Last month saw Ronald Reagan’s 105th birthday, as well as the passing of his beloved wife, Nancy. These two events have made me consider just what a beloved American hero Ronnie was. He had a passion for liberty, a sincere love for the people of this great nation, and a determination to remind America that no matter the darkness, the sun always rises again.
His campaign slogan in 1984, when he ran for reelection, was “It’s morning again in America.”
Between 1975 and 1979, he wrote and recorded 1,027 daily radio broadcasts (interrupted only by his 1976 run for the White House) that gave Americans a personal glimpse into the mind and heart of Ronald Reagan—a brilliant, well-researched, and passionate American. He was also giving speeches all around the country and writing newspaper columns.
The sheer magnitude of his communication is truly incredible, but the content of that communication is even more remarkable. His three-minute broadcasts mapped out strategies that he would implement himself after 1980—they were his vision for restoring the country’s sense of itself.
He recognized that “it’s important every once in awhile to remind ourselves of our accomplishments, lest we let someone talk us into throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” He often criticized those who “think we’re over the hill and headed to the dustbin of history.”
He wasn’t afraid to talk about our problems because, “in the main, they’re problems that truly need solving.” But he also relentlessly resisted those who referenced those problems as proof that our system doesn’t work. Rather than wallowing in despair, he confronted problems with practical solutions. “The system has never let us down,” he said, “we’ve let the system down now and then, because we’re only human.”
He pointed to the fact that America is politically stable—the resignation or even assassination of a president doesn’t cause riots in the streets—and her agricultural and technological production capabilities are incredible, all, Reagan said, “because our system freed the individual genius of man, released him to fly as high and as far as his own talent and energy would take him,” and because the free market steers resources “toward those things that people want most at the price they’re willing to pay.”
“It may not be a perfect system, but it’s better than any other that’s ever been tried.”
He praised the incredible technological and economic strides that his generation had made, but also recognized that the next generations—our parents’ generation and our generation—would accomplish things that he and his contemporaries would never dream were possible.
“Each generation sees farther than the generation that preceded it, because we stand on the shoulders of giants.”
It’s interesting to consider how relevant Reagan’s words remain today. His ideas about government spending, taxation, unemployment, and regulation were lumped under the term “Reaganomics,” but are becoming much more widely accepted today than they were in the late 1970s. His views on social security are echoed today, as both major political parties recognize that the system is badly in need of reform; and he also addressed privatization of education and healthcare.
It seems his thinking was decades ahead of the rest of the country, and we would do well to let his voice resonate as we confront many similar problems and pursue many of the same policies that he was advocating forty years ago.
Practically speaking, the success of America while Reagan was in office should be an encouragement for us in 2016. Arthur Laffer of the “Laffer Curve,” economic advisor to Ronald Reagan, points out the similarities between today’s American economy and the economic situation when Reagan broke on the national scene.
“For 16 years prior to Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the U.S. economy was in a tailspin—a result of bipartisan ignorance that resulted in tax increases, dollar devaluations, wage and price controls, minimum-wage hikes, misguided spending, pandering to unions, protectionist measures and other policy mistakes.”
When Reagan took office, he countered with sweeping cuts to marginal income tax rates, flatter tax brackets, sound money, freer trade and less regulation. Reagan understood that lower tax rates resulted in static revenue reduction, but also knew that a reduced tax burden allowed for substantial increases in taxable income. According to Laffer,
“The key to Reaganomics was to change people’s behavior with respect to working, investing and producing.”
Reaganomics taught us that good economics aren’t Republican or Democrat, right-wing or left-wing, liberal or conservative. They’re simply good economics! Even Reagan’s first Democrat successor, Bill Clinton, followed in his footsteps: Clinton pushed through the North American Free Trade Agreement (negotiations had begun in Reagan’s second term), and in 1997 he signed into law the biggest capital gains tax in our nation’s history.
Despite his administration’s positive impact on the economy, Reagan was beyond and above the details of economics and the nitty-gritty of electoral politics. He had a grand vision for America’s future because of his understanding of her heritage and history. He recognized this nation as the shining city on a hill that John Winthrop had referred to it as, he championed America’s historical values and he maintained faith in a nation that had lost faith in itself.
Now is the time for Americans to recall the wisdom and optimism of Reagan. 2016 is not another 1980 Reagan Revolution, because we do not have another Reagan; but we are facing nothing that can hold us back from progress, deprive us of our heritage, or discourage us from believing that America’s best days are still ahead. It is up to us to maintain the integrity of the republican system, force government back into the bounds of the Constitution, and embrace responsibility on a personal level. There is bright hope for tomorrow, if change begins today.
It’s morning again in America.