America Needs to Return to Ronald Reagan Conservatism

America Needs to Return to Ronald Reagan Conservatism

© David Burton 2022


     Following the 2020 elections, America has seen the Democrats controlling the Presidency the Senate and the House of Representatives. What America has also seen is the swing toward Liberalism that is all too similar to European Socialism. We are witnessing a massive increase in government spending, a monumental erosion of the historical American work ethic and a growing “gimmee” culture seeking government handouts. None of these portend anything good for this country. What is needed to reverse these alarming trends is a return to traditional American conservative values – a return to Ronald Reagan conservatism. America didn’t become great by ignoring conservative principles - America became great by developing and then adhering to hard-won conservative principles and values. Principles such as fiscal conservatism and working for what one received have long been the American way. They are what has made America the envy of the world.

     Less than a year in office, President Joe Biden and his liberal administration were struggling economically, addicted to a heavy-spending, big-government agenda that will saddle Americans with trillions of dollars of additional debt, raising the specter of a dangerous surge in inflation and intrusion into practically every aspect of American life.
     At its heart, the United States has been a deeply conservative nation. The U.S. badly needs another conservative revolution similar to the one that Ronald Reagan ushered in after defeating Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election. In the 1970s, America was a nation on its knees after the humiliation of Vietnam, mired in what appeared to be an irreversible decline. Reagan, however, believed in American leadership, and had a clear-eyed sense of American greatness and the immense responsibility that it carried with it.
     What is needed today is a return to those conservative principles and policies. This includes a strong national defense, standing with our allies, the pursuit of economic freedom, securing the borders, and a wholehearted embrace of American exceptionalism.
     Here in 2021, America must take a firm stand in defense of the kind of free-market principles and ideas that will be essential to reviving the U.S. economy in the aftermath of COVID. If America is to lead again, it must have the robust economic foundation to do so.[1]

     The humongous bill that Democrats in Washington, D.C., were assembling in September of 2021 was a slap in the face to Americans who work, pay taxes and support their families.
     The bill demeaned the American work ethic and glorified government handouts. It sent a message that work and self-sufficiency were for suckers.
     The social spending bill that socialist-minded Democratic Liberals were proposing bill would give monthly payments to almost all parents based on how many children they had, regardless of whether anyone in the family worked. Democrats also promised virtually free child care until kids reached age 5, free community college and, near the end of life, new Medicare and elder care benefits. The bill also included 12 weeks paid leave each year for anyone who claimed a family member needing care.
     Those freebies were rolled into one massive bill which, of course, would likely go unread by anyone.
     Why were the Democrats rushing? Under the U.S. Senate rules, they had only one shot to pass a bill before the end of the year with their slim majority. Democrats didn’t have a mandate to transform America into a European-style socialist welfare state, but they were determined to ram the bill through anyway.
     Democrats were also eyeing the 2022 midterm elections, which is when they could lose power. It was vote buying on a grand scale!
     The bill proposed by the Democrats would pour money down a rathole. It allocated a whopping $45 billion to make community college free. Students wouldn’t have to spend even $1 on tuition or fees, or pursue a course of study that prepared them for work.
     One of the bill’s costliest items was paid family leave, with an estimated price tag of $225 billion over 10 years. It was the mother of all family leave plans. Benefits would be paid by the federal government based entirely on an employee’s word that a family member needed care. No doctor’s note or medical records would be required. Even the self-employed would be eligible. It’s was an invitation to big-time fraud, and a nightmare for small businesses that would have to hire a replacement on short notice and yet still keep the job open for the employee on leave.
     Of course, the Democrats touted the overall bill as a way to reduce poverty. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed that extending the monthly payments to parents would “cut child poverty in half.” Nonsense! Government entitlements don’t cut poverty or improve mobility for poor children — a working parent does! This bill lacked any and all incentives to work – in fact, it would actually discourage a parent from working!
     Most Americans don’t want to swap the American ideal of success through hard work for government paternalism, but that’s what the bill would do.
     The U.S. already has a generous social safety net, including federal programs to subsidize housing, food, child care, college, medical care and even cellphones for the poor.
     Europe demonstrates the dismal results of a declining work ethic and ever-expanding government entitlements. Europeans have a lower gross domestic product per capita because they work fewer hours. They have to settle for a lower material standard of living.
     Everything Europeans manage to buy is laden with hidden taxes to support their “caring” governments. Working-class Europeans are heavily burdened by these taxes.
     That is the choice Americans face: Adopt European style entitlements and the suffocating taxes to pay for them, or work hard and have more spending money to buy what we and our family want.[2]

