Category Archives: Commentary

Statement of Reagan biographer Craig Shirley on the passing of John Anderson

Statement of Reagan biographer Craig Shirley on the passing of John Anderson

December 4, 2017

John Anderson did not tip the 1980 campaign to Ronald Reagan as some falsely claim. Pollsters have told me that without Anderson in the race, his voters would have been spread proportionally between Reagan and President Carter.

Still, Anderson did much to add spice and intellectualism to the 1980 campaign and had the courage to raise questions some

other politicians were not willing to address. He was one of the first—along with George Wallace and later Ross Perot and finally Donald Trump—to identify a third voter in America—populist, anti-establishment, anti-status quo, unmoored to either party.

As a Reagan biographer and author of the most comprehensive book on the 1980 campaign, I interviewed Anderson countless times to get an often forgotten side of the election. Anderson represented very much a “third way” between the liberal Carter versus the conservative Reagan.

His most important legacy though was to always question the established order and in this he was a real patriot and a real American.

John Anderson, RIP.

CONSERVATISM MEANS TO CONSERVE: Why Trump Is Wrong To Reclassify National Monuments || Daily Caller


CONSERVATISM MEANS TO CONSERVE: Why Trump Is Wrong To Reclassify National Monuments

 By Craig Shirley


President Donald Trump has made it a rallying cry to go anti-government and anti-fed. He promised that during the campaign and he has, since then, evoked the Swamp as the Big Bad Wolf of the United States.


Unfortunately, the national monument controversy seems to be playing right into the Swamp’s hands.


Under the Antiquities Act of 1906, signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt, the president has the authority “to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments.” Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke believes that it is time to reduce up to ten monuments, including Bears Ears (designated as a national monument in 2016) and Grand Staircase-Escalante (designated in 1996) in Utah, as well as Rio Grande Del Norte (designated in 2013) in New Mexico.


The reasoning from Zinke –  less federal land means less federal government – is flawed


Quite the opposite. It would make it very wrong.


Reducing them would make corporations slobber over their new found pickings. These lands would be at the mercy of extraction companies running amok.


Ronald Reagan, the Westerner, understood that conservativism also meant to conserve – our natural resources, our cherished lands, our natural treasures.


It is a myth to believe Reagan was a corporatist. In fact, he never trusted corporations and said so often, warning in 1975 that big corporations possessing too much power over the federal government. His warning still echoes loudly today. On signing the report of the Council on Environmental Quality in 1984, he said, “If we’ve learned any lessons during the past few decades, perhaps the most important is that preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense. Our physical health, our social happiness, and our economic well-being will be sustained only by all of us working in partnership as thoughtful, effective stewards of our natural resources.”


Reagan often quoted Robert Service, a big man and a Western poet, who often wrote about the beauty of the West.


Among both Democrats and Republicans, there is overwhelming support with keeping the national monuments. In fact, 90 percent of voters believe that more monuments are necessary, not less! To reduce them would be to reduce revenue to the states and reduce jobs by a significant amount. In Nevada alone, national monuments are responsible for over 14 billion dollars in revenue and nearly 150,000 jobs.


Corporations hardly ever have the working man in their best interest. Plenty of public land is available. The federal government owns about 640 million acres of land, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of the United States. 92 percent of that 640 million is in the Western states. 64 percent of Utah is owned by the federal government. You don’t need to take away actual Native American sacred and holy ground – such as Bears Ears – to expand any business or corporation. You wouldn’t close the nave of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City to open up a business.


Upon laying the cornerstone of the monument commemorating the Battle of Bunker Hill, Secretary of State Daniel Webster in 1825 bellowed, “Let it rise! Let it rise, till it meet the sun in his coming; let the earliest light of the morning gild it, and the parting day linger and play on its summit.”


If this was applied to a man-made piece of granite or stone, then it can certainly apply to nature itself. These monuments are more than just landscapes or places to gaze pretty sunsets; they are essential parts of American history and American identity.

