Robison: Why Reagan Was Wrong

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(HOST)  The current voter rebellion against taxes and big government, reminds commentator Olin Robison of someone he once knew, and  liked. But, quite often they disagreed.

(ROBISON) Do I think there is a certain irrationality in the public discourse right now?   Of course I do.  That will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me at all.

I think we are witnessing the long term effects of my old friend, Ronald Reagan.  I knew him personally and admired his political skills while disagreeing with just about everything he believed.  He had two great impacts on the American body politic:  First, he managed with great success to convince Americans that Government is bad and Second, he convinced Americans that they should not have to pay taxes.  I personally think he was wrong on both counts.  I know, of course why no national politician, including Obama, will never say such a thing because no politician will ever say anything that they think will lose them more votes than it gets and the Democrats of course need every vote they can get right now.

I have long thought and continue to think that part of the genius of the American system is that there are certain things that the government can do, there are certain things the corporate community can do and there are certain things that the non-profit sector can do.  The amazing thing to me is that it works as well as it does most of the time.

One of the talking heads on television recently said something I agreed with.  He said that Americans are spoiled.  We want the government there in any emergency but we don’t in fact want to have to pay for it.  The guy was right of course.  Thank you, Mr. Reagan.      

I do remember two instances that, for me at least, make the points:

There was the picture, from President Reagan’s first term, when the President was meeting with the Pope.  They were sitting side by side in arm chairs.  The Pope was reading from a prepared statement and the President was sound asleep.

A few years later, during President Reagan’s second term, I shared a speaker’s platform with Arthur Laffer, the California Economist  who invented and propagated the famous Laffer Curve which purported to show that lower taxes put more money in the economy until corporate taxes would eventually simply do away with income taxes.   After the presentations he and I were walking back to our respective cottages.  "Arthur," said I, "what you were saying in there was pure nonsense and we both know it,"  "Yes",   he said, "I know, but the President of the United States believes it."   And President Reagan did indeed believe it wholeheartedly.

As I said earlier, I admired him as a politician but disagreed with most of what he believed as is the case today with the many who plan "to take our country back".

(TAG) For more commentaries by Olin Robison, go to VPR-dot-net.

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