web analytics
November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

When Paradigms Shift


Nearly thirty years ago, this country underwent a paradigm shift when Ronald Reagan swept into the presidency, defeating Jimmy Carter after a single term. Along with Carter, Reagan displaced an entire way of thinking that had informed our politics since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Reagan was a transformative president.

An old line liberal Democrat, Reagan refashioned himself as a conservative Republican in the 1950s as his film career wound down and he transitioned from president of the Screen Actors Guild to TV pitchman for on the old Western TV show “Death Valley Days.” By the 1964 presidential race, he was supporting Senator Barry Goldwater, the principled libertarian-conservative Senator from Arizona who held the seat John McCain holds today.

Reagan wasn’t highly thought of by the elites and intelligentsia of his day, most of whom favored liberal politics and the Democratic Party which had attained majority status during FDR’s presidency. Nor was Reagan a compelling speaker in the manner of history’s great orators, but because he had an amiable and easygoing style and could make people feel at ease, he earned the reputation of being a Great Communicator.

Surprising many of his detractors, Reagan won two terms as governor of California and in 1980 claimed the Republican presidential nomination and then the White House.

As president, Reagan wrought a revolution of sorts in this country when he handled the Soviet Union effectively through a forceful foreign policy and an advocacy of democratic values even as he presided over a resurging American economy. Things had been bad throughout the 1970s, after the spending excesses of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, Richard Nixon’s neo-Keynesianism and Jimmy Carter’s gloom and doom malaise. Big government had begat big spending and, by the time of Carter’s presidency it had also begat stagflation, driving our economy into a deep and seemingly permanent recession.

To many of us in those years, it seemed America would never claw its way out again. But Reagan’s hopeful rhetoric gave us the ability to believe in America’s future and its capacities to recover. And he delivered policies that released the pent-up economic power still latent in the nation.

His policies of deregulation and lower taxes provided incentives for millions to invest, work and earn again. The dissolution of the Cold War on Reagan’s watch helped, too, of course, as did the various moves for welfare reform which began in his presidency and kept growing right into the ‘90s and the administrations of his successors.

Many liberals never forgave him for those successes, but whether one liked him or not, his ideas formed the basis for how we came to think about economics and society. He revived our belief in individual responsibility, liberty and the importance of rewarding hard work. Without gutting what he called the “social safety net,” he fought to scale it back and to build into it obligations and limits for those who would use it.

Despite the naysayers, his policies worked – and for nearly thirty years thereafter America and its democratic, free market values became both beacon and benchmark to the wider world. But something went wrong with this model in 2007 and our financial institutions and markets began to spin out of control in 2008. In the first months of 2009 we find ourselves faced with what could be a downturn the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Great Depression.

The new Democratic administration that swept into office in the wake of the imploding economy seems committed to a different way of doing business. The previous Republican administration, more pragmatic than principled in the matter of economic management, had been too tolerant of spending excess while proving ineffective in dealing with entitlement reform or stopping Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before they sinned again. Those two government-sponsored entities were in the vanguard of those that precipitated this mess.

It’s not that the Bush administration didn’t try to address the Fannie and Freddie excesses. It’s just that it got nowhere for want of focus, commitment and, perhaps most tellingly, a lack of political skill in an unusually harsh, partisan atmosphere.

Now President Obama has the helm and, with Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, what little spending restraint once existed seems to have flown entirely out the window. Obama is promising to address the exploding deficit in the out-years while adding fuel to the deficit fire in the near term. Perhaps it can’t be helped. In a crisis no administration can sit on its hands, as George W. Bush learned to his chagrin. The country wants movement, it wants to see its president, sleeves rolled up, doing something – and Obama is more than willing to oblige.

If he succeeds in righting this listing economy, or is seen in the end to have succeeded, he will have changed the paradigm as Reagan and FDR did before him. But for those of us who came to believe in the free market/small government model that Reagan pitched so successfully to the nation – a paradigm which grew to be the bellwether feature of American society in the minds of populations around the globe – there is now a much larger question to be answered:

Were these past thirty years of increasing national and global prosperity nothing but an illusion and can we hope to pull ourselves out of it this time by forsaking those policies that saved us the last time we blew it?