Craig Shirley is a New York Times bestselling author and presidential historian. He has written four books on President Ronald Reagan, as well as his latest book, Citizen Newt: The Making of a Reagan Conservative, about the early career of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He lectures frequently at the Reagan Library and is the Visiting Reagan Scholar at Eureka College, the 40th president’s alma mater.


An Exceptional America: We’re Divided Yet United || Lifezette

An Exceptional America: We’re Divided Yet United

Everything’s politicized today — but a brief trot through key events in our great nation’s history should put every skeptic’s worry to rest

by Craig Shirley and Scott Mauer

We can’t turn on the television, radio or computer today without seeing the divisions in America. These divisions cut across political and cultural lines — and the platforms of the Republicans and the Democrats have only grown further apart. Decades ago, the principal difference between the parties seemed to be mainly economic matters. Now these matters include abortion, global warming, gun rights, federal rights, state rights, Russia, Iraq, veterans, protests, Antifa, the president’s use of Twitter, gay marriage, religion, energy, immigration, illegal immigration, crime, jobs, health care, historical statues — even free speech.

And football! Even football is politicized today.

Comedians have to make statements about government affairs. Actors have to make statements. NFL players have to make statements and gestures during their games. This divides the audience. And whether you support the actions or not, it’s hard to argue that ostracizing one’s fans does anyone any good. But it’s exactly what we have dealt with the entire time across years and years of our country’s history …

Consider: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…” From the very first line of our Constitution, to its very name, the United States of America has pitched itself as the land of unity. The United States is nearing its third century of existence, and for these 200-plus years, it seems we have done a pretty measly job of keeping it together. Except — for being the United States — we surely have had nary a time to be so unified.

From its very inception, the United States has hardly been unified for a cause, despite the prattling of a few teleprompter readers. It’s more likely than not that we’ve been divided, sometimes rather passionately, against each other.

From wars to domestic policies to even cultural preferences, the people of this nation just cannot and will not get together.

The American War for Independence. The American Revolution was the war that established the United States and led to a domino effect, which eventually led to the fall of the British Empire. It was the battleground that established the Constitution, which we still abide by to this day — but even that is subject to arguments. Our revolution also inspired the French Revolution and countless other freedom-fighting movements through the centuries.

But this eight-year fight was not simply “us versus them.” “These are the times that try men’s souls,” Thomas Paine wrote in 1777. It was a fight for sovereignty against the British crown an ocean away, and, according to recent studies, approximately 20 percent of the inhabitants of the colonies did not support that cause. And at the nascent stages, that figure was probably much higher.

Dubbed the loyalists, these men and women came from all walks of life, just like the patriots. According to one historian, “At the appearance of open resistance loyalist associations were formed in nearly every colony [and] were used extensively” during the early parts of the war (a move that some historians believe led to the British defeat, as it overrelied on an unreliable force). From the traitorous Benedict Arnold to, allegedly, the mother of George Washington, each loyalist had a different reason for being faithful to the crown.

Samuel Seabury of New York, the leading bishop of the Episcopal Church, believed that to be “American” required keeping European contact and European culture. To split with Europe was, in his mind, a damnation of Europe. “What then is the American, this new man?” he wrote in the 1770s. “He is either [a] European, or the descendant of [a] European, hence that strange mixture of blood which you will find in no other country … He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great alma mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men.”

The King’s Royal Regiment of New York was among the first armies to be raised purely from loyalists to fight against the rebellious and traitorous colonists. Led by John Johnson of New York, it participated in the siege of Fort Stanwix, New York, in the summer of 1777 and the Battle of Klock’s Field in 1780 — and many campaigns in between. It was a formidable force in its own right — these weren’t just rabble-rousers.

After the war, loyalists were severely persecuted and humiliated, and many were forced to flee to British Canada for safety. Not much unity there, either.

The 1800 presidential election. The first presidential election of the 19th century and the fourth presidential election of the United States became one of the most contentious of all in American history. The incumbent president, John Adams, part of the Federalist Party, was challenged by Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson. The previous election, in 1796, similarly pitted Adams against Jefferson.

