The Reagan Restoration

Article available seven days only

June 7, 2004
A striking fact about Ronald Reagan is that nearly a generation after he left the Presidency so many people still don’t comprehend the reasons for his success. The eulogies over this past weekend have stressed his many personal virtues: his fundamental good nature, his humor and optimism, his courage in coping with Alzheimer’s, and his skills as the “great communicator.”

These were all essential to the man and to his achievement, but they were not sufficient. Mr. Reagan was the most consequential President since FDR because of his ideas. His Presidency was at root about returning a country that was heading toward decline back to its founding principles of individual liberty and responsibility. At the time it was called a “revolution” but his era is better understood as a restoration.

Read the entire article on the Wall Street Journal Online website.


12 thoughts on “The Reagan Restoration”

  1. In many way’s Ronald Reagan’s “sunny optimism” was like a happy face label pasted to a bottle of snake oil. Reagan told America that we could cut taxes, increase defense spending and balance the budget. Of course, it was a bald-faced lie, and the result was the first instance of inter-generational theft in American history, as trillions of dollars in debt were passed to a younger generation, my generation, to pay off. Reagan’s economic peosperity was the false glow emanating from an orgy of borrowing. Sure, if I went wild with my credit cards, and could send the bill to my kids, I would feel prosperous too.

    Instead of funding new schools, health clinics or infrastructure, a substantial portion of the federal budget must be used to pay off debt. More than ten percent of the federal budget now goes to interest. Today nearly three-quarters of the half-trillion annual debt created by the Bush administration is purchased by the Banks of Japan, China and Taiwan, prompting the question of what will happen to our economy and interest rates if Asia ever stops buying our debt.

    The idea that cutting taxes to ever lower rates you will increase federal revenue is one of the great hoaxes perpetrated on the American people by the right wing of the Republican party. Of course if taxes are extremely high, and choking off business actvity, then cutting taxes will have a positive impact. However, if taxes are at a moderate level and you continue to cut them, either the resulting deficits, or the resulting loss of investment in infrastructure and people will have a negative economic impact that will reduce revenue.

    Arthur Laffer, the economist who suggested the idea to Ronald Reagan, that lower tax rates mean increased tax revenues, called his theory, “the Laffer Curve.” The very term “curve suggests a curvi-linear relationship and a “delta”, or rate of change, and can be expressed mathematically. So the impact of a tax cut on the economy is not constant and we do not always get the same amount of economic growth for every 1% decline in tax rates. Instead the conomic impact of the tax cut depends on where we are on the curve.

    In less than ten years from now the first members of the baby-boom generation will begin retiring and drawing on the social-security and medicare benefits our nation has promised them. However instead of paying down our national debt and saving so we will meet those financial obligation, the Republicans today are piling up trillions in debt. Ten years the needs of retired Americans will have to compete with our need to service the massive debt created between 1980-1988 and sharply increased between 2001-2004.

    As the Republicans work furiously to make permanent the Bush tax cuts for the and trying to pass new ones, we can clearly see the nation poised to experience declining reveues simultaneous with increasing spending needs associated with taking care of an aging population while servicing trillions in new debt.

    The result will be a fiscal crisis that will visit hardship on the vast majority of lower and middle-class Americans. America’s soaring debt will eventually result in a loss of confidence by our foreign creditors, resulting in a declining dollar, rising interest rates and deep recession, accompanied by sharp reductions in federal spending to assist the poor and middle-class.

    The great Old Testament prophets such as Ezekial, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Amos warn us that God punishes nations for their greed and selfishness, and we can already see the outlines of America’s punishment forming.

  2. Mr. Scourtes,

    Maybe it’s time to take the campaign elsewhere. The point of this blog is not to respond to your every challenge, and then respond to another ten two days down the road, and ten more two days after that.

    Challenges are fine, but I’m really not interested in rebutting every liberal challenge in the play-book, or responding to assumptions about conservative views that I and many here don’t necessarily hold.

    This really is not a political debating blog as such. Since you clearly prefer debate, maybe it’s time to start a site of your own.

  3. Mr. Scourtes,

    Fr. Jacobse is right. Everyone who views this blog knows your political views and preferences. You have, selfishly, made them overabundantly clear, even concerning issues on which you obviously know nothing except the standard liberal reactions. Before you arrived, the blog was notable for discussions of different sides of various issues, in which, even when the debates got a little hot, contributors listened to each other, remained polite, and were open to having their minds changed by superior logic. You display no such openness or willingness for real dialogue, only for endless polemic. (A few days ago, I thought you were beginning to open up to the views of others, but your most recent posts prove that you are back to your usual spouting of rude invective). Fr. Jacobse and others have asked, then warned you several times to moderate your language, to reexamine your logic, and to review your understanding of Christian principles (which are clearly in captivity to the tired-out ideas of 60s and 70s liberalism), but you have ignored them.

