• Twitter
  • Facebook
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Alas, alas

Question asked:

Is America's Jeffersonian decentralist tradition alive, comatose, or irretrievably dead? With Politics on a Human Scale, the Dordt College political scientist Jeff Taylor offers a well-informed, near-encyclopedic examination of when and how America's once-dominant political tradition receded.

And, alas, answered:

Well, then: After eight years of missed opportunity with Reagan, four years of failure under Bush the Elder, eight more under Clinton, another eight under Bush the Younger, and now eight truly execrable years under Obama, is there any scintilla of hope for a revival of Jeffersonian democracy, liberty, community, and morality?

Taylor surveys today's broad political landscape for hopeful signs. His findings are not impressive. Perhaps there is a hidden, fragmented, inarticulate majority out there yearning for another Bryan, La Follette, or Reagan to lead America back on the path of Jeffersonian decentralism. If there is, it hasn't yet found a credible leader.

Wait, what? "Eight years of missed opportunity under Reagan?" What about that Reagan Revolution? Alas, again, never happened:

Paul is also correct to say that Reagan was worse than Carter when it came to spending. As de Rugy does the math, Carter increased real spending 17 percent over the last budget of his predecessor, Gerald Ford. Over two terms, Reagan increased spending by 22 percent over Carter's final budget. Spending typically really gears up in a second-term president's final years, so it's plausible to theorize that had Carter managed to stick around for eight years, he might have equaled or surpassed what the real-world Reagan managed.

When it comes to debt, there's no question that Reagan was worse. Over an eight-year reign, he tallied up $1.4 trillion in deficits, or an average of $177 billion per year. Carter—a famously cheapskate Southern Baptist—racked up just $253 billion over four years, for an average deficit of $63 billon per year. Tax revenue went up sharply under Reagan, for sure, but like a Hollywood big shot, he still managed to spend ever larger amounts, resulting in an average annual deficit of 4.1 percent of GDP. The Peanut Farmer From Plains? A relatively tiny 2.3 percent of GDP. (All this data if from the Congressional Budget Office.)