Pay respect to President Reagan
Marcus My Words
Through the generosity of Young America’s Foundation program, I had the privilege of spending this past weekend at the Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif. Nicknamed the “Western White House,” Rancho del Cielo or “Ranch in the Heaven,” was the most prized possession of the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan. Edmund Morris, Reagan’s biographer, said that to understand Reagan, one must go to his ranch, as that is where you will “find his soul.” I urge everyone — conservative, liberal, apathetic or somewhere in between — to visit this priceless and beautiful piece of American history and grasp the essence of Ronald Reagan.
It has become somewhat of a cliché to say that America is missing Reagan, but for years I never truly understood what that meant. Today, I can proudly say I do. Our country is missing Reagan, and not only because his policies helped turn a great recession into the greatest span of economic growth in the history of the United States. America is missing Reagan because in him, we had a leader who instilled confidence and courage in the United States. Reagan was a man who, if left alone in a room with anybody, regardless of political persuasion, would make that person the center of the universe. Michael Reagan, Ronald’s eldest son, recalled last weekend a conversation he had with actor Alec Baldwin. Baldwin, not fan of conservatives — or Ronald Reagan for that matter — told Michael that he misses the 40th president because he had a soul, something absent from today’s average politician.
Stories about Reagan give insight into his personality, but his ranch represents the epicenter of his ideology. Located atop the Santa Ynez Mountain range, Rancho Del Cielo consists of vast open space, rolling hills, breathtaking ocean views and a modest 688-acre ranch. Not a day went by on the ranch that Reagan didn’t participate in his two favorite activities: riding his horses and working the land. His riding represented the freedom that America has known to love, an ultimate pursuit of happiness. His toil of the land let him bear the fruit of his labor and the satisfaction of success through hard work. It is here that Reagan signed the 1981 Economic Recovery Tax Act, the largest tax cut in American history and the antecedent for one of the greatest economic expansions in the history of the world. He signed the bill into law at his ranch as opposed to the steps of the Capitol, because he believed his ranch represented freedom and prosperity far better than the cement at the heart of government. Washington, D.C., boasts buildings and government works programs, essentially making the city a product of the New Deal and welfare state. Rancho del Cielo represented the antithesis of Washington, a land free and fruitful through hard work and the due diligence of self-determination.
When Reagan took office in January 1981, the U.S. economy was in disrepair. Unemployment was at 7.2 percent, inflation was at 13.5 percent and the misery index was at an all-time high of 20.76. Reagan, determined to turn the dismal economic situation around, took the philosophy from his ranch and brought it to the rest of America. The results were surreal. After eight years in the White House, Reagan helped create a business climate that saw the unemployment rate drop nearly 30 percent to 5.2, the inflation rate to 4.08 percent and the misery index to 9.57. In his tenure as president, Reagan oversaw the creation of 16 million new jobs and a spike in gross domestic product from $2.76 trillion in 1980 to $5.04 trillion in 1988. Think about that for a moment — it took the United States more than 200 years to reach $2.76 trillion in GDP, and Reagan almost doubled the entire net worth of the United States in eight years. In addition, his policies laid the groundwork for the next 25 years of growth that saw GDP rise to $14.3 trillion before declining in 2008.
The economic success of Reagan was ushered in through the idea that the American people knew how to spend their money better than government. Under Reagan, the nation grew and government shrank. Burdensome regulations that hindered the free spirit of American entrepreneurs were removed, and prosperity ensued. When Reagan instituted new taxes, he did so under the promise from congressional Democrats that for every dollar in new taxes, they would cut three in federal spending. The spending cuts never came and after realizing his mistake, Reagan passed further tax reforms in 1986 that broadened the tax base and put economic growth in the fast lane. Contrary to liberal rhetoric, the poverty rate under Reagan stayed at relatively similar levels between 1980 and 1988. When Reagan took office, it was 12.95 percent and when he left, it was 13 percent. Liberals are correct that the middle class shrunk due to Reagan’s cuts, but they always fail to mention that it was a result of the upward movement of income levels.
Through a mix of common sense, economic reforms and the mindset that Americans have an uncanny ability to accomplish anything they put their mind to, Reagan helped pull America back from the brink of perpetual decline. He believed in American exceptionalism and, more importantly, the American people. We say we miss Reagan not because we are nostalgic for the glory days, but because under his leadership — real leadership — Americans were given the ability to reach their full potential, and they did. Reagan understood the American dream. It wasn’t one shackled by government and limited in its capacity. Rather, it was a dream of free men atop a shining city on a hill, possessed with the ability to produce as much as they desired, much like his little “ranch in the heavens.”
Aaron Marcus is a School of Arts and Science senior majoring in political science with a minor in history. His column, “Marcus My Words,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.