Among the issues for the 1800 election was how the Federalist Party and Federalist Administration — not even two decades after the forming of the nation — started to trample on the rights of Americans. Among acts of legislations, passed by the Federalist-dominated Congress, was the controversial Sedition Act of 1798. This act allowed the arrest and imprisonment of any journalist or American citizen who criticized the federal government or the president.

The act was vague enough that anyone who wished “unlawfully to combine or conspire together to oppose any measure of the government of the United States” or anyone who wished “to write, print, utter or publish, or cause it to be done, or assist in it, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the president” could include actual treasonous or seditious actions. It sounds pretty bad now, and it sounded really bad then — hundreds of newspapers were shut down. Hundreds of citizens were imprisoned.

One such man, a Revolutionary War veteran from Massachusetts named David Brown, was given the harsh penalty for leading a group of protesters and setting up a liberty pole in Dedham with the words, “No Stamp Act, No Sedition Act, No Alien Bills, No Land Tax, downfall to the Tyrants of America; peace and retirement to the president; Long Live the vice president.” The court demanded an outrageous bail of $4,000 — which Brown could not afford. He was soon tried and convicted to 18 months in Salem.

This and many other actions as a result of the Sedition Act were the backdrop of the 1800 election; it was clearly an overreach of the federal government. Thomas Jefferson won the election, taking advantage of a divided Federalist Party, but that didn’t stop the controversy. The 3/5th Clause, counting each slave as three-fifths of a vote, directly benefited Jefferson’s win. Without the 3/5th Clause, the number of winning electoral votes would have gone to Adams. As one newspaper reported, Jefferson had ridden “into the temple of liberty on the shoulders of slaves.”

The American Civil War. Thousands upon thousands of barrels of ink have been spilled writing about the Civil War, the most poignant example of the disunity of the United States. It was a conglomeration of states’ rights versus federal rights, slave owners versus abolitionists, the Confederate States and the United States, and decades of tension between the culture of the South and the culture of the North. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and the Missouri Compromise of 1820 did nothing to ameliorate the festering problem.

The Civil War ended up killing over 600,000 American men, about 2 percent of the male population, and ironically, in the long run, the ramifications further divided the North and South. Southern Democrats took control at the end of the Reconstruction Era 14 years later, which led to the disenfranchisement of newly freed blacks. These same Democrats were responsible for the Jim Crow laws, which further amplified racism well into the ’60s, leading to the civil rights movement. These Democrats also formed the KKK as a means of terrorizing African-Americans.

The problems of the Civil War did not disappear on May 9, 1865, when President Andrew Johnson declared the end of the war. It was a division that hit the soul of Americans, about freedom, justice, and individuality. Now, even the idea of Confederate statues makes headlines and creates tension. In some ways, the Civil War has never ended.

The League of Nations. Fast-forward to World War I, 1917. The U.S. had just jumped in, reluctantly, into the European war. It was supposed to be the War to End All Wars due to its unseen brutality and death toll. Peace, after four hard years in Europe, was on the horizon. President Woodrow Wilson proposed the League of Nations — a sort of precursor to the United Nations — which would guarantee peace and security throughout the world by governing and overseeing international affairs.

Republican Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, who became the first Senate majority leader, strongly objected to both the Treaty of Versailles and by extension the League of Nations. As he stated to the Senate in August 1919, they would “sacrifice our sovereignty in important respects, to invoke ourselves almost without limit in the affairs of other nations and to yield up policies and rights which we have maintained throughout our history.”

He noted that criticism to the league does not mean criticism of peace, or intervention in conflicts; it is simply that a supranational organization should not tell them what to do when conflict emerges: “Our first ideal is our country, and we see her in the future, as in the past, giving service to all her people and to the world. Our ideal of the future is that she should continue to render that service of her own free will.”

In the end, within a year, the Senate refused to pass the treaty, and the United States never joined the league, an embarrassing defeat for Wilson. So embarrassing, in fact, that when Wilson died in 1924, his wife rejected Lodge’s request to attend the funeral: “Realizing that your presence would be embarrassing to you and unwelcome to me, I write to request that you do not attend,” she wrote acidly.

