It dawned on me that my four children aged 4, 13, 21 and 22 — as wonderful as they are and as much as they know how I feel about freedom and liberty and as much as they get the concept of smaller government = a freer people — they don’t know much about former president Ronald Reagan. Frankly, they hear the power brokers on both sides of the aisle constantly comparing themselves to him more than any other president this nation has ever had. Think about it, when’s the last time you heard some politician say, “I’m going to do what Grover Cleveland did if you vote for me?” There’s good reason why they choose to (usually ridiculously) compare themselves to Reagan. He was a great president with a simple, “Government is a necessary evil, but is certainly not your friend,” sensibility.
This outlook, along with his incredible ability to restore nationalism after one of the weakest American presidents ever (Jimmy Carter), proved desirous and very attractive to most Americans no matter what they’re usual preferred political leanings. The term “Reagan Democrat” was coined as he saw great success no matter who the voter was. President Reagan was smooth, quick, witty and, most importantly, hard not to like. He was a calming figure no matter whether he was facing down the threat of global nuclear war or recovering from the gunshot wound of a would-be assassin.
The things he said were wonderfully appropriate in the mindset of the role government should and shouldn’t play in the lives of a free people. With that in mind, I decided to present some of these quotes here — as part of a series. I’m doing it for a couple of reasons:
- to refresh you and me of what we lived through and what helped us to figure out how we felt about this country and how it’s run.
- and, more importantly, to give us a resource we can use as a reason to sit down with our kids and talk about the greatest president in our lifetimes and certainly in the last 100 years.
The first quote I chose really fits into the times we’re in. It’s simple:
“We don’t have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven’t taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much.”
First thing that jumps out is how he was railing against a “trillion-dollar debt.” One has to wonder how he would feel about a federal debt approaching 17 trillion. The meaning really is direct and simple. The Federal Government doesn’t have a money confiscation problem, it has a spending problem. You’ve heard many politicians say something to the effect of “Washington is broken.” I disagree. I say, “Washington is making the people broke.”
Imagine if you will, you are getting paid at work. You make $500 a week. However, you consistently spend $600 a week. So, you put the other hundred over on a credit card until you max the card out. You don’t change your spending. In fact, you decide to start spending $1000 a week. Now, you owe interest on the debt you were accruing every week and instead of doing what would actually work — stop spending so much — you’ve increased your spending to the point that the money you’re making barely covers the interest on the built up debt. Then, you tell — you don’t ask — your credit card company to increase your limit there because all of this spending and paying of interest has you maxed out. Simple question: what do you think your boss would say if you went to him with your debt and spending portfolio and requested a raise? Mine would say, I didn’t make you spend that way. You know how much you make. YOU spend less. Instead, Washington automatically increases its spending every year through what’s called “baseline budgeting.” It’s a monetary shell-game that lets politicians claim they’re cutting the budget when it actually auto-increases yearly.
How do you solve the problem? You stop the game of, “raising the debt ceiling is just to pay for the stuff we’ve already bought.” That might have worked the first time. Problem is, Washington refuses to stop buying stuff after getting the increase. If the spending stopped or — God Forbid — were decreased, we wouldn’t have the dog-and-pony show ever two years over raising or not raising the debt limit.
The eight years Ronald Reagan was the president encompassed one of the best recoveries from recession we’ve seen in our history. How did he make that happen? He lowered taxes for Americans across the board and limited the government’s reach in our lives. The blueprint exists and should be followed today.