Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ronald Reagan on Occupy Wall Street

Forty-seven years ago today, Ronald Reagan delivered his famous, timeless " A Time for Choosing" speech in support of Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign (H/T Gary). I listened to the speech again today, and its words were just a relevant today as they were then:

There may not be a Cold War threat that we are facing, but the burgeoning influence of socialism is still present. Liberal policies have lead to excess spending, increases in government programs, and shrinking freedom. Liberal politicians and liberal Americans in general have chosen class warfare as their modus operandi. The president who was touted as a supposed uniter is really a divider--dividing between red and blue states, dividing between conservatives and liberals, and dividing between the wealthy and the rest of America. The Occupy Wall Street crowd has declared class warfare between what they claim as a nebulous 99% against the richest 1%. What about the 53% who pay taxes compared to the 47% who do not? How is fairness defined? Is it based up merit and diligence, or is it "from each according to his ability to each according to his need"?

There were a few excerpts from Reagan's speech that are particularly applicable to this Occupy Wall Street crowd. Reagan spoke of a conversation with a Cuban refugee who had escaped to American from the chains of Communism:
Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, "We don't know how lucky we are." And the Cuban stopped and said, "How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to." And in that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.
I'm reminded of a clip from a discussion between a man who once lived under the tyranny of the Soviet Union and a few of the Occupy Wall Street protesters (language warning):

The man also discusses the horrible conditions of Communist North Korea, which the Occupiers seem completely unaware of. In fact, conditions in North Korea have gotten so bad, mothers have resorted to eating their children.

Reagan went on to so say in his speech:
And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man. This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.
The phrase, "power to the people" was first used in the protest of the 1960s, which many on the Left feel is echoed by this Occupy movement. What do conservatives think? It is as simple as a change in preposition--power from the people. Government cannot given power to the people, but it does wrongly take it away.Whether it's encroaching on personal liberties, instituting burdensome regulations or taxes, or even one branch of government unconstitutionally taking power away from another branch of government.  Reagan echoed the sentiments of the Founders--the power is derived from "We the People". The Constitution was written from the perspective of "We the Nation" or "We the States". It was written from the perspective of we the individual people. Government can only exist at the consent of the governed, yet government has taken the power from the people. People like the Occupiers want, in fact they demand, the government to plan their lives for them from $20/hour minimum wage and guaranteed jobs to  student loan forgiveness. Where is the American rugged individualism?  Where is the self-sufficiency? Where is the pride in one's work or the power and opportunity to make their own decisions. Heck, President Obama has already promised to help with student loans to the tune of a whopping $8 per month in loan reductions. What will that buy? Two extra coffees a month? A fourth of a t-shirt on clearance at Anthropologie?

Reagan also spoke of the class warfare mentality and rhetoric that existed nearly fifty years ago and is pervasive as ever today:
We have so many people who can't see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they're going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning.
The proverbial fat man is the "1 %" to the Occupiers. Do people become wealthy because they took advantage of the poor man? Did the late Steve Jobs, whose iphones are a favorite of the tweeting, occupying Hipsters and who didn't even complete college, become wealthy because he exploited someone with less money? No. He did so because of ingenuity and hard work. Did "musician" Kanye West, who visited the protest in support of it, become a successful, wealthy artist do so by exploiting those with less money? No. He did so because producers saw his talent and people bought his music. The same is true for the very bankers and businesses they are protesting. The Occupiers buy Apple and other electronics products form companies traded on the very Wall Street they are protesting. The CEOs and shareholders of these products are benefiting because of the Occupiers, but not at the expense of them. The Occupiers can tweet, capture video and pictures, and making phone calls using these products. It's a win-win. The 99% and the 1% both benefit. Ronald Reagan knew of poverty himself. He grew up in the "99%". He was talented, hard working, and optimistic. He didn't allow himself to be a victim of his circumstances. He took advantage of his opportunities. He didn't cry outrage over student loans; he worked his way through Eureka College in part by lifeguarding nearby. He realized American exceptionalism in his own life. He saw that America was the world's best hope because of that exceptionalism and because of the free market principles of the Founders. He didn't feel that, in order to progress, that American needed to regress to socialistic policies that were failing the countries of the USSR and Cuba during his administration. As Reagan said in his speech, we have the "right to make our own decisions and determine our on destiny". We are not victims of a 1%. We are part of the 100% who are blessed enough to live in a country where we have a choice.

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