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Put Reagan on the Penny and Get On With It

He Meant Well…He Exuded Confidence…and Appears to Have Been a Generally Nice Old Geezer Unfortunately, he was President of the United States

I originally posted this over at The Defeatists; it was a throw-away piece. As blogging has gotten less intense, it’s not uncommon to find blogs with stuff last posted months ago.  I try to write something when I have something to say. I never got Ronald Reagan. He presided over the end of the American Social Contract, the lionization of Ayn Randian thought even though he didn’t think much about that kind of stuff, the trivialization of political discourse, and the rise of the new right. Much of what’s wrong with the US can be traced back to those 8 years of whimsy.

Ronald ReaganHe was optimistic, said optimistic things, and didn’t get in the way of much. Revitalization of the US military — didn’t prevent it. Destruction of labor unions — supported it. Demonization of unemployed and poor people — told stupid stories. He did handle his attempted assasination with grace, he could deliver a good speech, and he had a dignified exit into the fog of Alzheimers. On balance, not so great as Eisenhower or Nixon or Clinton.

Yet, tomorrow will be celebrated as a day equal to the birthdays of Lincoln and Washington. Some of his advocates will demand, again, that we name something after him, anything. Personally, I hope that when a cure or prophylactic for Alzheimers and Dementia is found, probably from stem cells, that it will be named to honor Nancy Reagan. No more airports. No more bridges. In fact, fewer of both. I’d support replacing Lincoln on the penny, because while ubiquitous, the penny is basically useless.Lincoln has the five dollar bill — let Ronnie have the penny.

I had been thinking I needed to write something. Well, I don’t. It would be a waste. Exile-d has done it already in a combination of reprints and new stuff. I have been feeling lousy, and figured I could take a pass on this. However, things are more complicated.

Now, posting an argument about Reagan here has some of it’s own risks. Between Tea Partiers and Conspiracy Theorists, along with a fairly large crowd of anti-Israel birthers and Palinesque wannabes, the odds are pretty good that my thoughts will just produce sound, fury and insults. As I was reading a comment at the Defeatists, I realized that Ronald Reagan is really an archetypal American figure.  He meant well…he exuded confidence…and appears to have been a generally nice old geezer.

Unfortunately, he was President of the United States. Simplistic solutions to complex issues usually lead into dens of monsters — by cutting taxes, Reagan didn’t turn on any faucet of American ingenuity; he bankrupted the country. But, he didn’t pretend to be an economist — he was a cheerleader, a “coach,” prowling the sidelines of his internal Kenyon College, urging us all on. Like the coach in Bull Durham, he asked us to play the simple game — “throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball…”There is a place for that.

Hell, his relationship to GE wasn’t a lot different than that friggin Gecko for Geico.

Now GE is running Reagan commercials talking about how wonderful he was for GE. He was a paid shill; he presented an image. I doubt that the average GE employee took a lot of inspiration from him — and, since he took over the governorship of California in the 60s, odds are pretty good that not to many folks working at GE today remember him as their inspirational voice. Hell, his relationship to GE wasn’t a lot different than that friggin’ Gecko for Geico. However, one thing that they stress is his optimism.

Well, America and Americans as a group and as individuals –We are short optimism. We need to find the American will to say, “Dream big! Do big things! WE’RE the UNITED FRIGGIN’ STATES OF AMERICA and we’re the greatest goddamn country in the world!” And then, and by far the hardest part, we have to do it. There is a model for decision making called OMR for Outcomes, Methods and Resources. Constrained resources doesn’t result in jettisoning Outcomes; you change methods. Only when you can’t find a way to get there from here do you alter outcomes. Outcomes drive the train, not the other way around. This is a heuristic application of Reagan’s Optimism which is a lot like Obama’s “yes we can!” We need to apply a structure to this.

If you examine our needs — infrastructure, jobs, educational reform and investment, healthcare, mental health, innovation — there is one thing that jumps out…we need to get income flowing, which will result in money for investment which will in turn produce these things. Since only government can do things like build high speed, high capacity rail or replace roads and bridges, those are good places to start. Screw Star Wars…roads. Electrical grids capable of using the alternative energy available from solar fields in the bloody Mojave desert…it’s not the solar panels that are the problem, it’s the distribution lines! Build pipelines — we know we need new pipelines to move natural gas and oil and liquified coal and so on. Do it. Now. Increase capacity. Put people to work doing things that have meaning.

This will probably require a few changes in our mental models. As a consultant and academic, I am a big fan of Peter Senge’s  The Fifth Discipline.  Granted, the book is at that stage where it’s almost venerable in age –but Senge is still writing cutting edge stuff, and this is the foundation.  Senge’s vision is almost pantheistic –Simply state,  things are inter-related. If you do this to A, there will probably be an impact at some point on B, C, D and so on. If God is in the small details, then Senge’s approach is critical.  Senge’s approach, the systems approach, is key to understanding the impact. If you cut the budget for road-building  by 20% and don’t replace it at some point, the impact on the roads is geometric and bad. Over time, just using the rule of 72s, reduction like that gets to the point where you’re actually not able to even keep up on maintenance. Nobody planned to destroy the economy this way — they were just trying to reduce unnecessary friction in the system…nobody planned to screw everything up. It happened because bit by bit, we chipped away at the mortar holding things together.

California today is a horrible place. I was talking with a physician this week, a moderate conservative politically who said, ” I don’t want to pay more taxes, but we need to have more money in the government so I’d be willing to pay more taxes, but…I don’t think that will fly.” You want world class infrastructure to keep jobs at home, you need to pay more. You want world class schools, you need to pay more. Where the hell is the more going to come from? My physician friend will pony up, but he doesn’t believe that most Californians care enough. …Well, extend that model to the whole country. If nobody cares enough, it doesn’t matter if Reagan or Obama or Palin or KOKO the CLOWN is in charge. If people don’t care enough to to take care of their country so it can take care of them, screw us all. Again.

Nobody planned to destroy the economy this way — they were just trying to reduce unnecessary friction in the system…nobody planned to screw everything up. It happened because bit by bit, we chipped away at the mortar holding things together.

So, along with Reagan’s optimism, we need people who will do things. Reagan didn’t really do that much — but he had an activist government. Granted, he inherited that government from Johnson-Nixon-Ford and Carter, and his gang of fools tried to disassemble it. But, we can do big things if we have the will and the belief. We need someone to inspire the belief and provide the will. I had hopes for President Obama but I just don’t see it happening. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, because we’re running out of time…as time and weather and tides chip away at the mortar, there comes a point where the wall crumbles.

Ronald Reagan didn’t see that as a problem. He believed we could fix the wall if we wanted to; or, we could tear it down and build something better in its place. Tactically, he did a lot of stupid shit, and allowed a lot more of it to happen on his watch. But strategically, his vision of a greater America, the shining city on the hill, is still worth having and pursuing and striving to create.

View the original article at Veterans Today

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