Division, even in death.

The Second World War. Among the list of events where the United States was divided, there are only two where we were united. The first was the Second World War. However, we did not get there easily, as the brutality of the First World War hardened the attitude of America. When fighting broke out in Europe in 1939, most of the U.S. was against intervening. Why should we jump in to another European war? The first killed and injured millions of our men; why should we get tangled in another? A phrase about the Great War going around the United States was, “All we got was debt and death and George M. Cohan.”

These isolationists had a variety of reasons to stay out of the fight, from cost to ideology. The “America Firsters” were across aisles: Charles Lindbergh and Al Smith and Joseph Kennedy all believed in isolationism, for one reason or another.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Empire on Dec. 7, 1941, that all changed. Those who were isolationists immediately changed sides. It was no longer a European war. It was another world war. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the night after, said over a national radio broadcast that “We are the free and unconquerable people of the United States of America,” and even harsh opponents of President Franklin Roosevelt joined the cause. Congress agreed to go to war with Japan, with only one member of Congress vetoing. Rep. Jeanette Rankin of Montana was the sole “no” vote, which destroyed her longtime political career.

Back to the present day. There are many, many more periods of American history that can be covered here, but the point is still clear: The supposed United States of America has almost always been divided, and not just around wars. We’ve only been united twice and then only briefly. We were unified the afternoon of Dec. 7, 1941, and then for a period of time, but the 1942 off-year election centered on dissatisfaction with the progress of World War II. Similarly, the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were also a unifying moment in U.S. history, though the ineffective wars in Afghanistan and Iraq quickly did away with any of that. These were the only two times, in the three centuries of American history, that we as a nation have truly and unquestionably been united.

And that is what makes the United States exceptional. We have always been divided — yet we survive into the third century. American exceptionalism is truly a paradoxical concept: We, as Americans, have been unified by being divided.

Craig Shirley is a presidential historian and author of four bestsellers on Ronald Reagan, most recently “Reagan Rising.” His latest political biography on Newt Gingrich, “Citizen Newt,” is now available on Amazon. Scott Mauer is Craig Shirley’s researcher.


We’re Winning, They’re Losing, Here’s Why || Lifezette

We’re Winning, They’re Losing, Here’s Why

Power is shifting away from the liberal media and the left-wing popular culture

by Craig Shirley and Andrew Shirley 

Donald Trump’s presidential victory broke many things. It broke the illusion of the infallible statisticians. It broke the two most prominent political dynasties in America by defeating both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. It broke the very unspoken maxims of decorum thought necessary to become president. It may even break his own party (it’s already changed it). But of all the things that it broke, none has been more remarkable or resounding than the shattering of modern liberalism. It’s not just his win, but the new culture it has created.

Marsha Blackburn’s victory over Twitter is significant. A principled conservative stood her ground and bludgeoned a liberal corporation into submission. Both MSNBC and CNN are scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of viewers, many of whom speak in grunts and obscene gestures rather than declarative sentences, as liberal writer Lionel Trilling once penned about conservatives. The stock market, which tried for eight years to commit suicide under Obama, is now roaring ahead, adding billions to Americans portfolios and retirement plans, just as it used to under Ronald Reagan. This alone should qualify Trump for a Nobel Prize in Economics for making future life more comfortable for millions of Americans. Compassionate conservative indeed.

In the 1980s under Reagan, a phrase was coined: “Everything that is supposed to be going up is going up and everything that is supposed to be going down is going down.” Once again, that phrase is resonating. Meanwhile, power is shifting from the corrupt liberal media to the ethical conservative media. Ask yourself, if you got simultaneous phone calls from Mark Levin and Dan Balz, the liberal reporter for The Washington Post, whose call would you take first?

Indeed, all of the mainstream has taken a hit. Ask yourself, when was the last time you watched network news? You can’t even name the newsreaders, can you? In the old days, they rolled off your tongue; Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor and Peter Jennings, or David Brinkley. Meanwhile, Fox, OAN, Newsmax and Sinclair continue to gobble up more and more of news consumers’ time.

