"Tipper," let’s at least be factual
Ever since her husband’s need to raise funds from the Hollywood Left stopped “Tipper” Gore’s crusade against Hollywood smut in its tracks; she hasn’t been someone to whom this observer pays much attention. But “Tipper” made a recent speech in which she said something so historically inaccurate that this historian cannot resist the impulse to set the record straight.
While attacking Bill Bradley, who is ahead of Al Gore in the race for the Democrat’s presidential nomination, “Tipper” said, “Bill Bradley voted for the Reagan tax cuts, and we all know how that threw the nation into a tailspin.”
I have no way of knowing if “Tipper’s” statement was based on sheer ignorance of the facts or if “Tipper” knew better and simply allowed her desire to harpoon Bill Bradley to get the best of her. Either way, let’s set the record straight.
When Ronald W. Reagan became the 40th President of the United States, we had interest rates at 21.5 percent. I know. We were trying to build a home in those days. The inflation rate was 12.4 percent and eight million Americans were unemployed. The budget deficit was consuming 6.3 percent of our Gross National Product (GNP). Marginal income tax rates were at 90 percent.
The Soviet Union was so powerful militarily it thought it could invade Afghanistan and expand the Soviet Empire to the borders of Red China. By any measure, America was already in a “tailspin” when Ronald Reagan took office.
Eight years later, when President Reagan left office, “Reaganomics” had dropped interest rates to 7 percent, the inflation rate was down to four percent and more Americans had jobs than ever before. The budget deficit as a percentage of GNP dropped from 6.3 percent to 3.4 percent. Marginal federal income tax rates had been cut to an average of 30 percent. In fact, “Reaganomics” proved so successful, the liberal media, which had coined the term “Reaganomics” to ridicule Reagan’s supply-side economic policies, stopped talking about “Reaganomics” altogether. It had to find other ways to ridicule the longest peacetime economic expansion in our history.
When President Reagan left office, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R had signed a treaty that eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons. Moreover, the Reagan defense build up and our support of the Afghan freedom-fighters had driven the Soviet Union to the brink of economic and spiritual collapse.
Our military and economic strength relative to the Soviet Union had grown so great that President Reagan felt safe in proposing the elimination of all nuclear weapons and even offered to give the Soviets the plans to his Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) missile defense system -- if and when it was developed. Moreover, President Reagan handed his successor, George Bush, a military machine so powerful that it smashed the world’s third largest armed force in 100 hours. Not only did we suffer few casualties, our allies paid the major costs of the Persian Gulf War.
President Bush never understood The Reagan Revolution and made the mistake of helping the Democrat-controlled Congress raise taxes. Breaking ranks with “Reaganomics” did two things: it caused a temporary recession (It’s the economy, stupid.) and it cost President Bush his chance for reelection.
The greater beneficiary of the Reagan Revolution has been Bill Clinton. By bringing an end to FDR’s Era of Big Government and by ending the Cold War through a brilliant combination of military strength and diplomacy, President Reagan gave Bill Clinton an economy that continues to expand into a world that is much safer and much more hospitable to democracy than at any time in world history.
So “Tipper” my dear, you should be thanking Bill Bradley for voting for those Reagan tax cuts. Ironically, those tax cuts, plus others enacted by the current Republican-controlled Congress, are providing your husband with an economy of which he can be proud.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist, is a former professor of history and political science at Nebraska Wesleyan University.