In Year One of the Reagan Revolution, in which he was a shining star, Budget Director David Stockman told reporter William Greider: “Kemp-Roth (President Reagan’s 1981 tax cut) was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate. … It’s kind of hard to sell ‘trickle down.’ So the supply-side formula was the only way to get a tax policy that was really ‘trickle down.’ Supply-side is ‘trickle-down’ theory.”
An astounding admission. The president’s principal salesman of tax cuts was confessing that the altarpiece of the Reagan policy was a ruse — to cut tax rates of the richest Americans.
Stockman had dealt a pair of aces to the president’s enemies.
Yet a betrayed Reagan did not fire Stockman. Instead, he walked him down “to the White House woodshed.”
Few suggested that this showed that Reagan was weak. For Reagan had already survived an assassination attempt, summarily fired an entire union of air traffic controllers, and rammed through a hostile House led by Tip O’Neill the largest tax cut in history.
Yet most everyone here said Barack Obama had no choice but to fire General McChrystal, or reinforce the impression he is weak and indecisive.
The Wall Street Journal/NBC Poll out today confirms that the nation that entertained such high hopes for Barack Obama has lost confidence in his capacity to lead.
Sixty-two percent of all Americans believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction. For the first time, more Americans disapprove of Obama than approve. Fifty-seven percent would prefer someone else, rather than the member of Congress they now have.
Though green shoots have appeared in the economy, Americans no longer believe it. Only one-third thinks things will get better before they get worse again. Independents are deserting Obama. One in six Democrats now disapproves of the job he is doing.
Americans have been through periods of malaise before. But where FDR raised spirits after Herbert Hoover, and Reagan did after Jimmy Carter, the optimism about an Age of Obama is vanishing like the morning mist.
Disenchantment appears pervasive, and the causes apparent:
The Obama economic program — $800 billion in stimulus money piled on top of the Federal Reserve’s doubling the money supply, giving us two straight deficits of 10 percent of gross domestic product — has failed to ignite a robust recovery.
Unemployment still hovers just below 10 percent.
The two-month-old oil spill, where BP’s malfeasance was matched by government incompetence in preventing it from destroying the gulf ecology and economy from Louisiana to Florida, has cast a pall over America’s spirit as wide and deep as the oil slick itself.
The war in Afghanistan is not going well, casualties are running at a nine-year high, and the country no longer wants to fight it, but to get out and come home.
Obama’s “reset” in foreign policy seems to have yielded no more fruit than George W. Bush’s crusade to “end tyranny in our world.”
Three months after Iraqi elections, there is no government in Baghdad. The August deadline for withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops will likely be missed. U.S. relations with Israel have rarely been worse.
Turkey, black-balled by the European Union, a friend and ally of 60 years, is thickening ties to Tehran and Damascus and emerging as first Muslim state of the Middle East and principal patron of the Palestinian cause.
The Russians are pushing Kyrgyzstan to force the United States out of Manas air base, a critical link in the resupply chain to Afghanistan.
Brazil is bitter that America trashed the deal it helped to negotiate to transfer half of Iran’s nuclear fuel out of the country.
For the first time since the late 19th century, the United States is about to be surpassed as the world’s first manufacturing power — by China, which in Mao’s time was still trying to make steel in backyard furnaces.
The British, rejecting Obama’s call to continue stimulating the world’s largest economies until sustainable growth is achieved, have decided to follow Greece and Spain into austerity and retrenchment.
Fearing debt defaults, European nations are slashing government payrolls and pensions, just as California, New York and other states are being forced to do to meet the constitutional requirement to balance their budgets.
America is facing a crisis of confidence in government, with the nation unable to win its wars, balance its budgets, control its borders, stop the bleeding of its manufacturing base or plug a hole in the ocean floor.
Should the sovereign debt bombs start going off, as they have lately threatened to do in Greece, bringing on another financial crisis to dwarf the one we have lately gone through, the crisis of democratic governments will become a crisis of democracy itself.
Perceived to have failed the country, the Bush Republicans were summarily dismissed in 2006 and 2008. Obama’s Democrats go to the wall in November. Republicans will inherit the windfall. Yet few harbor great hopes that the GOP has the cure for what ails America.
Perhaps the answers lie beyond the parameters of our present politics.
Patrick J. Buchanan is founding editor of The American Conservative and author, most recently, of Churchill, Hitler, and the “Unnecessary War”.
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