Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I'm Not Alone!

In the comments of my post about the presidents of my lifetime, Dave and I had a quick exchange about the relative merits of Ronald Reagan. I was the last to post (because I can't shut up), and I insisted that Jimmy Carter was a better president than Teflon Ron because Reagan was eeeeeeevil. Today in the Washington Post, Richard Cohen has a column discussing one aspect of why I think those things. Here's an exerpt:

This is the doleful legacy of Reaganism. We have become a nation that believes that you can get something for nothing. We thought that the energy crisis would be solved . . . somehow, and that no one would have to suffer. We still believe in the magical qualities of America, that something about us makes us better. Yet we have a chaotic and mediocre education system that desperately needs more money and higher standards, but we think -- don't we? -- that somehow we will maintain our lifestyle anyway. Hey, is this America or what?

That paragraph is more an indictment of fiscally-conservative, laissez faire economic policy than it is specifically of Reagan, but Reagan has become the icon of that sort of flawed thinking. And that's not to say that this is all true because I think so and Richard Cohen apparently agrees with me, and it certainly doesn't mean that Dave is deluded on the subject of presidential merit (the "discussion" was more like neighbors exchanging hellos from their respective cars while paused at a traffic light than a real exploration of ideas), but I still think Carter was better than Reagan.

But I could be wrong.


dchmielewski said...

I think that blaming Ronald Reagan for the deluded state of mind of many Americans who believe that they can get something for nothing is a bit of a leap. Certainly Reaganomics and supply side economics are certainly representative of the problem, but hardly the cause. The cause is all of us spoiled Americans ;-)

I am the kind that carries no balance on my credit cards and keeps money liquid for what I call my "Take this job and shove it" fund, where I could quit my job and work at Wendy's for a year and still pay the mortgage. So I am no supply side apologist. I believe in a balance budget for governments and individuals.

But I still can't get past the fact that while Jimmy Carter was (and is) a brilliant intellectual and architected the Camp David Peace accord between Egypt and Israel that remains in effect to this day (unlike all other Mid-east peace initiatives), he was a crummy chief executive and a marginal politician. Whether it was his fault or not, the Carter presidency left the country in a real funk (much worse in real economic terms than we are today).

I have tremendous respect and admiration for Jimmy Carter, but results do matter and when Ronny asked us in 1980 whether we were better off today than we were four years ago, the answer was obvious, which is why Carter got trounced. If Obama could recruit Powell as vice president and Carter as secretary of state (I know it is ridiculous, but its kind of like "fantasy politics") he would really have something going.

My $0.02, feel free to chip in over the virtual fence neighbor.

Jim said...

I don't know the cause because I've never thought much about this aspect of political/economic history (funny how much information is out there that I just have never thought to explore).

I've always been saddened by the state of our school system. Teachers, in my opinion, should be paid much higher than they are. Bush's answer (standardized tests) hasn't helped. Now the curriculum taught is only what's necessary to pass the test. Budgets can be cut, class sizes increased, and the future of the nation left in the hands of "standard" thinkers, while the rest of the world is upping the ante. Soon, we'll be left behind, our only route to greatness being our military might. No brains plus all brawn just makes us a bully.

Jason said...

I don't think Reagan is responsible for Americans being greedy, mindless consumers, but I do believe he's largely responsible for the governmental shift toward encouraging that mindset.

It seems to me that one of the functions of government is to curb those traits humans have toward catastrophic ruin. Our economic policy since Reagan is exactly that, and Reagan's conscious reversal of Carter's energy policy is likely even more damaging.

But for the most part, I think you and I are of a mind on these things.

Jason said...

Er. Instead of "Our economic policy since Reagan is exactly that," insert "Our economic policy since Reagan has exacerbated those traits instead of minimizing their damage."

I made that mistake because the two phrases are so similar . . .

dchmielewski said...


Are we sharing the brain (mind) this week, a la the Taylor brothers? If so, I need it on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The rest of the week, its yours ;-)

Jason said...

Wow. I haven't thought of Tard Taylor in years. I wonder if you guys will see him in a couple of weeks.

And how about this?

Gowaaad-DAMMIT, Freddie.

Mike said...

All this political blather is interesting yet somewhat nauseating. I persoanlly think Ronnie was a putz, and Jimmy was a peanut farmer (a smart one at that)turned president.

Do I dare ask the opinions of Clinton and the economic impact his 8 years had? Oops, I just did...have at you!!!!