Every year I try to write a column about what I’m thankful for. Of course, I am always thankful for my faith, my wife, my kids, my church, my friends, and my family.
Well, not all of my family. There are a couple of them who could be omitted from the list.
Having recently toured the Reagan Library down in Simi Valley, I thought about what the world would look like had President Reagan not been in charge, and I am very thankful.
It is disheartening that young people really do not understand the 40th president of the United States. They only know what their left-wing UC professors told them and what they read on social media.
Let’s journey back, back, back to 1979. Spurred on by failed programs of both Republican (Ford) and Democratic (Carter) administrations, inflation was soaring. Remember those dumb “WIN” (whip inflation now) buttons?
We were waiting hours in lines at gas stations because oil was being controlled by OPEC. Hostages were being held at the US embassy in Tehran.
We had not built a single nuclear-powdered submarine in 20 years. Our military capability was a mere shadow of its former self.
An aggressive Soviet Union was rolling tanks into neighboring states. Daniel Ortega was having a party in Central America. Libya and Syria were exporting terrorism around the world.
A discouraged but hopeful America elected Ronald Reagan president in 1980. And things began to change.
Reagan realized that the economy had to be fixed – and fast. He allowed Fed Chairman Paul Volcker to raise Fed funds interest rates to unheard-of levels (20 percent). This had the effect of chocking off borrowing, which killed inflation.
Effectively, it was the first time that a president had used pure monetary policy to control inflation. Reagan also created a highly successful conservative approach to economics called Reaganomics that created an average growth in the GDP of about 22 percent per year, up 2 percent from average.
President Reagan faced a powerful and threatening opponent in the Soviet Union. Communism is something that kids today don’t understand.
Nikita Khrushchev once famously said, “We will spoon-feed you socialism until you become communists and you won’t even know it.” Wonder why old people like me don’t like Bernie Sanders?
Reagan did not back down from a fight and remained resolute without great risk to American service folks. But Reagan realized we had a tremendous weakness, and so did the Soviets: U.S. military power had dwindled. Our technology was outmoded.
So, Reagan embarked upon expanding military programs in one of the greatest peacetime buildups ever seen. He doubled defense spending from about $300 billion in 1979 to $550 billion in 1987.
He resurrected the B1 bomber and F15/16 fighter programs. Stealth technology, in large part, is attributable to the Reagan initiatives in military aviation. He built a nearly 600-ship navy.
There was another result, however. To keep pace with our program, the Soviets greatly expanded their spending. Reagan rightly guessed that the Soviet economy was already teetering. While our military spending was about 7 percent of our GDP, it represented about 27 percent to the Soviets.
This was not sustainable. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the only other super power on earth, was hastened by the policies of Ronald Reagan.
Instead of gloating, Reagan reached out to his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, and began working with him to create a post-Soviet world. Instead of plunging into chaos, the Soviet Union’s disintegration was fairly orderly and bloodless.
Aside: in 1992, Reagan presented Gorbachev the first Reagan Freedom Award. Think about that: Awarding an adversary for advancements in freedom is amazing.
Reagan is widely known for breaking the air traffic controller’s strike that threatened civilian air safety. What many do not know is that Reagan was also the first president to be a lifetime AFL-CIO member. While an actor he was also famous for negotiating labor contracts for the Screen Actors Guild.
That makes liberals squirm. Reagan was a union member with deep union ties. Trump has also voiced support for union folks, who contributed to his stunning victory.
Finally, anyone notice how Melania Trump is being criticized for her expensive clothing? Nancy Reagan had the same problem.
At the 1982 Washington Gridiron press dinner, Nancy showed up in a Hawaiian skirt, red print top, feather boa, and yellow galoshes. She then charmed the audience with a song called “Second Hand Clothes” (sung to the tune of “Second Hand Rose”) poking fun at herself. The comments about her clothing stopped.
Were the Reagans perfect? Heavens, no. Mistakes were made.
But history seems to point us toward the conclusion that the world is a better place because of Ronald Reagan. And for that, I am thankful.