Saturday, February 9, 2008

What Would Reagan Do?

"Don't be afraid to see what you see."--Ronald Reagan

"What would Reagan do?" That seems to be the standard among conservatives these days. Reagan's apparent brand of conservatism has become the ruler by which all other aspriring conservative leaders must be measured. Yesterday, I actually defended John McCain, not because he is my pick, quite the contrary actually, but because of the way he is being criticized by "hardcore conservatives." If they whip out the Ronald Reagan card one more time, I'm going to puke.

It's as if a collective amnesia plagues conservatives, in which they can only recall the big promises, high ideals, the inspiring speeches, and then completely disregard Reagan's actual ACTIONS once he got into office. I'm not implying that Reagan was a liar or a bad guy, but like most Presidents, he learned to compromise (such a dirty word, gasp!) and worked with the "other side" because the other side is comprised of Americans, too. But Reagan's legacy is being held up as proof that real conservatives will support deporting all illegal immigrants, will NEVER raise taxes, will slash government 'entitlement' programs, will drastically reduce the size of the federal governemnt, will appoint judges that are committed to make abortion illegal (I wish that one were true), and would NEVER "cut-and-run" like those cowardly democrats.

But consider these aspects of Reagan's Presidency:

On Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration is the hot-button topic among conservatives (and the most potent reason for their opposition to McCain). Ironically, Reagan not only supported a pathway for illegal aliens to earn citizenship, but signed "amnesty" into law in 1986. Does this quote sound like something current conservatives would jive with?

“We have consistently supported a legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America. The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.”--Ronald Reagan, upon signing the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

Reagan's immigration stance was not an automatic path to citizenship. The legislation stipulated several conditions: immigrants had to pay application fees, learn to speak English, understand American civics, pass a medical exam, and register for military selective service. Those with convictions for a felony or three misdemeanors were ineligible. Sound familiar? These are pretty much the same provisions included in the bill John McCain supported to promote a secured border, take away incentives for employers to hire illegals, but also provide a pragmatic solution for long-time illegals to earn citizenship through a series of fines, going to "the back of the line" for citizenship, having to maintain employment, etc. etc.

Black's Law Dictionary even notes that "the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act provided amnesty for undocumented aliens already in the country."

On Abortion

Reagan signed California's 1967 Therapeutic Abortion Act on June 14, 1967. From a total of 518 legal abortions in California in 1967, the number of abortions would soar to an annual average of 100,000 in the remaining years of Reagan’s two terms — more abortions than in any U.S. state prior to the implications of Roe v. Wade.

Once Reagan was President, he appointed Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court. This move puzzled and dismayed conservatives (especially the Jerry Falwell crowd that campaigned for Regean in the hopes that he would do everything within his power to make abortion illegal).

Joshua Green, editor of Washington Monthly, recalls the confusion and opposition over Reagan's unexpected judicial appointment:

President Reagan, however, did not govern as radically as candidate Reagan preached. Reagan’s appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor infuriated conservatives, who doubted her commitment to eradicating abortion and blasted her support for the Equal Rights Amendment. Michael K. Deaver, the image-oriented deputy chief of staff, and a principal White House pragmatist, said the president liked O’Connor’s “kind of moderate approach'' because ''she had not been an activist'' regarding the ERA issue or abortion. Delighting in the man-bites-dog political twist, the Washington Post headline proclaimed: “REAGAN CHOICE FOR COURT DECRIED BY CONSERVATIVES BUT ACCLAIMED BY LIBERALS."

On Taxes

1982: Reagan signed into law two major tax increases. The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) raised taxes by $37.5 billion per year and the Highway Revenue Act raised the gasoline tax by another $3.3 billion. In 2003, former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett wrote in the National Review: "According to a recent Treasury Department study, TEFRA alone raised taxes by almost 1 percent of the gross domestic product, making it the largest peacetime tax increase in American history."

1983: Reagan signed legislation raising the Social Security tax rate. This is a tax increase that is still in place. It initiated automatic increases in the taxable wage base. As a consequence, those with moderately high earnings see their payroll taxes rise every single year. In

Bruce Barlett also admits that:

In 1984, Reagan signed another big tax increase in the Deficit Reduction Act. This raised taxes by $18 billion per year or 0.4 percent of GDP. A similar-sized tax increase today would be about $44 billion. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 raised taxes yet again. Even the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which was designed to be revenue-neutral, contained a net tax increase in its first 2 years. And the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 raised taxes still more.

Joshua Green adds,

He [Reagan] did not always instigate those hikes or agree to them willingly--but he signed off on them. One year after his massive tax cut, Reagan agreed to a tax increase to reduce the deficit that restored fully one-third of the previous year's reduction. (In a bizarre bit of self-deception, Reagan, who never came to terms with this episode of ideological apostasy, persuaded himself that the three-year, $100 billion tax hike--the largest since World War II--was actually "tax reform" that closed loopholes in his earlier cut and therefore didn't count as raising taxes.)

On "Cut-and-Running..."

How history repeats itself.
And because history repeats itself, it's imperative that people living in the present do not forget it or rewrite it to accomadate our own agendas. Instead of turning flawed human beings into untouchable, idealistic figure heads to sanctify our own ideology, we should learn from the mistakes of the past, learn the difference between principle-clad rhetoric and real-life dilemmas that are no where near as cut and dry or always require the same response. We should recognize that such labels as "conservative" and "liberal" are broad terms, subject to debate, and leave room for some diversity. Geesh, Ronald Reagan himself doesn't even live up to "Ronald Reagan Conservatism!"

