Friday, August 27, 2010

August issue of Townhall Magazine’s Keep the Free Market Alive

The article, “Keep the Free Market Alive,” highlights excerpts from Governor Ronald Reagan’s Hillsdale College speech of November 10, 1977, describing it as a “blistering assault against economic socialism,” attacking “government planned economies as anathema to freedom.” Facetiously the author writes, “Ronald Reagan foreshadowed President Obama's assault against free enterprise.”

Reagan declared that “an economic system that has provided more for more people anything we’ve ever known to solve the problems of unemployment and inflation” has failed because of government intervention. “It's time we recognized that the system, no matter what our problems are, has never failed us once.”

Yet, the system has failed us more than once. Some of those failures of recent memory are the savings and loan crisis of the 80’s; the dotcom bubble burst; the housing bubble burst, and the financial crisis of 2007 that followed. Additionally, Ronald Reagan had 2,036 bank failures during his term in office. However, Reagan is correct; government deregulation was government interference that for a great part has brought the economic problems we are dealing with today.

Reagan stated that those working in the private sector support themselves and their dependents, additionally supporting millions of other Americans who totally depend tax dollars we pay for their year-round living. Saying, “I say this to emphasize that the people working and earning in the private sector are the only resource that government has.”

Reagan should have described it differentially: The only resource that working people in the private sector have is private enterprise; and for those who do not have the where-with-all to earn a livable wage, or those who are infirmed, the only resource they have is government.

And, he said, “But, you know, if you lose your economic freedom, you lose your political freedom, all freedom.”

Reagan, as with conservatives and republicans, failed to understand that those at the mid to bottom classes in our society don’t have any freedoms to lose, because most had none to begin with.

As I see it, the “Great Communicator” and idol of conservatives and republicans, who speak of him with extreme reverence, was not that somewhat folksy, warm, and cuddly “smiling old codger in a cowboy hat” that he was perceived to be. The right reveres Reagan much in the same way as many Americans at onetime admired John Wayne, who, of course, all by himself won the war in the pacific. However, I don’t mean to imply that Ronald Reagan was, as the Free Republic put it, “a mean-spirited simpleton who somehow managed to bungle his way into becoming the most powerful person on earth,” either. He was a wise, politically astute man, an actor who could deliver a nationalistic and patriotic narrative that was ostensibly from the heart, who could not recognize his mistaken judgments.

And, some of Ronald Reagan’s judgments were repulsive. Here are some examples:

Regarding nuclear weapons: “It’s silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking strips on it, and still be home by Christmas.”

Regarding the Fair Housing Act: “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, he has a right to do so.” (a libertarian view more than conservative)

Regarding poverty: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry every night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”

Regarding the expansion of Redwood National Park: “A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?”

Regarding homelessness: "You can't help those who simply will not be helped. One problem that we've had, even in the best of times, is people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice."

Regarding the environment: "The American Petroleum Institute filed suit against the EPA [and] charged that the agency was suppressing a scientific study for fear it might be misinterpreted ... The suppressed study reveals that 80 percent of air pollution comes not from chimneys and auto exhaust pipes, but from plants and trees."

One of the hallmarks of Reaganomics, an economic policy calling for widespread tax cuts, decreased social spending, increased military spending, and the deregulation of domestic markets, was labeled “trickle-down economics.” But, in the end, it never did “trickle-down,” economic growth has provided benefits to the wealthiest, but inequality for the rest.