    A Google search on your name showed me that you prefer a Democratic victory in November. That is just fine; it’s your choice and your right in American society. But that fact and your intractability and hyperbolic, abusive polemic against those with whom you disagree have me wondering just what you’re doing on this blog. There are two possibilities. One is that you really have no idea just how arrogant and self-important you sound, just how weak and convoluted your “logic” can be, and you like the attention you’re getting. The other is that you are doing this on purpose, perhaps for the sake of “disrupting” a conservative website so that those who come here will somehow be “rescued” from those bad conservatives and brought into the liberal fold where they belong.

    If you are here for the first reason, then you need to grow up and refine the quality of your debate. If you are here for the second reason, well, then: 1) Don’t flatter yourself, because intellectually you’re being blown out of the water; 2) Don’t think you will succeed, because although it is boring and exhausting, we will not let you dominate the blog; and 3) Go away and annoy someone else.

  4. By offering a different point of view I wanted to help this Blog be more than just a right wing echo chamber but to provoke a more interesting, informative, and penetrating discussion. I have been impressed by the comments by all of the participants. There has been some really good content on this Blog and I have learned a lot, and gained respect for all of the other contributors.

    I was raised in a household where we had vigorous political debates over the dinner table, and as furious as those debates would get, we all still loved each other at the end. My parents taught me not to blindly accept ideas, but to examine and question them. Your comments allow me to question my own, and I thank you.

    People can disagree and still treat each other with respect. However, if I have insulted anyone in this blog please tell me so I can apologize to you, for it was never my intent to insult anyone. Also, remember that it is competition is that makes America great and that includes competition in the marketplace of ideas.

    As you request, I will post less frequently.

  5. Well, I broke my moratorium on reading Mr. Scourtes post’s and read his last one. It was disappointing. Instead of addressing the criticisms, he attacks the criticizer. Instead of engaging in logic and discussion, he actually asserts that it is everyone else who is avoiding it! He speaks about “vigorous political debates” and the “marketplace of ideas” but he refuses to participate in them, even when begged to do so and instead propagandizes. He then arrogantly informs us to “remember that it is competition…”. Mr. Scourtes, we have asked you again and again and again to fairly compete – you are the one refusing, not us. I am glad your family still loves you Dean, and you should be thankful that it has nothing to do with your ability to effectively communicate and “debate” because you have no sense what debate means. I recoil at the harshness of that last sentence but I see no other say of saying it. Mr. Scourges, you have no sense at all of “the marketplace of ideas”. None.

  6. I need to apologize to Mr. Scourtes for misspelling his name “Mr. Scourges” in that last sentence. While it was a slip of the tongue , or rather in this case of the keys, I must confess that I believe some spirit (whether good or evil I do not know) must have possessed me for reasons that are all too clear….:)

  7. Like Christopher (who I’m very glad to see back in action in responding to Mr. Scourtes), I’m not at all convinced by Mr. Scourtes’ latest post. First, he opens with yet another over-the-top insult, calling this blog a “right-wing echo chamber” which needs to be “more interesting, informative, and penetrating discussion.” And then he asks forgiveness if he’s insulted anyone on the blog, right after insulting all of us! His remark reinforces, not dispels, my suspicion that he is simply here to make trouble, if only by hurling childish invective. His remark also confirms my suspicion that Mr. Scourtes is deficient in his abilities of logical analysis and clear articulation of reality, because anyone else who had read this blog as long as Mr. Scourtes has would conclude that not everyone here holds the same ideas. Mr. Scourtes is unaware, apparently, that there can be considerable differences of opinion along the spectrum of conservative thought.

    Second, while Mr. Scourtes claims to respect the opinions of the others on the site, he shows NO SIGN of this in his posts. From what he wrote about the political “debates” around his family’s dinner table (and I could be wrong, of course), I’m led to think that these weren’t discussions characterized by careful listening and attempts to understand the other’s point of view before responding, but, rather, screaming matches. This would certainly explain Mr. Scourtes’ apparent bafflement by superior argumentation, his refusals to engage it further, and his foolishness in thinking he can bring the same point up again later as if nothing had happened. Who does he think he’s fooling?

