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Thursday, June 14, 2018

REAGAN, TRUMP, AND THE UPSIDE OF AGE

A young Donald Trump meets President Ronald Reagan
By Michael Cook      

Much has been made of the fact that Donald Trump vanquished 16 challengers on his way to winning the 2016 Republican nomination. But scarcely anyone bothered to note at the time that Trump, aged 70, was the oldest among the many contenders.

There are plausible explanations for this inattention to Trump’s age. As a campaigner, Trump worked tirelessly, and scheduled more interviews and rallies than any of his younger rivals. Indeed, the man seemed never to sleep.

Then, too, the working press may have considered it somehow indelicate to focus on Trump’s age, given that the leading candidates for the Democrat Party’s nomination were just as old, or older.

Finally, it’s quite likely that the issue of age and the presidency had been settled several decades earlier, with the election, at age 69, of Ronald Reagan.

Perhaps it’s true: seventy is the new fifty. In any event, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump are the two oldest men ever to have won the presidency.

Reagan and Trump share another circumstantial similarity: each came to power as an outsider, and followed in the wake of a failed presidency. The hapless Jimmy Carter, who preceded Reagan, preached a doctrine of resignation in the face of crippling stagflation. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, exhorted the nation to accept and embrace a “new normal” consisting of low workforce participation and perpetually anemic GDP growth.

Neither Carter nor Obama believed sufficiently, if at all, in the idea of American Exceptionalism. Theirs were failures of both leadership and imagination.

Ronald Reagan, the Hollywood actor, always appreciated the power of imagination. He urged his fellow citizens to think of America in the way John Winthrop described it: as “a shining city on a hill.” Countering the despair and futility of the Carter years, Reagan assured Americans that the nation’s best days lay ahead.

Donald Trump, the builder, announced his firm determination to restore American greatness. And it is fitting that a builder should succeed the president who proclaimed – in one of his few memorable utterances – that “you didn’t build that.”

President Reagan’s advanced age, much remarked upon at the time, actually proved a great benefit to the nation, owing both to his personal experiences and to the things he learned (and did not learn) as a young man.

Reagan was born in 1911, in a small apartment situated above the local bank, on the main street of Tampico, a tiny town on the Illinois prairie. Reagan’s father Jack was a salesman, and the family moved often, always renting their homes, and always living in modest circumstances.

But easily the most prosperous period of Ronald Reagan’s youth took place in Dixon, Illinois, where the family landed in 1920. Jack Reagan had become a partner in a retail venture, the Fashion Boot Shop.

In his autobiography, Ronald Reagan recalls that it was in Dixon that “I learned to admire risk takers and entrepreneurs, be they farmers or small merchants, who went to work and took risks for themselves and their children, pushing the boundaries of their lives to make them better.”

If things seemed to be looking up for the Reagan family in Dixon, so too was the nation beginning to prosper under the administration of President Calvin Coolidge. Reagan entered Dixon High School in 1924, just as Coolidge was winning election to a second term.


President Calvin Coolidge
The Coolidge years proved to be one of the most dynamic periods of innovation and economic growth in American history. Coolidge and his treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, implemented dramatic cuts to marginal income tax rates, and the resulting economic boom produced a near 50% increase in federal tax receipts (which Coolidge and Mellon used to pay down federal debt). During the Coolidge years, inflation averaged 1.5%, and unemployment averaged 3.0%. And Calvin Coolidge, a believer in limited government, actually reduced the size of the federal workforce.

The youthful Ronald Reagan must have been paying attention. Richard Reeves, in his President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination, notes that Reagan would, as an adult, read Coolidge’s autobiography twice. And, following his inauguration in 1981, Reagan chose to display Coolidge’s portrait in the Cabinet meeting room. Members of the press seemed puzzled by this gesture; of course, few (if any) of them were old enough to have lived through the Coolidge presidency.

Following his graduation from Dixon High School, Ronald Reagan headed off to college. His college search was limited to one school, Eureka College, located a few hours south of Dixon, and operated by the Disciples of Christ, the denomination to which Reagan and his mother Nelle belonged.

In his autobiography, Reagan explains that “Eureka… is a Greek work that means I have found it, and it described perfectly the sense of discovery I felt the day I arrived there in the fall of 1928.”

As an economics major at Eureka College, one thing that Dutch Reagan would not discover was the work of John Maynard Keynes. Keynes’ General Theory did not appear until 1936, by which time Reagan was a college graduate working in Iowa as a radio broadcaster. (Radio, by the way, was among the most important technological innovations to emerge during the Coolidge years.)

Reagan studied classical economics at Eureka College, and his understanding of how markets operate would have been informed by Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” metaphor, rather than by Lord Keynes’ prescription that government should, whenever necessary, intervene in the economy to stimulate demand and thereby eliminate periodic recessions from the business cycle. As a student, Reagan missed out on the Keynesian revolution in economic thinking, and this is significant. As FDR proved in the 1930s, and as Obama would demonstrate 80 years later, Keynesian policies tend to prolong rather than eliminate recessionary conditions.

Ronald Reagan continued to study economics throughout his lifetime. The columnist Robert Novak interviewed Reagan at the White House in 1981 for the purpose of gaining insights into Reagan’s influences. The new president cited, among others, the nineteenth century political economist Frederic Bastiat, as well as members of the Austrian School, F.A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. Novak returned to his office following the interview and, after looking up Bastiat, remarked to his partner Rowland Evans that Reagan was actually more widely-read and better educated than they were.
 
During Reagan’s so-called “wilderness years” of the late 1970s, the free market economists of the Chicago School began their remarkable Nobel Prize winning streak. Milton Friedman, the most prominent among them, worked effectively to discredit Keynesian fiscal policy, and later assessed Keynes’ influence as “wholly bad.” It was an influence Ronald Reagan managed to avoid.

Reagan was doubtless aware of the ascendency of the Chicago School and, in fact, subsequently appointed George Schultz, a former dean of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, as his secretary of state.

Having witnessed the prosperity of the 1920s, and having studied economics in college prior to the advent of Keynesian theory, Ronald Reagan assumed the office of president particularly well-equipped to govern, in the 1980s, in such a way as to re-create the tremendous and sustained economic growth last experienced during the administration of Calvin Coolidge.

In 1946 Ronald Reagan was 35 years old and a major box office attraction in Hollywood. Across the country in New York City, Donald Trump was born into comfortable circumstances. His father Fred developed housing in the borough of Queens, where Donald grew up.

After attending a military boarding school, Trump enrolled in college – first at Fordham and then at Penn – to study business. He graduated from Penn’s Wharton School of Finance in 1968.

Whatever brand of economics Trump may have studied in college, it is probable that most of his training took place within the classroom of his father’s business, against the backdrop of New York City’s rough and tumble real estate market. But this much is certain: as a young man starting out in the business world, Donald Trump witnessed at first hand the calamitous circumstances of the New York City financial crisis of the mid-1970s.

Soon thereafter, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, the nation turned to Jimmy Carter, who promised to restore honesty and integrity to the presidency. Unfortunately, Carter appeared ill-equipped to deal with an ever-worsening economy – one that was characterized by runaway inflation, extremely high borrowing rates, stagnant growth, and severe energy shortages. In response to these miserable conditions, Carter admonished Americans to turn down their thermostats in winter, put on sweaters, and get used to lower living standards.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress began to attach tax reduction amendments to every new piece of legislation. All of these amendments (known as Kemp-Roth) were effectively killed until, in October of 1978, a bill that included one such amendment finally passed both houses of Congress. As Brian Domitrovic recounts in his history of the supply-side movement, Econoclasts, President Carter cancelled a weekend trip to Camp David in order to veto the legislation – thus precluding, in Domitrovic’s view, any chance of an economic recovery and any chance of Carter’s re-election in 1980.

Donald Trump celebrated his 30th birthday just a few months prior to Carter’s election in 1976. As someone whose business, real estate development, is especially sensitive to interest rates and the cost of capital, the mid- to late-1970s could not have been, for Trump, a period that inspired much confidence in government. It is therefore likely that Trump would have taken special note, in January of 1981, of a particular passage in Ronald Reagan’s inaugural address: “In the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

By 1986, Ronald Reagan had fully-implemented his supply-side program of tax cuts and regulatory relief, and Donald Trump, now aged 40, was both observing and participating in the tremendous economic expansion that Reaganomics engendered. But the view from his office window in Trump Tower troubled him. For six long years, New York City’s municipal government had been engaged in a seemingly futile effort to rebuild Central Park’s Wollman skating rink. With no end in sight, Trump issued a challenge to Mayor Ed Koch: Let me take over this project. I’ll complete it in six months. Or you can wait another six years.

After a bit of wrangling, Trump assumed responsibility for completing the project. He brought it in under budget. And it took him only five months.

Donald Trump’s public comments over the next 30 years would often point to what he characterized as the declining status of the United States within the world community, and to the ineptitude of the government officials who were responsible for America’s falling fortunes. When Trump at last decided to put himself forward as a candidate for president, it is clear that he took as his model the nation’s last great president, Ronald Reagan.

Recall that when Reagan challenged the incumbent president in 1980, his appeal to voters was simple and straightforward: “Let’s make America great again.” In 2016, Trump adopted Reagan’s appeal, but re-phrased it as an injunction: “Make America Great Again.” And it worked. Trump managed to re-assemble enough of the old Reagan Coalition to prevail over Hillary Clinton.

Thus far into his presidency, Donald Trump’s demeanor and tone recall the original outsider in American presidential politics, Andrew Jackson. It is obvious that Trump admires the fiery (and frequently tempestuous) Jackson, and a portrait of Old Hickory now hangs prominently in the Oval Office.

But consider for a moment what Donald Trump is actually doing as president – in terms of tax and regulatory policies, in terms of foreign affairs, and in terms of judicial appointments. All of this can be fairly and accurately characterized as Reaganesque.

In the cases of Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, our two oldest presidents, age has played a fortuitous and crucial role. This is not to suggest that age alone sufficiently determines a politician’s preparedness to lead successfully. Hillary Clinton, for example, is just as old as Donald Trump, but she appears utterly unappreciative of the achievements of the Reagan presidency. (Indeed, in 2008 she berated her primary opponent, Barack Obama, for acknowledging the obvious fact that Reagan had been a “transformative” president.) And to the extent that one can divine her political principles, Hillary Clinton’s thinking appears to have been shaped primarily by Saul Alinsky, the subject of her college thesis (and more recently, perhaps, by Willie Sutton).

Occasionally, a bold leader will emerge from outside the established political order. Such a leader will help us to recall the better moments in our history, and to honor the statesmen who so ably presided over them. As Americans, we are fortunate that Ronald Reagan came along when he did, and that he was able to remind us of the achievements of President Calvin Coolidge. Today, we are similarly fortunate to have as president a man who remembers and seeks to emulate – programmatically if not stylistically – the great statesman Ronald Reagan.


Michael Cook is a friend of this blog and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Aiken, South Carolina.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Poland to Vote on EU Membership, Christian Heritage in Proposed Constitution Referendum

If Scotland and northern England could be converted from tiny Iona, perhaps the great Polish people, in the heart of Europe, will one day restore the light of faith to that continent.

Questions on EU membership, support for the traditional family, and Europe’s “more than 1,000-year-old Christian heritage” have been included in referendum plans put forward by Poland’s conservative president.

President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday put forward 15 questions that citizens should be .in a referendum planned for later this year, which will be the first vote of its kind for Poland since it joined the bloc.
Both domestic and international matters are covered in the issues Duda proposed Poles be consulted on in the wide-ranging referendum, which is set to give people a voice on whether to update the nation’s post-Communism 1997 constitution.
Read more at Breitbart >>


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's D-Day Prayer




"My fellow Americans, last night when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the channel in another and greater operation," Roosevelt said. "It has come to pass with success thus far. And so in this poignant hour I ask you to join with me in prayer." 
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. 

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. 

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. 

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war. 

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. 

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom. 

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas -- whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice. 

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts. 

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces. 

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be. 

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose. 

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.  

Thy will be done, Almighty God.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Ave Verum Corpus - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart



This great hymn is a solemn praise of the passion of the Lord Jesus. The accompanying picture is 'The Pieta' by Carracci. Here follows the Latin and English texts:

Ave, verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine, Vere passum immolatum in Cruce pro homine, Cujus latus perforatum unda fluxit et sanguine, Esto nobis praegustatum in mortis examine.

Hail, true Body, born of the Virgin Mary, who having truly suffered, was sacrificed on the cross for mankind, whose pierced side flowed with water and blood: May it be for us a foretaste [of the Heavenly banquet] in the trial of death.