Books? Talk radio? Forget it. Conservative books and conservative talk continue to dominate the intellectual marketplace. It used to be a truism that a countervailing force existed in American culture and politics. That is, when Democrats dominated national politics, conservative thought emerged, and when Republicans dominated national politics, liberal thought emerged. No longer. Now Republicans dominate national politics and the national discourse.

Today, the liberal universities that once called for “free expression” and “peace” across the country now call for censoring “hurtful speech” and are violently attacking speakers for saying things they don’t agree with. The students who once resolutely fought George Bush on his pre-emptive war against Iraq are now attacking and silencing dissenters in the name of “pre-emptive” self-defense. It appears they’ve taken the “liber” out of liberalism. As a result, higher education has been exposed as an expensive clown show, a gathering of ignorant fools who teach political correctness, but nothing else correctly. Enrollment is dropping across the board, and donations have been drying up. Meanwhile, enrollment at respectable colleges such as Hillsdale and Liberty is skyrocketing.

Opposition to abortion is growing and has been for years, especially among the young. Washington, which was once seen as a Golden City and perfect city during the liberal halcyon days of the New Deal and Great Society, is now seen as a corrupt cesspool of human garbage by the American people. So too are liberal corporations such as Facebook and Amazon, Facebook for a lack of ethics and Amazon for antitrust violations.

In its ideal most romantic and principled state, liberals once fought the constraints of a society that dictated what a man could be or what a country could be. Their thesis was to argue down every institution of society that “imposed” itself on the people because the resulting freedom of expression, equality, justice, and thought would lead to greater ideas and ideals that will make for a better nation and planet. Now, the militant Left wants to impose its will on everything, including forcing Americans to admit that two plus two equals five.

In no way did the reality of liberalism consistently live up to those lofty ambitions, though. For example, the constant rationalization and romanticizing of brutalist states like the Soviet Union, Cuba, Maoist China, and North Vietnam undermined its very pillars, but the core beliefs still brought cohesion to seemingly diverse groups. That core’s last hurrah was a halfhearted rally behind Hillary Clinton, not the first choice of many but she was the candidate, and the various progressive elements did their best to mobilize. When she collapsed, the core of liberalism collapsed with her.

Hillary’s loss shook the party from an extended stay in a fantasy land, where the loss of over a thousand legislative seats over the previous eight years were all peripheral concerns and short-term setbacks to the inevitable liberal hegemony. When the party woke from that fantasy, they found a base in outright revolt and a leadership pool all but depleted. The best it could do was to elect as Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, a foul-mouthed man too moderate for liberals and too liberal for moderates. Since then the DNC has lost every national special election this year despite promises of a new party. The truth is that there is no recognized leadership coming from the DNC, and even if there were, people have stopped listening. Instead they embraced, seemingly, new tactics and seek victory through less … diplomatic means.

Back in July, psychologist Lisa Barrett asserted that speech is tantamount to violence. In her own words: “If words can cause stress, and if prolonged stress can cause physical harm, then it seems that speech — at least certain types of speech — can be a form of violence.”

On the heels of this liberal professor, Mark Bray wrote the “Antifa Handbook,” a hagiography of “Antifa” which celebrates violence against anyone that Antifa defines as Fascist. The author nakedly states that this group is no longer a liberal group because it has “pre-emptively shut down fascist organizing efforts” with violence. These two deeply disturbed mentalities have synthesized on college campuses and, channeled through a rationalized media, have produced a perfect storm of violence and hatred.

This week it was reported that conservative students at Berkeley are routinely stalked, harassed, spit on, and, in some horrifying cases, outright assaulted. Yet, by Barrett’s standards, not only are those harassing conservatives not committing violence but acting in self-defense. Their violence is self-defense against those who might one day down the line become violent. If they define you to be someone with the capacity to be violent, then they are morally obligated to be violent because their violence isn’t violence but self-defense against the future violence.