    Mr. Scourtes, as I wrote earlier today, needs to decide either to raise the level of his debate or to simply go away.

  8. For Bill and Christopher,

    I do not think that we ought to ascribe to Mr. Scourtes a bad motive for his posts, inflammatory and erroneous as they are. Both of you have criticised Mr. Scourtes for paying lip service to rigorous debte while in fact engaging in polemic. I agree that what has occured on this blog has been polic not debate; however, as anybody who has been to college in the last ten years knows, polemic is what passes for debate nowadays. I cannot be the only one who has been in a classroom where some straw man argument has been erected, after which time the class becomes a speak bitterness session, followed by a professor-led orgy of self-congratulation for the “thoughtful and critical analysis” that has just transpired in the last 40 minutes where every comment began with the words, “As a [insert identity group here] I feel….” Where liberalism and tolerance has degenerated into nonjudgmental relativism, “debate” no longer means a process by which we seek the truth by means of argumentation, but rather the process by which we affirm that everyone has a deeply felt opinion. I suspect that Mr. Scourtes subscribes to today’s non-judgmental and therapudic version of “critical thought” and if this be the case, his comments about debate are not cynical, hypocritical or illogical, they are very much consistant–however erroneous.

    Similarly, I suspect that Mr. Scourtes honsetly does not know just how offensive he has been. Like your university president who has no clue that his statement that “students of color” cannot learn or compete with white students because they somehow feel cripplingly uncomfortable if enough students do not “look like them” has condescendingly declared that non-whites are mentally frail, Mr. Scourtes apparently has no clue that he has called conservatives stupid and/or evil. In contrast, take Christopher, who refuses to call Catholics “Catholics” but rather insists on using “roman church” or “rc.” Christopher obviously knows that he is insulting Catholics, but believes that the doctrinal point he wishes to assert, that the Orthodox Church is the only true Church and that the others are either Churches in error or heretics, is sufficiently important to justify the slight.

    Finally, I offer the possibility that Mr. Scourtes does not think that he is hijacking this blog on Orthodox morality to turn it into a blog on politics because he believes that they are the same thing. Erroneous? Yes. Annoying? Yes. Malicious? I do not think so. Obviously, no progress with Mr. Scourtes will be made unless he abandons some of his flawed assumptions (assumptions that I suspect several of us have held at one time), but inasmuch as there is not much else going on commentwise since Christopher, Mr. Bauman and I went at it on whether Catholics are heretics, it is better to continue to invite Mr. Scourtes to see why he is wrong on almost everything rather than lose patience and tell him to leave.

    Thanks for reading,
    Han Ng

  9. Han, your comments describe a valid third possibility for the impenetrability of Mr. Scourtes’ posts. I would like to mention that I have only raised the possibility that Mr. Scourtes posts here out of malicious motives, rather than directly accusing him; similarly, I have mentioned his departure from our midst as an option, rather than, if I may quote you, “[lost] patience and [told] him to leave” (telling him to leave would be Fr. Hans’ prerogative, not mine). Your points are well taken, particularly the cultivation and channeling of inchoate rage which passes for critical reasoning in today’s academic and societal meeting places. The Angry Left has been long a-building.

  10. I find that many on the left confuse moral posturing with critical thinking. They believe that purity of motive is what makes an idea true and thus compelling, so that anyone who opposes the idea is perceived to have a selfish, perhaps evil, but certainly misguided, motive and intent.

    I think this accounts for Mr. Scourtes’ approach of firing off more unsubstantiated ideas whenever he is challenged. He mentioned he wanted to “open debate” while not realizing that his definition of an open debate is complete agreement with his conclusions. Indeed, it cannot be any other way if purity of motive, rather than the credibility of the idea, is the basis for deciding if an idea should be held at all.

    A challenged then, is perceived not as an attack on the credibility of the idea but on the credibility of the person. For example, when Mr. Scourtes’ ideas about poverty were challenged, he responded with a handful of paragraphs about gay rights. It’s not that poverty and gay rights are related. They aren’t. Rather, Mr. Scourtes’ needs to reestablish his good motives (thus inadvertently revealing that the critique of his ideas about poverty struck close to home), hence the counterattack on the motives and intent of the “religious right” concerning gay rights.

