Jewish World Review Nov. 10, 2003 / 15 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764
The golden age of governance: 1980-2003
Warning: In this citadel of raging partisanship, no reader will agree with more than half of this column, but ...
The recent news that the economy grew at a 7.2 percent annual clip during the last quarter is only the latest reminder that we Americans have had the best governance in the past 23 years that we have had since the time of the Founding Fathers.
Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush; House Speakers O'Neill, Foley, Gingrich, Hastert; Senate leaders Mitchell, Dole, Lott, Daschle, Frist combine them all and, although they were fiercely partisan, they have given us amazingly good government.
Could the economy have grown so that 90 percent of the jobs created in the industrialized world since 1980 have been American if it had not been for Ronald Reagan's deregulation and tax cuts? Would this recession have been so short if George W. Bush, with important Democratic help, had not cut taxes at the start of his term?
Would we be able to pay for the war on terror and have sufficient stimulus to get us out of the recession had it not been for the efforts of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole to balance the budget? And to have achieved this deficit reduction, should we not honor the sacrifice the first President Bush made in raising taxes, thereby ensuring his re-election defeat and Clinton's courage in hiking them that caused his loss of Congress in 1994?
Hail the Republican insistence on welfare reform, work requirements and time limits. Salute the Democratic demand for more day care, job training, a higher minimum wage, tax incentives for hiring welfare mothers and flattening out benefit eligibility so people could work and not lose food stamps or Medicare. And praise Clinton for having the courage to cross the aisle and sign the bill.
And thank the Republicans for the two most successful anti-poverty programs we have: the earned-income tax credit for the working poor and the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment, which eradicated elderly poverty. And be grateful the Democrats preserved both programs when the GOP tried to gut them.
Bravo to the Republicans for demanding more prison construction, minimum sentences for drug crimes and repeat offenders, and truth-in-sentencing legislation.
Good for the Democrats in pushing through a 15 percent increase in the number of cops, gun control and an assault-weapons ban. And thank them both for federal sentencing reforms that have given this nation a credible deterrent to crime for the first time in decades. Because of these efforts all of them we have gone from a country driven to racism by rising crime to a nation at peace with itself with a much lower rate of felonies.
Good for Ronald Reagan and Bush 41 for not listening to the Democrats and instead pursuing steadfastly the goal of beating the Soviets through an arms race and the economic competition it took to finance it, which led to the implosion of the USSR and its economy. Cheer the Democrats for their pragmatic approach to Haiti, Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Kosovo, where the interests of peace and justice were advanced without loss of American life. And hats off to Bush 43 for his courage and vigor in prosecuting the war on terror without flinching at controversy or casualties.
Praise the Republicans for defeating Hillary Clinton's nutty healthcare reforms, and then the Democrats for not interfering when American business cut health costs by imposing private HMOs. Salute the Congress for passing Kennedy-Kassebaum to make benefits portable from job to job and, we hope, for passing bipartisan Medicare reform this session.
Look at the results of this bipartisan progress: American economic initiative has been unleashed and led the world. A nation that was failing and losing confidence in 1980 has been restored, emboldened and enriched.
Had either party had total control in Washington for the past two decades, only half of these accomplishments would have been possible. It was the tug of conflicting partisan passions and power that enabled the massive progress we have witnessed.
To the politicians of Washington: You may hate each other. The public may hate you all. But, collectively, you have led us well.
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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, Off with Their Heads: Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists in American Politics, Media & Business"
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© 2003, Dick Morris