Written by Audrie Zettick on December 15, 2008
Sometimes we don’t realize the good fortune we have to be living in the middle of historic events. My early career was one of those times.
I was fortunate enough to work in the Reagan Administration for two stints. The first was in the office of the Secretary of Transportation–initially as a staff assistant to Drew Lewis, then as a congressional liaison specialist for Elizabeth Dole. My last position was at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the end of Reagan’s second term (my title was nearly as big as the bureaucracy!).
I felt the anger and frustration of the air traffic controller’s strike, the anguish of the attempted presidential assassination, the wonder of a Gorbachev visit to the White House and fear the day of the concurrent Air Florida and D.C. metro crashes. I verbally tussled with bureaucrats who wanted to add abortion as the recommended policy for pregnant women with AIDS and worked closely with career government employees who “got it” as we worked to eliminate overlapping and unneeded programs and government bloat.
Being a bit of an historical pack rat, I have some memorabilia from those days. I have the small U.S. and Soviet flags I waved (yes, really) when I attend a cheer session for President Reagan and Soviet President Micheal Gorbachev on the White House lawn.
I recently stumbled upon two gems: a large “photo essay” publication produced by the RNC for the first Reagan Administration Executive Forum (rally) I attended marking the First Anniversary of his inauguration and a program from the 2nd forum. I was able to get Reagan to sign it (no autopen!) several years later, after a speech he gave at the Shrine of Czestochowa in Pennsylvania.
The photo essay contains quotes and the Administration’s view of accomplishments. With the perspective of a couple of decades–and with the prospect of Barack Obama in office–I think it’s timely to look at what was said and accomplished. I will continue writing Reagan Bytes through at least the first year of the Obama administration.
Page one of the Reagan Photo essay contains this quote:
“It’s time to recognize that we’ve come to a turning point. We’re threatened with an economic calamity of tremendous proportions, and the old business-as-usual treatment can’t save us. Together, we must chart a different course.”
Ronald Reagan, February 5, 1981
The quote seems strangely appropriate for today. Yet, the “different course” we seem to be on portends to lead us to more Jimmy Carter- or New Deal-style policies, which led exactly to the challenges faced by the Reagan Administration. George Bernard Shaw once said that “we learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”
Guess I’ve been around the block enough to now know what that means.
Written by Audrie Zettick on November 17, 2008
I’m not a big advocate of slippery-slope syndrome. You know, thinking that every action or policy leads one down a road of incremental steps, until you inevitably end up with some undesireable outcome. With some exceptions, I don’t look for that slope behind every vote, executive order or policy proposal. Perhaps it’s because I’ve a healthy respect for less government and assume people see the world the way I do.
I initially saw the bailout as one of those rare circumstances where government intervention was warranted because one sector of the economy threatened to take down the whole. Silly me (nerf bat to head). The $700 billion bailout is a slope with a big incline and we’re careening toward the bottom fast. Or, more accurately (mixing my metaphors)–the bottom of the trough.
We’ve done government bailouts before and the economy and country lived successfully through them. The savings and loan crisis (good background here and here) of the 1990s and the Chrysler bailout (see Heritage Foundation here) come to mind. But as some policymakers point to the (debatable) success of these past efforts, the “gimme” syndrome is upon us, and everyone’s lining up for some of the goodies –unions, automakers (and their supply chain), wall street, even main street. We’re all shopping at Bailouts R Us.
I couldn’t agree with Michael Barrett more.
“Small businesses still cannot get money, people are still getting laid off, and most of the people in our government still have their heads up their butts refusing to acknowledge that the real problem is trying to bailout these companies and banks in the first place. How can a capitalist system work if the government keeps trying to monkey it all up?”
We got into this complicated mess for many complicated reasons, not the least of which is that the federal government injected its policies into the mortgage business via Fannie and Freddie, revised Community Reinvestment Act guidelines that resulted in banks lowering lending standards but passing the risk to others, and HUD directed Fannie and Freddie to make loans to those with below median incomes for their areas of residence.
Attempts at bailing out AIG are already backfiring, as more funds are needed (they are now also feeding at the $700 billion trough) and its become apparent to some (especially the AIG stakeholders) that private investment might now be a better rescue alternative. TARP money may be used to bailout Detroit’s bloated union pension obligation.
Buying Off Main Street –
Main Street’s trough is ready to be filled: enticing us to go more in debt on car purchases by allowing write-off of interest, sales tax (see B. Mikulski proposal) and allowing certain mortgage holders to negotiate for lower mortgage payments IF they fall behind by a couple of months payments (FDIC proposal here). (Don’t get me started with the law of unintended consequences on that last one). And let’s not forget the proposed Economic Stimulus Package, Round Two.
Collectively, we all need a bib from chowing down on the slop of tax dollars. But our kids are going be doing the mopping up.