    This is also why in Mr. Scourtes’ apology he mentions insult as the offense. Since Mr. Scourtes assumes that the conservative objections function in the same way as his liberal argumentation, the greatest offense one can give is disagreement with another person’s political ideas becauses disagreement implies that a moral deficiency exists. Thus, when he disagrees with my ideas, he assumes I am insulted. I’m not of course. I just think he has poor ideas. However, on his end, he takes offense at my critiques, thus the reassertion of moral rectitude through more diatribe — and diatribe is not too strong a word for the gay-rights polemic that greeted my critique of the liberal poverty programs. I don’t think he sees this.

    The difficulty is breaking this vicious circle. If Mr. Scourtes assumes my criticism of his ideas are personal, the vicious circle continues. On my part I must treat Mr. Scourtes respectfully without compromising the rigor that the examination that his (and all) ideas require. For his part, Mr. Scourtes has to recognize that the claim that an idea is morally compelling doesn’t necessarily make it so. Claiming the moral high ground and actually occupying it are two different things.

  11. I’ll give Mr.Scourtes one compliment. His posts have caused me to be more careful about my own as I cannot assume a similar logic or even a similar understanding of what it means to be Orthodox. I therefore must be far more precise and work more on the transitions in my comments to make sure I leave as little room for misunderstanding as possible. I also can see more clearly that my own tendency to boil over on issues from time to time is clearly counter productive. Civility always communicates more clearly than invective, no matter what the circumstances, plus one does not then need to worry about needless or unthinking offense given.

    Han, I believe you are exactly correct that Mr. Scourtes does not see the difference in politics and Orthodox morality. I have noted several times Mr.Scourtes confusion between appropriate governmental/political action and the action of the Church. I genuinely fear for Dean that his identification of the Churches teachings and practices with his politics could have serious spiritual consequences. The Church and her teachings should always stand as a critique of any political action, a standard by which we assess the shortcomings and sinfulness inherent in any political action or platform, no matter how well intentioned. As long as moral questions arise in the public sphere, it will be difficult for sincere people to sort out politics and moral stands. The war in Iraq is a difficult dilemma, abortion should be a no-brainer. The death penalty is muddier. The ability to treat homosexuals with human dignity and respect where they earn that respect while at the same time steadfastly opposing public acceptance of their sinful way of living takes great tact, sensitivity, and decency.

    I have personally known quite a few homosexuals in my earlier days, as I spent many years involved in theater. I have seen the humanness of them and the desperation of their lives. A desperation that has nothing to do with the legality of their choice (and it is a choice). Their desperation has to do with the sinfulness of their lives, it is a desperation that is no different than the desperation of any one of us who struggles unsuccessfully with a besetting sin. We show our love for them just as God shows His love for us–reproving their sin for what it is, calling them to repentance, and providing access to the person of Jesus Christ, in scripture, in the life of the Church and His healing presence in the sacraments. We show our profound hatred of them when we say, go ahead and sin, it makes no difference, do what you want. I’ll do what I can to make sure you die well cared for and that no one will ever say anything to make you wake up to your self-destructive life.

    The Republicans and Conservatives tend to have a blind spot or a callus when it comes to the matters of the working poor. I am sure that much of the highly touted “productivity gains” in our economy come at the expense of managers forcing hourly workers to work off the clock and using unreported illegal aliens as a significant part of the work force. However, the Democrats are just as hypocritical in their exploitation of the situation for political gain without any real solution.

    Neither the Republican/Conservative or the Democrat/Liberal position on the environment is anything but political mush. Here is a place where forcefully lived, clearly articulated Orthodox understanding could have a tremendous impact. Sadly, we are largely silent or speak only in our own jargon to one another and praise our own wisdom. Consequently the neo-pagans and self-hating humans rule the left, while those who see the capitalization of nature as a good thing that we only need more of, rule the right.

    Unfortunately, Pres. Reagan really missed the boat here, with James Watt who was of the evangelical persuasion that thought the Rapture was coming soon so we didn’t need to worry about the environment. Not to mention his EPA refusing to enforce the environmental regulations with which they disagreed. However politically astute Pres. Reagan was and however much good he did on the geo-political scene, he failed on the environment. His vision did not extend in that direction.

    Personally, I value the conversations with all of you. I will do what I can to elevate the conversation. I trust that each one of you will do the same.

    Thank you Han.

  12. Han, Fr. Jacobse, Michael, and all:

    Your well articulated and generous posts are excellent. I hear your call to be careful, thorough, and patient with Mr. Scourtes and those with a similar philosophy. Han even summarizes our disagreement well, which shows understanding and is an important step in real dialogue and eventual consensus/compromise. Though this site & blog is a small thing in “the big picture”, I think it is a blessing and a good thing…

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