So, know what you believe, know why you believe it, and be fair to those with whom you disagree.


catrina said...

It's funny that the Dems despise Reagan so much that when Obama said this in a recent speech there was question whether or not he had signed his death warrant.

"I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what's different are the times...I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."

Ronald REAGAN? The Democrats' mortal enemy, that smiling, supposedly simple-minded actor who expanded the Republican party by wooing all those white, working-class voters? I was just a whippersnapper when Reagan was in office but since I lived in the DC area I clearly remember people being so inspired about America. Flags flew high and tears came to peoples eyes when the National Anthem was played. People also loved him for his fight against communism and of course the infamous Berlin wall speech that resulted in the iron curtain being brought to its knees. I also remember that O'Connor was a huge let down when a blow to pro choicers was so hoped for. The Iran Contra affair was suspicious, but kinda like Clinton people loved him anyway, and they really did. I remember people saying it "I loooovvvee Ronald Reagan" An assasination attempt 2 months after he was in office probably bolstered him to a super star status.

Tia Lynn said...

Now isn't nice that Barak Obama can praise Ronald Reagan even though they differ politically? We need more of that, on both sides....Give credit where credit is due, while maintaining your own principles and goals. Points for Obama. :)

Terry said...

An interesting and enlightening post, Tia. I personally would like to see everyone allow The Great Communicator to rest in peace and run on their own merits. We live in a vastly different world than we did in 1980. We need someone with a conservative vision for
2008. As for McCain, I think that he too often tries to ride both sides which bothers me.

Mike L. said...

Republicans like Reagan because the stock market did well in the 80's. Period. You are right that he did little or nothing for social conservatism. The problem is that his success was smoke and mirrors. He simply borrowed the money to feed a faux revival of the system.

Here is what he really did:

1) He revoked the fuel efficiency standards that Nixon, Ford, and Carter put in place. If those standards had remained we would be completely OFF FOREIGN OIL TODAY. What would that have been worth?

2) He killed the medical service for children advancements that Jimmy Carter worked hard to pass. Those plans were designed by Carter (an anti-abortion evangelical) to reduce abortions by giving single mothers and children medical care and housing.

3) He launched a war on drugs that has done nothing but fill up our jails with people that don't need to be there. It created a underground drug scene that fuels gangs similar to what prohibition did for the mafia. Billions of dollars wasted annually and millions of lives destroyed.

4) He loosened regulations on the enviornment in a way that will now cost us trillions in order to avoid further global warming. Only George W. Bush has done more damage to our environmental laws.

5) He pioneered a strategy of deficit spending for economic stimulous that may now bankrupt our nation if we can't learn from his mistakes. This quick fix borrow and spend philosophy has changed the way our nation opperates. He ran up our debt like none other until Bush.

Yes he brought our nation together, but he also developed an inovative approach to prostituting our nation out to corporations. Now the pimps of empire have us caught in a perpetual cycle of turning tricks on the corner of a failed democracy.

Tia Lynn said...

Oh, I don't doubt that McCain is a politician that panders to get votes. Just the speech he gave the other day after Romney withdrew (hallejuah) was humiliating! It was like he was reading from the conservative handbook. He was trying a little too hard to win over staunch conservatives. It’s just the personal attacks and the over-glorifying Ronald Reagan, crowning him the end all, be all of conservatism that I find unfair to McCain’s campaign. I think there are more productive and logical ways to criticize McCain than to accuse him of being a phony conservative. :)

Mike, great stuff. It’s sad how quickly we are willing to idolize the past. It only dooms us to repeat it.

keithandjennifer said...

I wonder if it is possible to become president in our country without being a politician. Politician in my mind now is about like TV evangelists--- Mostly all are phoney.

Tia Lynn said...

Why jennifer, we agree on more than I realized. I'm definitely with you on that one. :)

Tilly Hester said...

This summed up my frustration of the last few months with conservative's attitude, they misrepresent Reagan! Thanks for connecting the dots.

Marissa said...

People do this with every single past president...not just with Reagan. People always think the grass is greener on the other side. Everyone wants what they cant have. I bet the same people that praise Reagan now hated him while he was in office.

Tia Lynn said...

Haha! You're right. I wonder if that will happen with dubbya in 30 years?

musicmommy3 said...

Yes Jennifer!!! That sums up my thoughts exactly!!!

Tia, I would just like to point out that on my recent expose on McCain that I didn't ONCE use the Ronald Reagan argument. :) And I wouldn't consider myself a "hardcore" conservative either. You're making me sound like Anne Coulter! Stop it!! LOL

Love you bunches!!!
-Angela :)

Tia Lynn said...

Hey angela! Oh no, i was definitely referring to public figures criticizing mccain, you disagreed with him on ISSUES, which is totally fine. :)

harris said...

There are hundreds of eye-opening revelations concerning Reagan's twirlyville sense of himself and it's amazing how his fans won't even explore this.

NOVEMBER 1983 "Reagan told visiting Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir that he had served as a photographer in a U.S. Army unit assigned to film Nazi death camps. He repeated the story to Simon Wiesenthal the following February. Reagan never visited or filmed a concentration camp; he spent World War II in Hollywood, making training films with the First Motion Picture Unit of the Army Air Corps."

And let's not forget the hilarious liberation of Grenada.

nanci said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting this together! I'm so tired of political idolatry. Excellent!