Furthermore, if someone’s words can cause violence, then beating and harassing them is just self-defense, too, right? Never mind that a tenant of fascism is the use of violence to impose political will: That fact has done nothing to stop the shocking rise in violence from the once-liberal movement. While the press has slowly moved to chastise these actions, many outlets still give these “activists” a wide berth. They’ll say it’s not ideal, but understandable, in the age of Trump — the only thing these groups agree on. Meanwhile, the pundits hope the elixir to liberal woes is four words: It’s all about Trump.

“Due to demographic changes, there will never be another Republican president.” “Unless Republicans evolve their thinking, their party will be extinct.” “Conservative values are losing issues and if Republicans don’t want to die off, they need to grow.” We conservatives have heard those lines and their derivatives for the past decade and no amount of failure, until Trump, for the Democrats would convince them otherwise.

Since the loss they have so consumed themselves with anti-Trumpism that as Hasan Minhaj hilariously pointed out when watching CNN, “It feels like I’m watching CNN … watch the news.” Even once reputable pundits and journalists debase themselves by engaging in contests to see who can find the freshest way to call Trump a dope/sexist/racist/dictator/rube. But for all their grandstanding, against a man they describe as sexist, misogynist and evil, they sure showed deference to another powerful man who literally turned out be sexist, misogynist and evil.

Harvey Weinstein’s history of serial rape was apparently the “worst-kept secret in Hollywood.” The bastion of progress and progressive values — California — kept his open secret and actively buried it when it reared up in the past. Far from an anomaly, he joins the ranks of Roman Polanski and Terry Richardson as liberal “woke” men who use their positions of power to rape women (yes, using power, access and influence as leverage over women to pressure them into sleeping with you is rape), and be granted passive clemency, because they hate conservatives. Notice in Weinstein’s initial apology his intention to devote his “anger” to bringing down the NRA … coincidentally right after the horrific shooting in Las Vegas. The message to the media was clear: “Give me a pass on this and I’ll keep funding your causes.” A naked bribe that initially seemed to work, until all hell broke loose.

Only when Weinstein was fired did progressive actors, late-night hosts, and opinion leaders resoundingly chastise him. Up until that point, those outlets were all but silent. When “Saturday Night Live” showrunner Lorne Michaels was pressed on why the show omitted discussion of Weinstein, he lamely said Weinstein was “a New Yorker” and that the show didn’t go after New Yorkers … though apparently Donald Trump didn’t make the cut. Michaels came off as a shallow shill and a clown.

Now to be fair, a Hollywood executive is a far cry from a president, but for outlets to so publicly and resoundingly take a stand “for women,” at a time when a man spreading his legs when he sits is seen as sexism, for those “activists” to find themselves mute, not only while the assaults were happening but even after it was public knowledge, really puts all that saber-rattling about women’s rights into a different light. With his fall, Hollywood’s hypocrisy is on naked display and this liberal stronghold has been shaken to its foundations, from which it will take a long time to recover, if ever does recover.

Right after Trump won, the pseudo intellectually and culturally diverse crowd of disaffected and dissatisfied Americans was self-coined “the resistance.” This resistance was supposed to unify in opposition to Trump’s most controversial proposals, and while they had a few early victories in the form of the women’s march and their temporary hold on Trump’s proposed Muslin ban, that unity has all but decayed. They’re now a fractured mass, devoid of any organizing principles beyond hating Trump. The Left is done with the failures of liberalism, and they’re now in it for themselves.

Change does not come quickly or on a timetable. Change, such as abolition or universal suffrage, comes in fits and starts, but it is clear that the peak days for governmental American liberalism were the 1930s — for cultural liberalism, the 1960s — both ages ago. They are dying, slowly, inexorably, and America has been inexorably moving to the right since then.

Finally, happiness. Happiness and contentment were not introduced to national politics by Reagan, but the Republicans may have perfected it. The militant Left — Antifa — even dress in black. Let’s face it, the Left and modern liberalism are a downer. A central feature of American conservatism is happiness and confidence in the future.