     Contributing further to America’s fascination with socialism and its promises of “more and more freebies for all” are the public unions that are employee unions representing federal, state, county, or municipal employees, i.e., public employees. “Public service employees and their unions have significant economic and political power, seemingly disproportionate relative to the private sector. Public sector unions continue to grow and exhibit astonishing power. Back in 2010, I noted that, “While fewer than 8% of private workers are organized, nearly 40% of public employees belong to unions. Their overall salaries and benefits have grown exponentially since the 1960s . . . they meaningfully exceed those of workers in the private sector. . . It’s not uncommon for government workers to retire before the age of 50 with benefits in the six digits. A recent USA Today study discovered that the number of federal workers making $100,000 a year or more has rocketed during the recession - excessive pay now, which means excessive pensions years from now.” {And remember that was $100,000 more than a decade ago. That $100,000 in 2010 is considerably higher here in 2021!}
     “What is the real cost to the taxpayer of public sector jobs? Ignoring the issues of government employee inefficiencies, higher rates of sick leave, and fewer hours actually worked than their private sector counterparts, it has been estimated that ‘government workers, on average make more than twice as much as private-sector workers when you include the net present value of their pensions’ and their ‘additional full health benefits.’
     “ ‘Who are America’s fastest-growing class of millionaires? They are police officers, firefighters, teachers and federal bureaucrats, who, unless things change drastically, will be paid something near their full salaries every year – until death – after retiring in their mid-50s. That is a retirement sum worth millions of dollars.’ How many of us in the private sector are able to retire in our mid-50s with an annual pension in the vicinity of $80,000 and with full health-care benefits?” (Ref. 3)

     “The Democratic Party is often called the party of government. Ideologically, this is so obviously true it’s not worth belaboring. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. We have a federal government for a reason, and there are things it should do. Reasonable people can debate what those things are.
     “But there’s a difference between being the party of government in the ideological sense and being the party of government in the literal sense. A core constituency of the Democratic Party, both in terms of voters and donors, is people who work for the government.
     “Members of teachers’ unions regularly constitute around 10% of delegates to Democratic Party conventions. There are about 3.5 million public school teachers in America, comprising about 1% of the U.S. population. That means teachers’ union members are over-represented among the activist base of the Democratic Party by a factor of about 1,000%. In 2019-2020, according to Open Secrets, of the roughly $52 million that the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association spent on political donations, $130,000 went to Republicans or Republican groups, and the rest went to Democrats or Democratic groups — a ratio of about 400 to 1.
     “Of course, it’s not just teachers’ unions. In the 2020 election cycle alone, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) dedicated 99.1% of its political spending to Democrats. The American Federation of Government Employees gave 95.6% to Democrats.
     “At the state and local level, public-sector unions are often the biggest contributors to Democrats, not just in terms of money but also in terms of organizational effort.
     “No wonder that one of the first things Joe Biden did after being elected was issue an executive order repealing a Trump administration policy that restricted government employees from spending more than 25% of their time doing union business while on the job. It can now go back to 100%.
     “Of course, part of the Democratic Party’s preference for government unions can be explained by the central role organized labor has played in Democratic politics going back to at least the New Deal. In 2020, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, 90% of all labor spending on federal elections ($219 million) went to Democrats. Public-sector unions only comprised about a third of that ($68.5 million).
     “The difference between public-sector and private-sector unions isn’t trivial. Coal miners, factory workers, etc., formed unions in response to brutal working conditions, using their collective bargaining power to force important reforms from businesses. There is no similar history justifying public sector unions. . .
     “Sure, government workers deserve some basic protections, but civil service laws were already providing those when President John F. Kennedy lifted the ban on government unions.
     “The crux of the problem is that government isn’t a business. It doesn’t have to run at a profit. It can keep borrowing (or printing) money almost indefinitely. Actual businesses need to keep the lights on by making a profit. That tension imposes discipline on both management and workers when it comes to private-sector unions. There is no similar countervailing pressure to keep labor costs in line or work rules efficient for government union labor. Since 1960, inflation-adjusted spending on education has increased by some 280%. Have we seen the quality of education improve 280%?
     “The party of government, and often government itself, is dominated by a constituency that, to put it charitably, has divided loyalties between what is good for the public and what is good for them.
[Emphasis mine]
     “Victor Gotbaum, a leader in the New York City chapter of AFSCME, summed up the problem in 1975 when he boasted, ‘We have the ability, in a sense, to elect our own boss.’ “ (Ref. 4)

