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Posts Tagged ‘Reagan

Money, Power & The American Dream

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Hat tip to one of my Facebook friends, Bruce Bartlett who advised Presidents Reagan and GHW Bush on tax policy, including Reagan’s tax reform of ’86, for letting me know about this video documentary.

The first 20 minutes or so describe the lives and luxury of the uber wealthy. But don’t be deceived into thinking this video is a rant against the wealthy. It’s not.

This video is an expose on how politics and wealth intersect…and how that intersection affects middle and working income and poor families.

This hour-long video needs to be seen by every voter of conscience, from whatever party, before casting their votes. It shows quite clearly how our system is broken, why it’s broken and how beloved nation has begun to fail to live up to its potential. Neither party is spared judgement.

I urge everyone to put aside everything else and take the time to watch the entire video documentary and to think about our nation, her well-being, and all her people before the election.

The US is not, nor has it ever been, pre-Revolutionary France or Russia wherein a few very wealthy held all the power and opportunity while everyone else struggled to survive, thrive and paid all the national bills.

John Winthrop and his Massachusetts colonists created the first free schools because the colonists knew education was vital to economic health, demanded that everyone help those who suffered hardships because doing so was the message of Jesus, and required each family pay a income proportional tax so the colony could pay for its needs and wants. Winthrop believed that only through building a strong, cohesive, educated community could the colony become the shining city on the hill that Reagan and many other politicians have cited rhetorically.

As you can see in this documentary, Winthrop’s dream of a shining city – Jesus’ shining city – is not just under attack but is threatened with having its lights extinguished. Yes, the political system is broken because of money in politics and the wealth that can be made through the use of and manipulation of political power. But much worse is erosion of the traditional social values of social cohesion, caring for the poor, and education of which Winthrop spoke and this nation held for over 300 years.

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Four GOP Presidential Icons on Tax Fairness and Values

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Three Republican Presidential Icons Who Advocated Tax Fairness

Bruce Bartlett, in the Fiscal Times, makes a really good argument for raising taxes on the wealthy, especially on those who receive capital gains, dividend, and inheritance tax breaks.

What is novel about Bartlett’s argument is that he uses four Republican Presidential icons to make his case.

At least through the 1980s, special tax breaks, such as those for dividends and capital gains, were viewed as unfair and unjustified. Indeed, Ronald Reagan was among those who decried the capital gains break because it meant that rich people, who get most of their income from capital, paid less taxes than the average working man. Consequently, as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, he agreed that income from capital gains and wages ought to be taxed at the same rate.

Reagan was building on long tradition by Republicans of demanding fairness in the tax code, which, among other things, meant making sure that capital and labor were treated equally. For example, in his first State of the Union Address in 1861, Abraham Lincoln said, “Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt excoriated big corporations and wealthy men for rigging the system in their favor and not paying their fair share of taxes.

    The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth; who insists that the creature of man’s making shall be the servant and not the master of the man who made it. The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being….

    We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.

    No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered – not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective – a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.

In 1954, Dwight Eisenhower said that everybody should pay their fair share and denounced unjustified tax cuts. “An unwise tax cutter, my fellow citizens, is no real friend of the taxpayer,” he said.

In short, the real debate on the Buffett rule is about fairness. Its particulars are less important – especially since it has no chance of passage at this time – than the debate that will accompany it. If Republicans are successful in conveying the message that it’s okay for rich people to pay less than working people then this will frame the forthcoming budget debate in a particular way….

If history proved any answers, the one answered by these four Republican presidents is that labor should be taxed at the same or lesser rate than capital gains and inheritance because labor is inherently worth more to society.

Something to think about as discussions on taxes and tax rates continue throughout the year.

Related:

Have the Rich Ever Paid a Fair Share of Taxes? (Part 1)

Have the Rich Ever Paid a Fair Share of Taxes? (Part 2)

Written by Valerie Curl

April 20, 2012 at 10:35 AM

Reagan Economist: Why GOP Should Stop Invoking Reaganomics

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Bruce BartlettBruce Bartlett on why Reagan’s Tax Policy is wrong for today’s economic problems.

Judging from the [GOP] candidates’ tax proposals, they seem to believe that the most Reagan-like candidate is the one with the biggest tax cut. But, as the person who drafted the 1981 Reagan tax cut, I think Republicans misunderstand the premises upon which Reagan’s economic policies were based, and why those policies can’t — and shouldn’t — be replicated today.