The reality is that if there was a time where the ideals of liberalism were the true aim of the activist Left, that time is long past. Classical liberalism as an ideology — and if the trend continues — will be remembered as just another archaic philosophy consigned to history classes; that is, if the militant Left will permit it to be taught. Otherwise, like Soviet communism, it too will join the ash heap of history.

Craig Shirley, a presidential historian, is the author of four books on Ronald Reagan, a New York Times best-seller on World War II, and most recently the critically acclaimed “Citizen Newt,” the authorized biography of Newt Gingrich. He lectures frequently at the Reagan Library, the Reagan Ranch, and Eureka College. Andrew Shirley is the director of operations for Citizens for the Republic, a Navy veteran, and a researcher.


Mr. Trump, Reagan used tax cuts to check the power of the state. You can, too || Fox News

Mr. Trump, Reagan used tax cuts to check the power of the state. You can, too

By Craig Shirley, Scott Mauer, Fox News

Tax-cutting fever is in the air again and many of Washington’s talking heads are citing the tax policy of Ronald Reagan but with many of them getting the Gipper wrong. Typical. For Reagan, it just wasn’t about the economy or jobs but about the more deeply important expression of the assignment of power. At one point in 1981, Reagan told a group of conservatives his belief that cutting taxes was really about reordering man’s relationship to the state. Reagan, the libertarian, Reagan, who embraced Federalism, saw Washington as an illicit power grabber and wanted to re-address the imbalance. He wanted to take power away from the corrupt government and give it back to the citizenry.

“The Era of Reagan” or “The Age of Reagan” sounds sweeping, epic, and generational. And it was. And it is. It sounds like a time similar to the Pax Augusta of Ancient Rome, spanning centuries of peace and prosperity. The Era of Reagan did not last three hundred years, but still it was impressive, world altering and many believe we are still living in the shadow of the 40th president. After all, who is more cited? Obama is gone and forgotten, as are the Bushes. Reagan never compared himself to other presidents but all succeeding presidents have compared themselves to him.

Less than a decade in power, but these years have its own name akin the greatest leaders of history. From international to domestic affairs, the Reagan presidency not only redefined the conservative movement, but also realigned the United States to a long-term era of prosperity.  Post-World War II, the American economy went through eight boom and bust cycles. In the 37 years since Reagan’s election only a minor recession occurred during the Bush 41 and Clinton presidencies, in part because they both raised taxes. The 2008 recession resulted from the bursting of various valuation bubbles, and resulted from massive government spending, including bloated transportation and farm bills and Bush’s sop to seniors, as well as the Prescription Drug Benefit, a new addition to the New Deal and the Great Society social programs, costing billions.

One of this plethora of ways America prospered under the Gipper was through massive tax cuts and the economy. Reagan was not a late comer to tax cuts, having returned to California’s taxpayers the largest rebate in years, $500 million, in 1970. But the GOP was pretty much the green eyeshade party in those days. Even more ironic, during Nixon’s first term, Senators Walter Mondale and Ted Kennedy proposed huge cuts in personal taxes as a means of jumpstarting the economy, but the Nixon Administration objected, advocating instead massive federal spending as a means restarting the languishing economy.

But supply-side economics was something else, and it was Dr. Arthur Laffer, Jude Wanniski of the Wall Street Journal, and conservative activist Jeff Bell who first introduced the radical (and hugely successful) economic theory to Governor Reagan (though they later flirted with the possible 1980 candidacy of Jack Kemp), who first talked it up in September of 1976 in a radio address.

Later, during one primary debate with Republican presidential candidate George H. W. Bush in 1980, Reagan poignantly noted that “government doesn’t tax to get the money it needs, government always needs the money it gets.” Government, unchecked, was always going to absorb more power from the citizenry. Of course the economy was a huge issue in the primaries, and, later, the general election. In the late 1970s, under President Jimmy Carter, the country went through a enormous crisis. The country’s GDP by the last year of Carter’s presidency was negative 0.3. Inflation was at a whopping 13.5 percent, and unemployment was 7.5 percent by January 1981, making the late ’70s the worst economy since the Great Depression.

