Thursday, June 05, 2008

Kaddish For Ronald Reagan

Today marks the 4th anniversary of the passing of Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th president of the United States of America.

There's a Jewish tradition that one observes the anniversary of the death of someone close who is missed by lighting a candle that burns for twenty four hours and going to services and reciting a prayer known as The Mourner's Kaddish, a prayer that reaffirms the supremacy of G-d and his judgments.

Call this a political Kaddish of sorts, if you like..a tribute to a great man.

Reagan became president when the United States was in a period of great stress, just after the tenure of Jimmy Carter. Inflation and interest rates were in double digits and unemployment was close to 7%, taxes were at an all time high, America's foreign policy and international prestige were reeling from the Iranian hostage crisis, severe cutbacks in defense and successful Soviet penetration all over the world.

Worse than that, under the Carter attitude of 'malaise', Americans seemed to have lost confidence in themselves and in the country's greatness.

Reagan squared his shoulders and stepped in to clean up the mess. He cut government, cut taxes, created 16 million new jobs and grew the economy at 3.5 % per year. He rebuilt America's military. He was unafraid to call the Soviet Union an evil empire, or to challenge the Soviets directly to the point where that evil empire crumbled into the dust of history. Ironic it is that the man derided by his political opponents as a militarist and a warmonger would be the one to end the threat of nuclear war and do so much to bring about world peace.

He left America safer, stronger and wealthier than it was when he came.

Moreover, he left us a better country. He gave us confidence in ourselves again, reminded us of who we are and that we are a country singularly blessed by G-d's providence. He inspired us as a nation. And he did it with grace, charm, wit and style, and with a sunny optimism that reached out to the best in us.

Reagan was derided by his political enemies as a fool, as a hack actor from flyover country playing a role, but to most of his fellow countrymen, he was one of them....a man born in the heartland, in humble circumstances who understood the American people and what made us great as a nation at a visceral level.

He was by no means perfect, as he would doubtless be the first to tell us. But he set us a shining example of what real leadership is. One of my favorite Reaganisms is "There's no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't worry about who gets the credit."

Mr. President, rest in peace...we miss you.


Soccer Dad said...

I think, in many ways, it's what his daughter wrote too. I don't think that she was particularly close to her father when he was in office, it's nice that she's grown to respect him. (I believe that her reconciliation started while he was still alive.)

Anonymous said...

Couple of disagreements : whilst it is true that the awful, incompetent Carter had to be replaced by someone, anyone, Reagan was not the anti-big-government type you believe. 1st point, he dumped more unconstitutional, UNFUNDED, illegal federal mandates on the states than anyone before. The states then raised or introduced state income-taxes and/or retail sales-taxes to pay for these new illegal mandates. (Some states which had never had one of these had to introduce the one tax which had been absent.) You'll also note the explosive return to legal casino-gambling by the states in this decade : they had to pay for these new bills quickly. Also, fees for federal services multiplied : park fees were trebled, quadrupled, & even more ; federal phone taxes increased; airline-fuel-tax increases ; other airline-passenger taxes increased ; passport fees were multiplied. At one point, they even were charging a buck to see the Statue Of Liberty (they had to pull back from that one eventually). This was a sleight-of-hand TRANSFER of taxes, not a reduction. 2d point, at the federal level he pushed through budgets which were even larger than the Democrats' own vetoed budgets. He rearranged the contents of the budgets, removing some funding increases from some Democratic areas & re-allocating those dollars to other areas & then added more. This was a sleight-of-hand TRANSFER of federal government from one set of areas to another. Little Billy & Betty Bureaucrat simply packed up their suit-cases & moved from one set of offices to another. It must be remembered that Reagan was a pure New-Deal Democrat of the Roosevelt mould, both historically & ideologically. He was also the former head of the Screen Actors' Guild union. He was the former governor of California (where he raised taxes & pardoned convicted murderers, including a cop-killer). There's nothing remotely libertarian about Reagan. He was not Barry Goldwater (Goldwater never even had a position on abortion). He was not Gerald Ford (Ford, if memory serve me, vetoed 66 spending bills in just 29 months!) When Reagan ascended to the Oval Office, he destroyed the true small-government wing (eg, Senator Packwood, Senator Mansfield , et al, who were truly interested in reducing TOTAL government-spending & TOTAL government taxes). Gerald Ford could have won in 1976, but he was repeatedly stabbed in the back by a a vicious Reagan campaign in the Republican primaries. Had Ford won , viz, had there never been the unspeakably awful, incompetent President Carter, then Reagan would never have been elected (NB, he had also failed in 1968 to get the GOP nod). As it was, Americans HAD to vote for ANY GOP candidate in 1980. Final note : the official jobless numbers you quote were bogus, since only those officially signed up @ unemployment offices & receiving federal subsistence & not having exhausted the same were counted. A lot of people were not counted & never were. The new-job figures were also bogus : at one point in the 1980s they threw in all employed military personnel in with civilian employment & called it job-creation! Reagan did lower federal income taxes, & he did successfully fight inflation, but that was it : NO reduction in TOTAL government spending ; NO reduction in TOTAL government taxes. Apologies for the length of this post. Thank You & Have A Good Day.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi SD!
Thanks for sharing Ms. Davis' article with me...I hadn't seen it but I'm glad she wrote it.It's good to know that the anniversary of Reagan's death didn't pass unnoticed.

