"Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the
problem."--Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981.
The National Republican Party Establishment parades standard-bearer Ronald Reagan as the man who brought down “Big Government.” At some point, I imagine Establishment party leaders will eventually pass out “What Would Reagan Do?” wristbands.
Under Reagan, the growth of government slowed, but it did not stop. Aside from Reagan’s first hundred days of major tax cuts, very little was done to diffuse the entitlement bomb which is now menacing this country's fiscal future.
In 1981, Reagan told conservative Republicans to raise the debt ceiling “one last time”, but he betrayed them, and the spending spree never stopped.
Reagan talked up the “limited government” style, yet the substance
was sorely lacking, much like Drake McHugh, Reagan's star-breaking role in the 1942 film Kings Row, who cried out "Where's the rest of me?" when he saw that his legs had been amputated. Reagan cut tax rates across the board early in his first term, which jump-started the economy. However, Reagan did not tackle entitlements, which are still eating away at the dwindling United States Treasury, a somber reality which today's political class and outraged populace are just now grappling with.
The United States federal government needs specific policy, not just
politics, to fend off the economic calamities poised to take down this nation.
Speaking with voters throughout the South Bay and the rest of the 33rd Congressional District, I hear many people complaining about the waste and fraud under the Bush Administration – and I for one don’t blame them. People believe that government needs to play a role in our country, and I agree. Even GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has admitted that the GOP has lost its way. People are angry about eight years of spending under “Dubya” along with the $5-6 trillion dollar surged in national debt under President Obama. Justifiably no one is too thrilled with the Washington Political Establishment.
Reagan’s central argument “Government is the problem” is in itself part of this problem. Despite Reagan's pithy wit, government is an inevitable part of the solution to the problem of “Big Government Getting Bigger”.
The Father of the Constitution James Madison wrote in Federalist #51:
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."
Instead of attacking the government, Madison focused on the root causes: the
selfish nature of mankind, who elect legislators who make the government bigger, both for the voters and the politicians.
"In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."
A discussion for limiting government cannot excoriate or exclude government, just as demonizing the rule of law in society will not engage people to behave themselves. Otherwise, the result is “Conservatism without the Constraints”, or a handicapped conservatism that goes nowhere, just like Reagan's character in the movie "King's Row".
Washington Post Columnist George Will, an early cheer leader for the Reagan Revolution, ruefully remarked thirty years later:
"Reagan's popularity was largely the result of "his blaming government for problems that are inherent in democracy itself."
"Under Reagan, Americans could live off government and hate it at the same time. Americans blamed government for their dependence upon it."
A great speaker from his acting days and as spokesman/salesman for General Electric, Ronald Reagan framed the argument against Big Government yet absolved the American People from their part in taming its gargantuan growth. Today, nearly half the people in this country are receiving a subsidy from the state. This is unsustainable, and now we must demand that government stop the spending and start respecting the limits of finance.
A committed minority of politicians, because of their states' rights constituents of red and blue libertarian leanings, is thwarting tax-and spend wastrel legislation. They are unjustly bearing strident mainstream media hostility as “hostage takers” and “terrorists”, only because they demand that government start behaving itself and playing by the rules set down by Madison during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, not merely the heated anti-government rhetoric of the Republican Conventions of 1964 and 1980.
We can no longer expect the government to plug along providing for our needs and wants now, then let someone else pay later. That "someone else" is us, that "later" is now, and chiding Constitutional Government or resurrecting the hollow “Reagan Revolution” of “Government Sucks!” will not deter that.
As for those who appeal for a Reagan Revival as a resurgence for fiscal discipline, they will find very little in Reagan's legacy to support his impressive rhetoric. "Where's the rest of us?" will be the untimely discovery of the voters in this
country if we do not fuse persuasion with necessary, though unpopular,