Reagan defeated Carter in November of 1980 in one of the biggest landslides in presidential history. His philosophy of individualism, smaller federal government, and American optimism reverberated with a Carter “malaise” pessimistic public. Famed journalist Hedrick Smith of the New York Times said only four months after Reagan took office that he “has managed to tap and nurture a budding mood of national self-confidence even before his major policies have had enough time to achieve real practical impact or to be properly tested.”

He wanted to re-shift the relationship between state and federal government, and man’s relationship to the government. “All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government,” he said during his first inauguration. Through this belief, he was critic of the government both penalizing those successful and overreaching to get as much money—power— as possible from the common man. Again, during his inauguration, he said, “Idle industries have cast workers into unemployment and personal indignity. Those who do work are denied a fair return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity.” Years later, he quipped, “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” He wanted that changed.

Both his ’81 and ’86 Tax Acts made it fairer for the American worker, closing loopholes and simplifying the tax bracket. The Economic Recovery and Tax Act of 1981, called Kemp-Roth, reduced income tax rates by 25 percent, and the Tax Reform Act of 1986 significantly lowered tax rates. On the economy, the effects in only eight years were significant from the recession during Carter’s run. By 1988, the GDP went from a negative growth to an astonishing 4.1 percent. Annually, the average GDP during the Reagan years was 3.5 percent. Inflation dropped by nearly 10 percent. “It was the equivalent of adding the West German economy to the U.S. one,” wrote Kyle Smith in Forbes in 2014. Burton Yale Pines at the Heritage Foundation, in the spring of 1988, had a much more poignant and contemporary opinion, writing that “we have had the longest period of economic growth in peacetime in American history-probably world history. A record number of new American businesses have been created; a record number of new jobs have been created (and, in fact, experts now worry about a labor shortage in America); we are producing more new products and new ideas and are doing so more efficiently than at any time in our history.”

Unemployment, yet another mark of the health of an economy, shrunk by half from the recession in 1982 from 10.8 to 5.4 percent. Black unemployment was similarly cut in half, from 21.2 percent in early 1983 to only 11.8 percent by the end of the Reagan presidency. Overall, there was more general and black employment at the end of the Reagan Era than the beginning, and that was with the tail end of the Carter Recession. Youth unemployment also plummeted.

The economy spiked so much, that there was a net increase of about 21 million more jobs in eight years. Labor participation went from 63.9 percent in January 1981 to a whopping 66.5 percent in January 1989. The median income of a family grew by $4,000, from $37,868 in 1981 to $42,049 in 1989. By comparison, it did not grow at all during Carter’s administration, and income actually shrunk during Bush 41’s years.

The context of these decisions can only be made through the lens of the 1980s and the late 1970s but the lessons are eternal. Would President Trump do well to look at Reagan’s decisions? Or JFK’s previous tax cuts? As is often the case, past is prologue. The success of the Reagan Era cannot be dismissed purely because the liberal elites at the Washington Post and NBC didn’t like him.

The empirical data is clear. Reagan was right. The corrupt liberal elites were wrong. In the end, the Reagan Era worked in favor for the American people, launching an era of optimism with the defeat of the Kremlin and the rise of the American economy. “A troubled and afflicted mankind looks to us, pleading for us to keep our rendezvous with destiny; that we will uphold the principles of self-reliance, self-discipline, morality, and, above all, responsible liberty for every individual that we will become,” Reagan once said.

The economic optimism of America flourished, restoring American morale and can-do spirit, and resulted in part in the destruction of the Soviet Union, but without a Reagan economy, the United States might have slipped into the ether of history, never seeing or celebrating a Third American Century.

Craig Shirley is a presidential historian and the author of four bestsellers on Ronald Reagan, and most recently the author of the authorized biography of Newt Gingrich, “Citizen Newt.”

Scott Mauer is Craig Shirley’s researcher and has co-authored many articles with him.