By: James P. Pinkerton
Today, the Main Stream Media is doing what it always does: It’s barraging a Republican idea. Confronted by this perpetual MSM onslaught, Republicans have learned, of course, that they must armor up.
Yet GOPers might further fortify themselves with the knowledge that history—including political history—operates on a far longer cycle than the mere daily news cycle. That is, the commentary of today is destined to be overwhelmed by the verdict of the voters and the judgment of future observers. It’s in those greater arenas, transcending the nattering of the chattering class, that Republicans should seek their vindication.
The hot issue these days, of course, is taxes. Here’s a sample of the media shellfire:
The New York Times editorial page declares that “the stench of failure” hangs over the president’s administration. “The economic nostrums he brought to office have not had the predicted effect. Only by recognizing his errors will he find better ideas.” Meanwhile, the Times quotes economist Paul Samuelson of MIT as saying, “The gods are laughing at Republicans.” And another economist, Benjamin Friedman of Harvard, declares that GOP fiscal polices are either folly or knavery; that is, they’re either “an intellectual error of the first magnitude,” or else “deliberate moral irresponsibility on a truly astonishing scale.” So we can see, President Trump’s economic policies are really getting trashed.
But wait! Those unkind words weren’t said about Donald Trump’s policies today, they were said about Ronald Reagan’s policies, back in the 1980s. You know, when the Gipper was unleashing one of the greatest economic booms that the world has ever seen.
So today, as Republicans ideas are once again being slammed, the GOP might take comfort in the fact that the parallels between the policy agendas, then and now, are strong. So if tax cuts worked yesterday, why not today?
In fact, the two spearheads of the Reagan economic agenda were the tax-rate cuts and reforms of 1981 and 1986. And so today, the Trump tax cuts are premised on the same theory: Lowering tax rates will increase incentives to work, save, and invest—and that’s the stuff of economic booms.
Back in the 80s, as we have seen, the elite media threw everything it had at “Reaganomics.” Yet Reagan stuck with it, and Republicans, joined by pro-growth Democrats and others, stuck with him. As the president said to a nationwide TV audience in 1983: “Stay the course.”
Despite the mighty media fusillade, the Reagan Republican policies were, in fact, vindicated, and economic statistics proved it: Growth was boosted, unemployment reduced, inflation lowered, and the stock market surged.
Yet Reaganomics passed another test with flying colors as well—the verdict of the voters. In 1984, Reagan was re-elected in a massive landslide; moreover, four years later, Reagan’s anointed successor, George H.W. Bush, also won in a landslide.
Indeed, Reagan’s success was so great that even Democrats had to acknowledge it. In 1994, President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers issued its annual report, declaring, right there on page 88, “It is undeniable that the sharp reduction in taxes in the early 1980s was a strong impetus to economic growth.”
Moreover, in 2008, Barack Obama went even further. Asked about the impact of past presidents, Obama answered, “I do think that, for example, the 1980 election was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.”
But Obama wasn’t done. He also said of Reagan, “I think he tapped into what people were already feeling. Which is we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”
Needless to say, the 44th president doesn’t typically spend a lot of time praising Republican presidents. But he said it, and he obviously meant it. It is, indeed, hard to argue with the reality that the 40th president unleashed the optimism, dynamism, and entrepreneurship that had been missing under his predecessors.
Now today, that’s what the 45th president is trying to do, joined by the Republicans of the 115th Congress. It’s lamentable that so far, at least, no Congressional Democrats have signed on—although that could yet change. After all, both parties should be eager to see a return to the economic resurgence that the nation enjoyed in the 80s.
Yet in the meantime, here in the 10s, Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans are poised for their own rendezvous with destiny. The country has been crying out for bold action to accelerate economic growth, and Republicans are answering that call.
That’s a good place to be, both politically and historically.
James P. Pinkerton, co-chair of the RATE Coalition, worked as a domestic policy aide President Ronald Reagan’s White House. He also worked in his 1980 and 1984 presidential campaigns.