was living it. But, no. Mr. Progressive taught this old dog a new fact: the Reagan administration cut the ED budget. I never even suspected that Erectile Dysfunction was a line item.

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  3. Well said, sir. Eagerly awaiting the next installment...(gets popcorn).

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  4. I agree with most of what you said here. I'm a diehard conservative from a long family line of them, and I loved most of what Reagan did while he was in office. He was the first president I was able to vote for, at age 20. However, I noticed a couple of things here I'd like to comment on.
    re: "The Democrats...cater to those lazy ones in exchange for their votes"
    I don't think we can blame the entire mess on the Dems, unfortunately. There's plenty of blame to go around in the vote-buying. Both Dems and Reps have shamelessly supported subsidies and regulations that have favored their pet business interests, stifling competition and keeping enterprises alive that should have long ago withered in the open competition of a free market.

    Also, you say that Reagan "checked terrorists and the states that sponsored them."
    To a certain extent, that's true, but his administration also made some major errors in 1)pulling our troops out of Lebanon after the Marine barracks bombing there 2)failing to confront the nascent revolutionary government in Iran, and putting together weapons deals with them. These things directly resulted in encouraging terrorism and a repressive regime that has supported terror organizations worldwide for several decades.

    Other than that, I thought your post addressed NE's mistaken impressions of the Gipper quite well.

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  5. Well done Me, and yeah, gotta love the 'generalizations' he made... I'm also interested to know how old he is.

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  6. So I would like to apologize. I went about this thing in entirely the wrong way. I'm not posting to convert anyone to liberalism or to tear down conservative idols. I'm posting to promote critical thinking beyond the typical “my guy good, your guy bad” or “Obama's ruining this country” thinking. I haven't been doing a good job at that. I took the post on Reagan too personally (even though it wasn't even directed at me) because of my politics and I shouldn't have. I do think Reagan did many good things, and in researching my responses to you I have found even more. His ability to change position and draw down the arms race when Gorbachev came to power was a heroic act he made at great personal political risk. His 10% tax exclusion for married couples that both work was a smart tax cut, and he did restore America's confidence after Carter's honest but tactless representation of our dire late 70s situation.

    Still Reagan's presidency brings to mind several serious moral, ethical, and practical questions:

    Domestically:

    Who profited the most from Reagan's tax cuts, and who the least? In the short run it seemed to work, but are there any consequences if we take a longer view? What responsibility does the government have to those less fortunate? Does the federal government have a responsibility to further awareness of pandemics in America such as HIV/AIDs? Is there contradiction between Reagan's belief in limited government and his decisions to increase executive power?

    Foreign Relations:

    At what cost must America fight communism? Is it worth supporting some truly vicious strongmen like the Contras? Are there any long term consequences for this? Is democracy good if generates governments unfriendly to our own? ← Something very much relevant today with the revolution in Egypt.

    When you see leaders as just heroes or villains you excuse yourself from having the inner debates that are necessary for a functioning democracy. Sorry, I'm going to try to be better at that in the future.

    As for education,

    I wholehearted believe that the Department of Education – a federally supported force for equality in America – is a necessary and critical part of the nation's well being. I understand what Reagan was trying to do. He was trying to transfer education decisions back to a state level, but in doing so he drastically cut school's budgets across the country at the time when other nations were heavily investing in their next generation of workers to compete with us. Also, you and I both know the consequences of taking the federal government out of education. Certain poorer states, like West Virginia, would have significantly less money for their schools than other wealthier ones, and historically school segregation might still be a problem. I have no problem with my tax dollars going to fund the education in other states because I know it makes the country as a whole stronger.

    Additionally,

    How firmly to you believe that America is a completely even playing field and anyone that disagrees is just lazy? What would you need to see to change your mind?

    - Jon, well said.

    - Old NFO, lets all stop making 'generalizations'

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  7. NE, you're now making the mistake of trying to use today's figures to argue that we had no welfare problem 30 years ago. But I was in the medical field back then, and in an urban environment, and I can attest to the fact that back then, pretty much anyone who applied for welfare--women, men, young, old, able-bodied, etc.,--got it, typically with no limits as to duration and little actual oversight. Back then, young girls had babies just to get into the system, and a welfare check was seen as a rite of passage into an adulthood in certain communities because as soon as you got that first baby, you got an apartment or a rent subsidy, food, medical insurance, and cash, and this continued until your last kid turned 18. Want more money? Have more kids. Back then, the government gave more money for each kid you had, so many of these women would pop out extra kids just to get the bigger checks, and what often happened was that the kids wound up being raised by other relatives while "momma" partied on the free money. That stuff was common back in the 80's and I saw it every day.

    President Reagan did not directly stop this, but his Republican successors did when they took control of Congress later. The Contract With America that they put forward for President Clinton to sign ended much of this abuse. Again, if you weren't there to see it, I won't expect you to know how it was, but I was there and I can tell you that the world we all lived in in the early to mid 1980's was a lot different in both foreign and domestic matters than it is today. Look at President Reagan in the context of those times and you'll see one of those rare convergences of a right man at a right time.

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