The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reagan's Lessons

Obama Learning the Hard Way

There is much debate among historians over the budget deficits former President Ronald Reagan ran up in the 1980's. The main reason for that controversy is that Reagan was a fiscal conservative, so shouldn't the national debt have shrunk rather that grown while he was office? Yet that's not what happened, as the budget was never balanced a single year of his two term presidency. There are two main theories about why that happened.

One is that Reagan simply lacked the authority to balance the budget. Under the U.S. Constitution all spending must originate in Congress. The President has no power over how much Congress chooses to spend, other than to veto bills considered too expensive. Reagan continually vetoed expensive legislation passed by Congress, but the problem was that Reagan controlled the Senate for only the start of his presidency and never controlled the House. That meant that Reagan's vetoes were repeatedly overriden by Congress. Therefore some have argued that the Reagan era deficits should more properly be called the Tip O'Neil deficits, because that was who was Speaker of the House when Congress passed the unbalanced budgets over Reagan's objections. This argument suggests that Reagan would have gladly balanced the budget, but Congress, which has final authority over the purse strings, never allowed him to.

However, there was another, more cynical explanation put forward by some of Reagan's critics. According to this view, Reagan secretly favored running up the debt, because in the long run that would spoil any plans to expand the size and scope of government since it would become unaffordable to do so and pay off all that debt. These critics claimed that Reagan was purposely "starving the government" by running up debts that would all but slam the door on new government spending, which as an advocate of small government Reagan opposed.

Which theory you believe depends a lot upon your view of Reagan. If you like him, you probably favor the theory that it was all the congressional Democrat's fault. If you don't like him, then you might favor the notion that Reagan cynically used deficit spending to strangle any chances for government expansion.

Someone who seems to be getting a hard lesson in both theories is President Barack Obama. The current massive spending - the highest in history - enacted by the Obama Administration in their first months in office is so huge, and requires so much tax revenue to repay, that Obama is finding he has no money left to do anything else with. That is what is killing his health care proposals in Congress, there appears to be no way to enact the kind of expansion of government control over health care that Obama wants without adding to the already unacceptably high deficits.

And Obama is learning Reagan's lesson from Congress as well. Just as Reagan couldn't make Congress stop spending, so a bitter battle appears to be brewing over Obama's pledge to lower spending back to affordable levels after the two year stimulus money runs out. But does anyone really think that the teacher's unions, and the public employee unions, and the other Democrat Party interest groups, who have been fed so generously by the stimulus spending, are going to just voluntarily give up the money in two years? Don't hold your breath. I believe you can safely predict open warfare will break out within the Democrat Party and its special interest groups once it comes time to make those cuts.

So Obama faces the worst of both worlds - a Congress that won't stop spending and deficits so huge that there is no money for new spending programs or the expansion of existing ones. Obama's battle will be to convince his fellow Democrats to cut spending (something which historically they have always refused to do) while coping with a treasury that is constantly broke when it comes to considering any new spending programs.

So although the election of Obama was hailed at the time as a major victory for liberal spending and the expansion of Big Government, that possibility is being crushed as it is becomes increasingly clear that there is no money to do anything but pay off the stimulus bills. Therefore in the end it may well be the ghost of Ronald Reagan who has the last laugh.


Hey, put this up on your website or facebook or whatever to show support for the Twitter Revolution in Iran.

Dubious Role Model

I can't believe that someone sent me a photo of how they looked when they went to a party dressed as Stephen Geoffreys.

The real Stephen Geoffreys at the height of his career in the 1980's.

Stephen in his porno phase.

Stephen today.

Deerfield Day

Yesterday I went to the crafts fair in historic Deerfield. Here I am outside a colonial house.

In the center of town is this massive tree, which is at least three hundred years old.

This monument erected in 1867 honors both the Civil War veterans and those who died in the Indian wars.

Here's the entrance to the crafts fair.

Unfortunately I have no pictures from inside the fair because cameras are forbidden. A copyrighted crafts fair? Apparently they have a problem with people photographing the craft designs and then copying them. Who knew that the crafts fair world was so competitive?

Actually you'd be surprised. A friend of mine used to be in the soda delivery business, bringing the cannisters of soda and removing the empty ones to and from restaurants and bars. You would think that would be a nice, wholesome business, but he told me it was unbelievable how bitter the turf battles were between which companies would get what contracts to service what outlets. Vandalism, dirty tricks, nothing was off limits in the dog eat dog soda pop world. Who'd a thunk?

How True

A t-shirt I saw today at the Amherst Survival Center.

Today's Video

I am an eternal student of language and how it evolves. That is why I like talking with young people, who are the most frequent originators of slang. Most slang dies, but some of it goes mainstream, and it's fascinating to see how that happens and why or why not.

Lately I've been hearing a variation of the term "awesome" which originally became a hot slang term in the 1980's, went mainstream and has since faded. But now I hear it's back as a single sylable "oss." Like, "that new record by Dinosaur Jr. is really oss!" Instead of saying, "really awesome."

Anyway, here is a really oss cover of a really oss song.


Anonymous said...

Reagan was right!

jim said...

talking to young people is also a good way to keep from becoming a biased old fool and losing touch with the main stream of America.

gramps said...

When we were kids we never though we'd ever have it this good. Maybe now it's just reversing all that we have gained because of Government interference and mis-management.

And the new President's "Robin Hood" approach? Taking from the rich and giving it to the poor? Doing this only increases the numbers of "The Poor". Sort of like feeding pigeons. Day after day there are more of them showing up for a handout!