     “Public employee labor unions exhibit an extraordinary amount of power with elected officials. This power derives from the contributions government employee labor unions make to campaign coffers of our elected officials, the ability to provide bodies to campaign for elected officials, and the supposed ability to “turn out the vote” for candidates endorsed by the unions. There are many paybacks to the unions and their members from officials that are elected with union support. The support by government employee labor unions flows preponderantly to members of the Democratic Party.” (Ref. 3)

     In 2013, I penned an article that addressed the issue of the relationship between public unions and the Democratic Party in my home state of Massachusetts. In the article I noted what should be obvious to all.

     Beside being the “bluest” – most Democratic - of the blue states, Massachusetts had – and still has - the honor of being the most liberal state in the nation. At the same time, it was the 10th most expensive state in which to reside., while its capital, Boston, was the 7th most expensive city in America. These high costs reflected the liberal bent of the Democratic political establishment in the state and of their public-sector union supporters.
     One significant factor contributing to the high cost of living in Massachusetts was and still is the stranglehold on state and local government by Massachusetts Democrats. In this state, Democratic means liberal and liberal means government largesse at the expense of all state residents. Another reason is the fact that public unions and the Democratic Party in Massachusetts are joined at the hip. Democratic politicians in the state make sure that their union supporters are taken care of legislatively, while the unions funnel their financial support back to the Democratic politicians, campaign for them, and get out the vote for them. Everyone makes out - everyone - that is except the poor slobs who end up paying the bills, the citizens of Massachusetts who pay higher taxes, higher than necessary public labor costs, higher insurance, higher health care costs, etc.[5]

     To stop the collusion between public unions and political parties – in particular, the Democratic Party – federal, state and local laws should be passed to prohibit public unions from making financial contributions to political candidates and political parties and from endorsing political candidates or political parties.

     There has been no greater example of the Democrats’ love of “Big Government” than the actions of the Biden administration. Under the push of its Liberal wing, the Democrats have shown their propensity for top-down government interference and control of American life. Contrast the Democratic love of government meddling in the affairs of business and individuals with the Conservative history of opposing government growth and big government’s intrusion into everyone’s lives.

     This is such a significant difference that it might be said to be the defining difference between Left and Right. Without the belief in an ever-expanding state, there is no Left. Without a belief in limited government, there is no conservatism.
     The Left, i.e., our Liberal or Progressive Democrats, believes that the state should be the most powerful force in society. It should be in control of educating every child; it should provide all the health care for all its citizens; and it should supervise just about all other areas of society. There should be no competing power. As to the all-important question of how much government is too much government, has there ever been a person of the Left who has had an answer to that question? The answer is no. For the Liberal left, as in all socialist societies, there never is too much government control – the more the better! The Left believes that the state should be the most powerful force in society. In countries run by communists, that most powerful force is "The Party", i.e. the Communist Party.
     On the other hand, Conservatives believe that the individual, not government, is the essential component of a good society. The government’s role in society should be limited to absolute necessities such as national defense and the resource of last resort to help citizens who cannot be helped by other citizens, private organizations, or charities.
     Conservatives understand that as governments grow in size and power, the following will inevitably — yes, inevitably — happen:

  • There will be ever-increasing amounts of corruption. Power and money breed corruption. People in government will sell government influence for personal gain. This is as true for America as it is for Africa and Latin America, where government corruption has historically been the single biggest factor holding nations back from materially progressing.
  • Individual liberty will decline. Liberty is less important to the Left than to the Right. This is neither an opinion nor a criticism. It is simple logic. The more control the government has over people’s lives, the less liberty people have. The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.
  • Countries will either shrink the size of their government or they will eventually collapse economically. Every welfare state is a Ponzi scheme, relying on new payers to pay previous payers. Like the Ponzi scheme, when it runs out of new payers, the scheme collapses. European countries, all of which are welfare states, are already experiencing this problem to varying degrees.
  • Taxes must be constantly increased in order to pay for the ever-expanding government. But at a given level of taxation, the society’s wealth producers will either stop working, work less, hire fewer people, or move their business out of the state or out of the country.
  • Big government inevitably produces large deficits and ever-increasing — and ultimately unsustainable — debt. This is only logical. The more that the state hands out money — to government employees as salaries and pensions; to state agencies (education, environment, energy, transportation, and myriad others); and to individual citizens (monthly cash welfare grants, rent subsidies, health care, unemployment benefits, education, college loans, meals, food stamps, etc.) — the more the government employees and agencies, and the citizens who receive government aid, will demand. None of them has ever said, “No more, thank you. I have enough.” Unless big governments get smaller, they will all eventually collapse of their own weight — with terrible consequences socially as well as economically.
  • The 20th century was the most murderous century in recorded history. About 200 million people, the great majority of them noncombatants, were killed; over a billion people were enslaved by totalitarian regimes. And who did all this killing and enslaving? In every case, it was a big government. The bigger the government, the greater the opportunities for doing great evil. Evil individuals without power can do only so much harm. But when evil individuals have control of a big government, the amount of bad they can do is unlimited.
  • Finally, the moral impact of big government on its citizens is awful. Not only do people stop taking care of others — after all, they know the government will do that — they stop taking care of themselves as well. And the more people come to rely on government, the more they develop a sense of entitlement, which then leads to a nation of ingrates.
     Other than all that, big government is terrific. See Greece. Or Puerto Rico. Or Detroit. Not to mention Cuba, Venezuela, the Soviet Union, North Korea, or Mao’s China.[6]

     Ronald Reagan’s view of big government was summarized in what he said were “the nine most terrifying words in the English language: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’ Reagan stated many times the danger of this seemingly mundane claim, and it came to define many aspects of his presidency, as well as his legacy.
     “As the de facto representative of the federal government to the nation and around the world, it might seem at odds that the president would make such a claim about government intervention. However, Ronald Reagan on big government was much different than the president’s views on government in general. The president was a strong supporter of the idea that the federal government had too much power and influence. At the time, budgets for entitlement programs were ballooning and federal agencies had their hand in nearly every aspect of Americans’ daily lives. The state of the government was rendering it ineffective, and leading to over-regulated industries, with growth being stifled.
     That led Ronald Reagan to take on big government with spending cuts, including a nearly 5-percent reduction in his very first year, with an overall reduction in discretionary domestic spending of about 14 percent during his inaugural year. One of Reagan’s cornerstone achievements was tax reform, which included reduction of tax rates and the elimination of a number of federal loopholes that had given the government unnecessary power over taxpayers’ finances. Reagan’s approaches to tax reform shifted the power from the federal government back to the American people, where it should have been.
     “The views of Ronald Reagan on big government have seen a resurgence in recent years, as the country has again grappled with unnecessary spending and influence by the government. Taking a cue from the past, reducing the size of government through de-regulation and funding cuts can help the public regain the control it deserves.” (Ref. 7)

     Today, more than ever, America needs a return to the Ronald Reagan brand of Conservatism – particularly with regard to stopping the growth of government size and power.

     Ronald Reagan conservatism focused on more efficiency in government, i.e., getting more bang for the taxpayer’s buck. Stated another way, Reagan wanted to make government work better, not merely make it smaller. Further, he wanted government to be less intrusive in the daily lives of citizens as they sought to make their way in life.[8] President Reagan’s conservative message was that of limited government, strong national defense and the protection of traditional values against what were seen as the encroachments of a permissive and often chaotic modern society.[9]

     What America doesn’t need are more spend-and-tax Democrats like Progressive U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts who said she would vote “no” if the $1 trillion infrastructure bill going before the House of Representatives would not come with a guarantee that a $3.5 trillion social spending bill would also be passed.
     But that $3.5 trillion package was even too much for a centrist Senate Democrat who called the trillions in spending Pressley wanted “fiscal insanity.” But no matter - fiscal insanity or not - Pressley and those in the Progressive Caucus pushed for both of the massive spending bills.
     To pay for all these trillions of dollars of spending, the president was looking to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and use that money to expand government health care, education and other social programs. In other words, more spend-and-tax.
     But even some Democratic legislators were balking at the unprecedented level of spending. A Democratic senator from West Virginia said he “can’t support $3.5 trillion more in spending when we have already spent $5.4 trillion since last March.”
     “What I have made clear to the President and Democratic leaders is that spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity,” he said, later adding, “I cannot — and will not — support trillions in spending or an all or nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces.”[10] If only other Democrats in Congress would come to the same conclusion! Can anyone imagine spending and taxation like that contemplated by the Democrats being part of the conservative agenda of Ronald Reagan?

     “President Reagan's unflagging optimism and his ability to celebrate the achievements and aspirations of the American people persisted throughout his two terms in office. He was a figure of reassurance and stability for many Americans. Despite his propensity for misstatements, Reagan was known as the ‘Great Communicator,’ primarily for his mastery of television. For many, he recalled the prosperity and relative social tranquility of the 1950s - an era dominated by another genial public personality who evoked widespread affection, President Dwight Eisenhower.
     “Reagan believed that government intruded too deeply into American life. He wanted to cut programs he contended the country did not need by eliminating ‘waste, fraud and abuse.’ Throughout his tenure, Reagan also pursued a program of deregulation . . . Reagan sought to eliminate regulations affecting the consumer, the workplace and the environment that he argued were inefficient, expensive and impeded economic growth.
     “President Reagan's domestic program was rooted in his belief that the nation would prosper if the power of the private economic sector was unleashed. A proponent of "supply side" economics, a theory which holds that a greater supply of goods and services is the swiftest road to economic growth, Reagan sought large tax cuts to promote greater consumer spending, saving and investment. Supply-side economists argued that a tax cut would lead to increased business investment, increased earnings and -- through taxes on these earnings -- increased government revenues . . .
      - - -
     “Steadfast in his commitment to lower taxes, Reagan signed the most sweeping federal tax-reform measure in 75 years during his second term. This measure, which had widespread Democratic as well as Republican support, lowered income tax rates, simplified tax brackets and closed loopholes, taking an important step toward taxing low-income Americans more equitably. . .” (Ref. 9)

  1. Conservatives Can and Must Save America From Biden, Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., The heritage Foundation,
    31 August 2021.
  2. Democrats out to trash American work ethic, Betsy McCaughey, Boston Herald: Page 15, 20 September 2021.
  3. Public Versus Private Employment and Labor Unions, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu: Article 93, 31 August 2010.
  4. Free-spending government unions key Dem constituents , Jonah Goldberg, Boston Herald: Pages 15 and 27, February 2021.
  5. Massachusetts: Democratic, Unionized and Very Expensive, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu: Article 68,
    2 July 2013.
  6. Differences Between Left and Right: It’s All about Big Government, Dennis Prager, National Review, 7 July 2015.
  7. Ronald Reagan on Big Government | Most Terrifying Words,, 17 August 2018.
  8. Ronald Reagan and the Changing Face of Conservatism, L. John Van Til,, 7 July 2004.
  9. Conservatism and the rise of Ronald Reagan, Accessed 28 September 2021.
  10. Ayanna to burn bridge bill without $3.5T social spending, Rick Sobey, Boston Herald: Page 8, 30 September 2021.

  20 January 2022 {Article 511; Politics_74}    
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