About the Author: Stuart W. Mirsky is a Queens-based writer and columnist for several local papers. He is the author of the historical novel "The King of Vinland's Saga," about Vikings and Indians in eleventh-century North America, and "A Raft on the River," the true story of a 15-year-old girl's escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “When Paradigms Shift”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Captain Or Cohen
IDF Selects First Female Commander of Navy Ship
Latest Indepth Stories
Rabbi Maurice Lamm

Creativity without clarity is not sufficient for writing. I am eternally thankful to Hashem for his gift to me.

Golden presents a compelling saga of poor but determined immigrants who fled pogroms and harsh conditions in their homelands for a better life in a land of opportunity.

It seems to us that while the Jewish entitlement to the land of Israel transcends the Holocaust, the Jewish experience during that tragic time is the most solid of foundations for these “national rights.”

Too many self-styled civil rights activists seemed determined to force, by their relentless pressure, an indictment regardless of what an investigation might turn up.

Egypt’s al-Sisi is in an expansionist mood. He wants Israel’s permission to take over Judea and Samaria.

Cries of justice for Michael Brown drowned out any call for justice for Police Officer Daryl Wilson.

Cloistered captain Obama, touts his talents and has the temerity to taunt Bibi,his besieged ally

Former PM Ariel Sharon succinctly said, “the fate of Netzarim (Gush Katif) is the fate of Tel-Aviv.”

“What’s a line between friends?”

Unrest in YESHA and J’m helps Abbas and Abdullah defuse anger, gain politically and appear moderates

A “Shliach” means to do acts with complete devotion and dedication in order to help bring Moshiach.

The pogroms in Chevron took place eighty five years ago, in 1929; the Holocaust began seventy-five years ago in 1939; the joint attack of Israel’s neighbors against the Jewish State of Israel happened sixty-six years ago… yet, world history of anti-Semitism did not stop there, but continues until today. Yes, the primitive reality of Jews […]

“We don’t just care for the children; we make sure they have the best quality of life.”

“Why do people get complacent with the things they’re told?”

More Articles from Stuart W. Mirsky

The shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, along with federal judge John Roll (a Republican appointee) and numerous others, including a nine year-old constituent of the Congresswoman, resulting in the deaths of six (including the judge and the little girl) and brain injury to the congresswoman, prompted the usual ruminations.

While it’s not too early for Republicans to start feeling optimistic, they need to realize this kind of resurgent mood isn’t unlike the ebullience of markets bouncing off a bottom. As market pundits like to say, even a dead cat will bounce when it’s tossed from a great height. After having fallen so low in public esteem during the last days of the Bush administration, it only makes sense Republicans’ spirits would surge at an impending reversal of fortune.

A friend of mine came to this country from China back in the eighties. China had little opportunity for people like him he tells me, especially after Chairman Mao had destroyed the country. To get anywhere you had to know people and pay them off. Everything, he adds, was corrupt and there was no freedom. America looked better and so he emigrated, married and raised a family here.

With the outgoing and endlessly embattled Bush administration showing signs of exhaustion in 2008 and the onslaught of an unforeseen financial crisis, Democrats won the U.S. presidency while gaining an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives and 60 veto-proof seats in the U.S. Senate (thanks, in part, to a disputed Minnesota election putting TV comic Al Franken over the top in his state and the inclusion of Vermont Socialist Bernie Sanders and Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman).

It’s no secret these days that the Obama administration leans left.

On every crucial issue, from dealing with al Qaeda and the threat of terrorism, to the environment, to health care, to the administration’s handling of our overseas adversaries, the president and his advisers have come down hard on the left side of the political divide.

Nearly thirty years ago, this country underwent a paradigm shift when Ronald Reagan swept into the presidency, defeating Jimmy Carter after a single term. Along with Carter, Reagan displaced an entire way of thinking that had informed our politics since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Reagan was a transformative president.

Well, it’s finally over – and about time, too. After two years of seemingly endless campaigning and eight of partisan bickering and recriminations, the country appears to have turned a historic corner.

Nothing is certain except death and taxes — but a few things come close. One is that, come November, either Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain will emerge as the next president. When that happens we’ll be turning the page on eight years of rancorous political partisanship.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/when-paradigms-shift/2009/03/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: