(POSTWAR WELFARE STATE to THATCHER and REAGAN – continued)
Ronald Reagan had been impressed by President Franklin Roosevelt's confidence that, in Reagan's words, "we could lick any problem." But during the war, while still a democrat, he was unimpressed by government bureaucracy. As an officer in the army directing studio projects in California, he found government bureaucracy comically inept. After the war he remained a New Deal Democrat and interested in social justice for all. He was a little disturbed by the unfairness in taxing actors. He was in the 94 percent tax bracket, "which meant that the government took most of what I earned," he mentions in his memoirs, An American Life (p. 117). Work for actors, he pointed out, was off and on.
Reagan led the Screen Actor's Guild in its first strike. (Reagan was to be the first President of the United States who was a lifetime member of the AFL-CIO.) Reagan drifted from the left at least a little as a result of his experiences with the antics of Communists in Hollywood who were trying to exercise what they saw as their deserved leadership in the labor movement.
Reagan's acquired a dislike for leftist economics in Britain in the winter of 1948-49, while making the movie The Hasty Heart. Britain was still suffering from the effects of World War II and the Labour governments austerity policies. The winter was exceptionally cold and the air was bad. Reagan was miserable. Just about everything in Britain bothered him, and of the Labour governments Welfare State he was to write in the 1970s that his trip to Britain in the late 1940s had marked a defining state in his political journey. (See Austerity Britain, by David Kynaston, p. 315.)
By the 1960s, Reagan was supporting the conservative positions of Barry Goldwater, including working for Goldwater's run for the presidency. In 1966 he began his eight years as governor of California. And in January 1981 he became the 40th President of the United States – the year that Britain's Margaret Thatcher was struggling with high inflation and unemployment.
In his inaugural address, Reagan said,
We suffer from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our national history. It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people.
Idle industries have cast workers into unemployment, causing human misery and personal indignity. Those who do work are denied a fair return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity.
But great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades, we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.
You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation, we are not bound by that same limitation?
We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow. And let there be no misunderstanding – we are going to begin to act, beginning today.
Copyright © 2010-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.