I was the staff economist for Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) in 1977, and it was my job to draft what came to be the Kemp-Roth tax bill, which Reagan endorsed in 1980 and enacted the following year. Kemp and Sen. Bill Roth (R-Del.) proposed cutting tax rates across the board by about a third, lowering the top rate from 70 percent to 50 percent and reducing the bottom rate from 20 percent to 8 percent. (Though when the Reagan tax cut was enacted in 1981, the bottom rate was reduced to 11 percent.)

While our aim was to increase growth and employment, we were intent on doing so in a way that did not exacerbate inflation, which was the nation’s top problem at that time.

Here’s the money quote:

When comparing Reagan’s policies with Republican proposals today, several things stand out. Inflation is low now. We are not looking at “bracket creep” or sharply rising taxes, as we were in the late 1970s. The top income tax rate is 35 percent, half the rate Reagan inherited. And federal revenue is at a 60-year low of about 15 percent of GDP, compared with a post-World War II average of about 18.5 percent.

These differences are essential to understanding why Reagan’s policies worked when they did — and why they are not appropriate today.

All of the evidence tells us that the economy’s fundamental problem today is not on the supply side but the demand side. According to a recent study by Credit Suisse, two-thirds of the difference in growth at this point in the business cycle, compared with previous cycles, is due to slower consumer spending. And low inflation — as well as widespread unemployment, vast stocks of unsold houses, empty factories and other indicators — tells us that money is tight, not loose, as was the case in the late 1970s.

“Low interest rates are generally a sign that money has been tight,” economist Milton Friedman wrote in 1997. Yet, absurdly, Republicans continually berate the Federal Reserve for being too easy; some even insist, insanely, that the United States should return to the gold standard, even though it was a key cause of the Great Depression.

Because inflation and interest rates are low, Fed policy is constrained today in ways it was not in the early 1980s. Back then, the Fed could bring down the federal funds rate to a little less than the inflation rate and create negative real rates, thus stimulating borrowing, investment and consumption. It can’t do that now because it can’t reduce market interest rates below zero.

Economic conditions are entirely different today than they were in Reagan’s era, and different conditions demand different policies. Those who say otherwise are simply engaging in cookie-cutter economics — proposing whatever was popular and seemed to work once, without regard to changing circumstances.

Written by Valerie Curl

February 7, 2012 at 9:48 AM

Reagan Biographer Says Gingrich Lies

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Newt Gingrich Falsely Claims to be Reagan Heir ApparentA short discussion between Andrea Mitchell and Al Hunt, executive editor of Bloomberg, caught my attention when they discussed Newt Gingrich’s assertion that he was Reagan’s anointed leader of the conservative movement.

In this discussion, Mitchell showed the video of Nancy Reagan in which Gingrich claims she endorsed him as her husband’s heir apparent. It’s obvious from the discussion, Mrs. Reagan meant something entirely different.

It should be remembered that Reagan had a sunny disposition. Even during his debates and campaign against President Carter, he never called Carter a liar or an evil person or as attempting to destroy the U.S. Although at times during debates he implied Carter wasn’t being totally honest, he refrained from calling Carter a liar. Reagan, instead, pointed out honest policy differences between their two governing policies.

The same cannot be said of Gingrich. Gingrich’s modus operandi since he became Speaker of the House has been a “scorched earth” policy enabling Republicans to become a permanent majority and he alone becomes its leader. As his second wife said in he interview in Esquire in August of 2010, Gingrich believes he deserves to be President…not because he has better ideas but because his ego demands it. In this respect, he reminds me of Nixon.

Leaving aside my own personal opinions of Gingrich from his days as Speaker, Al Hunt follows up with a enlightening editorial of Gingrich’s claim as Reagan’s heir apparent.

Here are the money quotes from that editorial:

“Gingrich had absolutely nothing to do with the Reagan Revolution,” replies Lou Cannon, who as a journalist covered the entire Reagan presidency and wrote the best biography of the 40th president, “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime.”

“There were congressmen who influenced Reagan, especially Jack Kemp,” Cannon said in an interview. “I’m not sure Reagan even knew who Gingrich was.”

Gingrich is only mentioned once in Cannon’s book, in a discussion about the post-Reagan era. In one of the former president’s own books, “The Reagan Diaries,” the ex-Georgia congressman comes up only once in passing and the reference is largely negative. He doesn’t appear at all in Reagan’s autobiography, “An American Life” or Edmund Morris’ biography, “Dutch.”

Later in the editorial, Hunt adds:

The oldest man ever elected president regaled voters with stories about the past while always looking to the future. To him, American exceptionalism was more than a campaign slogan and he really believed the country’s best days were ahead. “Reagan projected the future,” Cannon recalls. “These guys don’t.”