I think a lot of Americans didn't respect what a truly great president Ronald Reagan was, and it's only now that they're beginning to realize it.

Did you ever read Dinesh D'Souza's biography of Reagan?

Shabbat Shalom,

Freedom Fighter said...

Hello Anonymous,
I think we'll have to agree to disagree here on a number of points.

You're entirely correct that Reagan was no liberatarian. As far as I'm concerned, that was to his credit.Especially given the mess he inherited, which necessitated concerted federal action to fix it.

My figures on inflation, unemployment,job creation and economic growth came directly from the OMB. While you can certainly believe that these figures are bogus, it's logical that an economy that grew at the pace that ours did during the Reagan years and had the lowered interest rates ans inflation rates and lowered real tax rates that are a matter of historical record and would have increased investment in the US economy also created both jobs and wealth.

I also don't think you can blame the fiscal irresponsibility of many state an dmunicipal governments ( in many cases, Democrat controlled) on Reagan!

As far as spending goes, I think you're confusing the increased defense spending during the Reagan years (which was necessary and essential after Jimmy Carter's administration) with a 'growth in government.'

Finally, as far as damaging Gerald Ford, I think you've forgotten the effect of the Watergate pardon and Ford's `no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe' gaffe.

As it was,Carter narrowly won the popular vote in 1976 by 50.1% to 48.0% for Ford and received 297 electoral votes to Ford's 240. The election was close enough that had fewer than 25,000 votes shifted in Ohio and Wisconsin – both of which neighbored his home state – Ford would have won the electoral vote

You might want to ask yourself how much would have ultimately saved by destroying the Soviet empire had Reagan's predecessors not squandered the peace dividend, especially Bill Clinton. Milton Friedman estimated it as over a trillion dollars.

Thanks fo rweighing in, an dlikewise have a great day.


Anonymous said...

To Freedom Fighter : thanks for publishing my letter & replying so speedily. I enjoy & appreciate this 'blog', which I ran across only 2 to 3 days ago purely by accident. Very quickly : I only stressed that Reagan was not a libertarian in response to your words 'he cut government, cut taxes ...'. I tried to make the point that if federal programmes' costs like Medicaid (& others -- I'm thinking back more than 25 years in my memory of everything I've read -- ) in the 1980s were forcibly dumped on states (even if the feds still 'shared' in theory some limited string-attached funds), then in reality you are still paying taxes for them. The taxes, which the states did not ask to be forced to collect on behalf of a federal programme, & the government activity, which the states did not ask to be forced to engage in on behalf of the feds, still exist. Viz, Reagan shifted these & many items off federal-budget but still mandated them. (None of the shifted expense was the fault of the states ; the GOP & Dem states did the same things -- they had to.) You mention the OMB : the OMB is an Executive-Branch office which receives its instructions (including definition instructions & procedural instructions) from the Oval Office. Eg, I would never have been counted in the jobless figures in that decade(or any decade), because I never applied for any governmental aid upon losing a job to cut-backs ; I simply looked everywhere for a new job in that 1980s Depression period. I endured a lot of hunger back then. Some of the cities I lived in had higher 'official' unemployment figures than in the 1930s Depression. (The phrase 'jobless recovery' was used often in the 1980s.) I don't argue with you re the increases in military-spending, but that is an increase in spending for government, not a decrease. Finally, I have not forgotten the Watergate pardon : I am much older than you guessed. I was furious ( & I do mean nail-spitting furious about the pardon for Nixon), but, unlike many, I got over it quickly & voted for Ford. Ford honestly believed it was necessary ; I understood that. I voted for Ford even though that stung. You mention Ford's gaffe re Eastern Europe in the debates, which I watched live. The real event was Carter's repeating @ the debate, in response to a question, that on 20 Jan 1977, he would, if elected, grant a full unrestricted pardon (Ford's 'amnesty' was conditional) for all the refugees from the Vietnam War -- @ that very moment he won the election & I knew it (it was the sole thing that Carter did that I agreed with). Ford had almost closed the gap : Hawaii, Wisconsin, Ohio, Mississippi were almost in his column, but this stopped the momentum dead. For many Americans this promised pardon was the true end to the Vietnam War. It also reminded people that the old Nixonites like Kissinger (who had recently been trying to talk us into a war in Angola!) were still haunting the White House. Although, I still suspect that the Reagan Republican primary challenge was the ultimate cause. If I seem to be rushing to Ford's defence, it's because I think that he really stood up to the Democrats & their endless & interminable spending-proposals in real action, not rhetoric. Maybe Ford's vetoing of the New-York-City bail-out (a New-York-City newspaper head-lined 'Ford To New York : Drop Dead!') really spelt electoral doom for him. As I said before, Reagan did lower federal income taxes, & he did successfully fight inflation. We agree re those things. As I also said, Carter had to be voted out of office. We agree re that. I simply disagree with you re some of the interpretations re Reagan. Thank You! Great Blog!

Anonymous said...

13 January 2009 (CORRECTION to my 1st Anonymous letter, supra) : Senator HATFIELD was the name I meant to pair with Senator Packwood. I voted for both of them during my time in Portland, Oregon & the Pacific Northwest. (The Portlandia sculpture is wonderful !)That was the old Republican Party : Senator Packwood & Senator Hatfield (both of Oregon), President Gerald Ford, Vice-President Rockefeller, the wonderful Goldwater was still round. I realise that no-one may ever see this correction, but, if some future computer archaeologist should encounter this, there's the correction.