Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Thompson’s Critics Mirror Reagan’s

Michael Scherer of Salon writes, somewhat disapprovingly, "no one expects Thompson to run an issue-based campaign." To substantiate this claim, Scherer adds: The rest of his stump speech is conservative cliché. ’Security. Unity. Prosperity,’ reads the campaign motto on the side of the bus -- whatever that means. He talked about opposing abortion, securing the border, supporting the Second Amendment, seeking conservative judges, opposing gay marriage and favoring a strong national defense. Presumably, Scherer is irritated because Thompson would not spell out detailed policy plans for Social Security, a position on the fair tax, and Labor Department statistics on the question of an approaching recession. As a criticism, that’s fair enough--as far as it goes. But notice that the positions Thomspon articulates against abortion, securing judges for the courts, opposing gay marriage and supporting defense are described as clichés. Thompson may not be another Reagan, but the criticism of him from the other side is beginning to sound an awful lot like the criticism Reagan got. If I were Thompson I think I might consider this to be a good development.

Discussions - 14 Comments

Scherer may have Thompson's number. We shall see. Unfortunately, his piece strikes me as pretty good campaign reporting.

Republican consultant Craig Shirley had an apt comment in a news article the other day. He pointed out that when Reagan ran, he had a generation-old investment in the conservative movement, and the movement had a similar investment in him. For this and other reasons, most comparisons between Fred and the Gipper are highly problematic.

He pointed out that when Reagan ran, he had a generation-old investment in the conservative movement, and the movement had a similar investment in him. For this and other reasons, most comparisons between Fred and the Gipper are highly problematic.

Mr. Reagan registered as a Republican in 1962, campaigned for Barry Goldwater in 1964, and stood as a candidate for elective office in 1966, 1968, 1970, 1976, 1980, and 1984. There are 0.7 generations between the first date and the last date in this series.

I agree. We knew Reagan very well long before he ran for president. A critic could complain that he was just repeating himself whenever he made a speech, because there were no surprises there. Of course, that was one of the comforting aspects of Reagan, you knew what you were getting. Those positions might be clichéd, but are they Thompson?


Remember letting Reagan be Reagan? If letting Thompson be Thompson means those positions are principles, then even if the left calls them conservative clichés, the candidate and conservatives will be very well suited.

You are the master of logic Julie! If A is criticized in the same way as B, then A must have the same qualities as B. Hmmm, I'll just stop watching the news and humbly ask you who I should vote for in March.

If you had done a little more RCP research, you might have found another little gem of a comparison here. It's a nice description of Fred's (and Reagan's) big government conservatism. I'm not particularly bothered by it, but I thought that I would throw it out there just so we all realize that the main thing new Thompson brings to the race is his cool voice and cigars. As for substance, he's like the rest, for better or worse.

Must beg to differ, Mr. Clint. The commentary you make reference to, written by Richard Reeves, exhausts its description of the Reagan Administration's policies with the following sentence:

The 40th president was one of the great conservative rhetoricians of modern times, but in practice he expanded the reach of government as far as any liberal could have done in eight years in the White House. Reagan got to the Oval Office by beating up on "tax-and-spend Democrats."

Perhaps Mr. Reeves (or Mr. Paul, or 'Clint') would care to describe or enumerate the following

.

1. Net enhancements to the scope and specificity of federal regulatory activity during the period from 1981-89

2. Net enhancements to the variety and scale of goods and service provision by the federal government during the same period

.

3. Net increases in the scale of income redistribution during that period, and the variety of ways by which it was redistributed

.

4. Net increases in the scale of subsidies to private parties during that period

5. Net increases in the degree to which markets were manipulated by mercantile regulations

6. Net increase in the degree of constriction upon the autonomy of state and local government borne of dependency on funds

.

7. Increase in the ratio of direct federal expenditure to direct expenditure on the part of state and local governments

8. Increase in the ratio of federal expenditure to gross domestic product.

This last datum did increase, but it was driven by large increases in military expenditure. Whether you think that good policy or not, the services provided by the military cannot be readily assumed by commercial companies, philanthropies, or more particular units of government

With regard to the rest, Mr. Reeves would have to establish that obscure enhancements to the regulatory state outweighed the very public deregulation of banking and broadcasting, reductions in the budget of the EPA, and abandonment of anti-trust enforcement; that the administration's annual attempts to cut discretionary domestic spending were a mirage; that the demographic and circumstantial factors driving increases in expenditure on Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, public employee pensions, and farm subsidies would have evaporated had a Democrat been in office during that period, and that proposed bills composed by Democratic legislators to re-impose production controls in agriculture and institute domestic content requirements in manufacturing were all in our imagination.

I'll play the numbers game real quick, but anyone with a little time can cook up a number for anything.

This table shows real concisely the increase of federal spending as percent of GNP in the 80's. Reagan did nothing to slow that.

More telling are these numbers. A quick synopsis shows: 1981 Federal outlays were 678 Billion and in 1989 they were 1,140 Billion. An increase in the federal outlay of 462 billion. In 1993 the federal outlays were 1,410 Billion, and in 2001 they were 1,860 Billion. An increase here of 450 Billion. Therefore, the numbers show that Reagan increased federal outlays by a slightly higher gross number than Clinton. Obviously given inflation, Clinton's increases would be considerably less than Reagan's. And as for percent growth, the increase in the federal budget under Reagan is stunning in the high rate of government growth.

If you want small government, vote for Paul. If, like me, you've consented to big government conservatism then Reagan, Bush, and all our other 2008 candidates are qualified fiscally to run the country.

Unless the Constitution has been revised, taxing and spending is still part of Congressional power, not that of the executive.

Here you go.

If you want small government, vote for Paul.

Mr. Clint, Ron Paul is still going to have to contend with the fact that much of federal spending is on autopilot and that any adjustments to 'entitlements' or discretionary spending are going to require the co-operation of Congress.

That aside, the ratio of federal expenditure to Gross Domestic Product does not exhaust the definition of 'reach of government'.

Art: Of course it doesn't, which is why I accord more weight to the actual spending numbers--federal spending went up 67% while Reagan was in office. The whole idea that Reagan was a great champion of small government is a myth. Sure he had witty lines and small government rhetoric, but in reality he did very little when it even came to just slowing the growth of government.

My point is that we need to stop whining and looking for another Reagan. We've got several potential Reagans right in front of us now, maybe even better. The problem is that I consider them in comparison to the real Reagan-the one who made mistakes, while all the people here compare our candidates to the mythical Reagan who never existed.

John-I'm sure you were able to pass a 4th grade civics test with that answer, but in reality things are a little more nuanced. Look up the Office of Management and Budget and you'll find that the President has a huge role in the creation and proposal of federal budgets. He sets the frame; Congressmen bicker about a few provisions; the Senate adds $100 billion in pork, and the President signs.

which is why I accord more weight to the actual spending numbers--federal spending went up 67% while Reagan was in office. The whole idea that Reagan was a great champion of small government is a myth. Sure he had witty lines and small government rhetoric, but in reality he did very little when it even came to just slowing the growth of government.

Mr. Clint, the nominal expenditures are of little interest because of continually increasing prices, which have been a feature of our political economy for more than seventy years. The numbers have to be tranlated to a base or current-year standard making use of the appropriate price indices (the GNP deflator, I believe). That aside, public bureaucracies have to compete with private companies in the recruitment of personnel, so there likely will be, and should be, a secular increase in the real purchasing power of civil service salaries. (Real income per capita doubles about every 40 years in this country). Cops may do more-or-less the same sort of work that they did in 1947, but if you pay them the sort of real wages that prevailed in 1947, the bulk will likely decide they have other things to do with their lives.

I did not subscribe to Mr. Reagan's social vision and was not an admirer of the man in his public capacity. That having been said, there are systemic reasons he did not achieve much of what he set out to do, reasons that would hamper any occupant of the office, Ron Paul included. Some of these are remarked above (as are the variety of aspects that the scope and scale of governmental activity has, in none of which you appear to take an interest).

The President can propose anything he likes, but it goes nowhere unless Congress wants it to.

Bush proposed a manned mission to Mars a few years back. Congress nixed the idea.

One reason things got better in the Ninties was the end of the Cold War and the "peace dividend". Another was that the GOP Congress in those years tried to keep a lid on spending. My, how they have fallen.

Spending as a percentage of GDP has fluctuated within a narrow range for the past forty years or so. It's been 20%, +/- 3%. That's more than I'd like it to be, but it does not support the notion that government is growing out of control. And its odd that you quote a far left character in support of your ideas.


I'm open to voting for Paul. But I'm not kidding myself that he'll drastically slash government if elected. He won't have that power.

This article by George Will is a rather withering assault on the lightness of Thompson. You might want to read that Julie.

Clint,

That was quite a read.

Leave a Comment

* denotes a required field
 

No TrackBacks
TrackBack URL: http://nlt.ashbrook.org/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/11028