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By Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared at Forbes.com.

Erasing Reagan? The Illiberal War on Truth

Erasing Reagan? The Illiberal War on Truth

The Center For Vision & Values

The Center For Vision & Values

Grove City, PA --(Ammoland.com)- The prospect of four more years of Barack Obama in the White House has caused several conservative voices (among them, The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger, Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer, and noted Ronald Reagan scholar Paul Kengor) to opine that President Obama’s second term portends the passing of the Reagan era, the reversal of his pro-growth policies and the attempted burial of Reagan’s credo, “government is the problem.”

None of this is news. It is a given that Obama and his fellow progressives reject Reagan’s values and philosophy. They will continue to try to expand government.

There is, however, a more sinister dimension to the progressive agenda: Rush Limbaugh asserted that Team Obama wants to “erase every trace of Reagan from America”—not just to repeal and reverse Reagan’s policies, but to engage in wholesale historical revisionism by obfuscating Reagan’s record and reshaping public opinion about him. It serves the progressives’ interests if they can obscure the fact that Reagan’s policies of lower tax rates, a sound dollar, and reductions in governmental regulatory micromanagement enhanced prosperity and raised standards of living.

Those of us who lived through the Reagan years remember the resulting economic growth, but nobody under the age of 30 has first-hand knowledge of those years.

Is it really possible that the left could rewrite the history of the Reagan presidency? Absolutely. They’ve already perverted the record of earlier Republican presidents. Take, as Exhibit A, Warren G. Harding—the president who always appears at the bottom of presidential rankings.

Yes, I know there were a couple of crooks in Harding’s cabinet. Those odious men betrayed the trust of both a president and a nation. But while they gained a few hundred thousand dollars, Harding’s policies enriched the American people by billions. Harding entered office in the midst of the Depression of 1920-21—a downturn as rapid and severe as any in American history, with GNP contracting 24 percent and unemployment more than doubling to 11.7 percent.

Harding’s policy response was to get government out of the way and let free markets make the necessary adjustments. He induced Congress to slash federal spending by 40 percent in two years and lower the top marginal tax rate from 73 percent to 56 percent (on its way down to 25 percent under his successor, Calvin Coolidge). Demonstrating the fallacy of the Keynesian dogma that government should increase spending and deficits to cure recessions, the Harding spending cuts yielded large surpluses (used to pay down World War I indebtedness), and yet, by 1922, GDP was rising and unemployment falling, plummeting to a minuscule 2.4 percent by 1923. Maybe Harding wasn’t the best judge of character, but his economic program was arguably the most successful of any president in the 20th century. A “terrible” president? Absurd.

Another example of historical revisionism, progressive-style, involves Herbert Hoover. Today’s students are routinely taught that Hoover was the last of the “laissez faire” presidents. Last year, progressives produced a “take back the American dream” special edition of “The Big Picture,” during which the host denigrated the alleged laissez faire trio of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, contrasting them with the great economic savior, Franklin Roosevelt. Part of the error is simple partisan bias—i.e., Republicans are bad and Democrats are good—but party aside, Hoover should have been lumped with FDR, not with his two predecessors. Harding and Coolidge truly were sympathetic to free markets. Hoover was not. He disdained and distrusted the laissez faire philosophy, and was almost as much of an interventionist as Roosevelt. Indeed, FDR’s own advisers recorded in their memoirs that the true originator of the New Deal was Hoover. It is political propaganda, not historical verisimilitude, which paints Hoover as a clone of his predecessors rather than of his successor.

The lesson is clear: If those who understood and approved of Reagan’s policies fail to reiterate Reagan’s beliefs and policies, Reagan’s progressive opponents will distort his history, and he eventually will be as misunderstood as Harding and Hoover are today.

The progressive war against historical accuracy should concern all American citizens. When those in power mutilate truth, the welfare of the people is at risk. Think of what all the illiberal movements—whether fascist, socialist, communist, environmentalist, or progressive—have in common. All exalt state power at the expense of the individual rights of liberty, property, and ultimately life itself. In the effort to attain that power, they also commit depredations on truth, as George Orwell warned in “1984.” Watch to see how often Team Obama employs the Big Lie technique in attempting to revise Reagan’s record.

Whether we agree or disagree with what Ronald Reagan did, we shouldn’t let anyone lie about it. Falsehood is the enemy of human progress.

— Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

© 2013 by The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. The views & opinions expressed herein may, but do not necessarily, reflect the views of Grove City College.

  • 4 User comments to “Erasing Reagan? The Illiberal War on Truth”

    1. SkippingDog on February 13, 2013 at 4:39 PM said:

      Reagan proved “deficits don’t matter,” at least according to former VP Dick Cheney who worked for him. Much of the 80’s economic growth we fondly remember was based upon the massive defense spending Reagan pushed through Congress – anyone remember the “600 ship Navy”?

      Reagan also raised taxes several times, engaged in an illegal war in Central America, and has the record for the most corrupt presidential administration since Grant, measured by the number of administration personnel removed from office and tried for criminal acts.

      Quite a legacy you Reaganites really have.

    2. SkippingCur, clearly one of those making the attempt. Reagan proved deficits don’t matter if the economy is growing vigorously. The growth of the 80’s was due to the tax cuts Reagan pushed through and the stimulus that provided for business growth. The huge increase in spending came against the wishes of Reagan–just another in a long, long line of broken promises by Democrats to control spending.

      Reagan cut taxes, he raised “user fees” which is an entirely different thing. User fees only affect those who use the services government provides–like parks and recreation. Taxes adversely affect consumers and businesses–something you half-witted liberals can’t seem to comprehend.

      Compare and contrast: Reagan took office with a far worse economy than that which Obama inherited. The rate of decline was far more precipitous, unemployment was over 10%, interest rates were over 20%, and inflation was over 11%. Within two and a half years, by cutting marginal rates and taxes on corporations, unemployment had dropped to just over 6%. President Obama inherited an economy in far better shape that Reagan, and in FOUR years, it has worsened by every measure available. Employment has stagnated at a nominal 8% with a declining participation of eligible workers in the workforce–the lowest in over 30 years. The national debt has increased by 60%, exceeding that added under GWB in his full 8 years. Deficits have, since Democrats took over Congress in 2007 been out of control.

      Reagan had to deal with a Democrat controlled Congress, Obama’s first two years were a cart blanche with Democrats in absolute control of both houses of Congress (with a filibuster-proof margin) and the Presidency. Obama has been a miserable failure, unless his goal was to deconstruct American society and demoralize our citizens. There are more people on disability than ever before, more people on food-stamps than ever before, more people who have given up looking for work than at any time since the last Democrat Presidential disaster, “Jimmah Cahtah.”

      Obama couldn’t lead a train if he was the engine. He lack any sort of leadership ability, lacks any moral integrity, and lacks any accomplishment. He is a narcissist who seeks credit for things he didn’t cause to happen and can’t accept blame for any of the things he has caused to happen. He scape-goats whenever anything negative happens.

      In other words, he is the perfect liberal Democrat.

    3. I think Obama’s gun running into Mexico to cartels which got innocent people killed, is much more serious than anything Reagan ever did. Breaking gun laws just to further his agenda of gun control is no excuse. He wants us to follow laws that he breaks. Executive privilege for a cover up is no defense.

    4. President Reagan was a real President,a real leader,a real man. barak hussein obama wouldn’t be fit to shine President Reagans boots.What the U.S.needs more than anything is a legitimate,American born President.Thats something we aint had since President Bush left office.HBH

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