The candidate who presents himself as an original Reaganite is Gingrich. Campaigning in Florida this weekend, he said he was “very proud to run on a Reagan-Gingrich record.” The Georgia lawmaker, in fact, was a backbencher in the House during the 1980s; while he brilliantly plotted the Republican takeover of the House a decade later, he played almost no role in the Reagan agenda.

His assertions to the contrary infuriate Reagan-watchers like Cannon. “I find Gingrich almost condescending in the way he talks about Reagan,” he says. “He tries to attach himself to the coattails or the image, saying, ‘I’m Reaganesque,’ without any evidence.”

Written by Valerie Curl

January 30, 2012 at 6:06 PM

Former Reagan campaign manager speaks out against “talk jocks”

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In an interview with the LA Times on Sept. 20, Stuart Spenser, who ran Reagan’s “four successful campaigns for the late governor and president, laments the state of politics and punditry.” He told the Times,


The Republican California political guru who crafted four successful Ronald Reagan campaigns, two for governor and two for president, does not watch Fox News or its conservative bobblehead pundits.

Why not?

Fox News has an agenda, 82-year-old Stuart Spencer said over breakfast in Palm Desert, where he and his wife make their home. Same is true of MSNBC, he said. One goes right and the other goes left, and Spencer doesn’t see why those interested in educating themselves on matters of national importance would turn to either for reliable information.
[…]
It’s hard, Spencer said, to pinpoint exactly where we went off the rails. There have always been cultural and social changes in the nation, he said, and over time the differences of various regions became more pronounced. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and cohorts exploited that when they tried to commandeer the policy agenda by acing out Democrats, Spencer said, and he thinks current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is doing the same to Republicans.

I asked Spencer if part of the problem is the growing influence of money, which makes politicians more beholden to special interests and therefore more divided. Maybe, he said, but money was always a factor in politics. Today there’s also a different kind of money in play: the fortunes that TV and radio broadcasts make by having gas bag commentators fan the flames day and night.

So, what are his thoughts on the (in)famous pundits:

Rush Limbaugh –
“When I had a place in Oregon, I’d drive 25 minutes and [Rush] Limbaugh would be on three different stations,” Spencer said. “I couldn’t get rid of the son of a. . . .”

Acquaintances would ask Spencer about Limbaugh’s brilliant observations, and Spencer would politely say he never listened. His astonished pals, knowing how close he was to the Gipper, would demand to know why not.

“Because he’s an ass,” Spencer would say, only he added a second syllable that makes the insult unprintable in a family newspaper.

Keith Olbermann of MSNBC –
Spencer wants reason, not rants. He wants substance, not smirks. He has no interest in watching one side lob grenades at the other in nightly warfare that further divides the nation along cultural and political lines.

Glenn Beck –
Spencer can’t watch the maudlin Fox host, who blubbers over the destruction of the nation by a president he calls a racist.

Chris Matthews –
Spencer said the last time he appeared on “Hardball” with motormouth Chris Matthews, the host asked a question and then interrupted before Spencer uttered two sentences. So he’s scratched that show too.

Reagan was himself at times a divisive and hypocritical leader whose debacles, including the Iran-Contra scandal, have been obscured by years of myth-making. But he was civil to his political foes and built lasting relationships, political and social, with the Kennedys, among others. He worked closely with Sen. Ted Kennedy on budget matters and international disarmament, and with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on the end of the Cold War.

The tenor was different then, Spencer said, recalling that on Thursday nights, Reagan invited Democrat Tip O’Neill, the House speaker, to the White House for hours of storytelling and problem-solving.

It was a time when you sat down with your political counterparts and tried to find common ground. If the other guy got the best of you, you would look him in the eye and say, “OK, you win. But I’m going to get you next time.”

In Sacramento, Spencer said, “you could fight all day and then go have a cocktail with the other side at night.” His fix for California’s intractable budget mess would begin with redrawing legislative districts.

“The first thing I used to tell a candidate was that he had to fit his district,” Spencer said, but the districts are now drawn to be safely to the right or safely to the left, so moderates never get out of the blocks and Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on the time of day.

If today’s heated and often absurd “talk jock” rhetoric causes a long time Reagan trusted adviser to choose only to watch CNN and PBS news because of the silly partisanship and self-serving outbursts, then maybe the rest of us should listen…and maybe follow his example. And, in fitting with my own personal crusade, redraw the current insanely gerrymandered districts.

Written by Valerie Curl

October 2, 2009 at 7:41 PM

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