Alex Massie Alex Massie

Lessons from Ronnie and Maggie

Ramesh Ponnuru has written a splendid op-ed for today’s New York Times. Splendid, not because it is new or especially original, but because, alas, it’s central message needs repeating until, eventually, even the more dunderheaded class of Republican Congressman hears the message.

And it is a simple message. Namely, that asking ‘What would Ronald Reagan do?’ is almost about as useful as mining Martin van Buren, George II or Charlemagne for policy advice that will help solve today’s problems. I exaggerate of course, but only for effect. We are not now as we were then. Or, as Mr Ponnuru puts it:

Republicans are very good at tending the fire of Ronald Reagan’s memory but not nearly as good at learning from his successes. They slavishly adhere to the economic program that Reagan developed to meet the challenges of the late 1970s and early 1980s, ignoring the fact that he largely overcame those challenges, and now we have new ones. It’s because Republicans have not moved on from that time that Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, in their responses to the State of the Union address last week, offered so few new ideas.

When Reagan cut rates for everyone, the top tax rate was 70 percent and the income tax was the biggest tax most people paid. Now neither of those things is true: For most of the last decade the top rate has been 35 percent, and the payroll tax is larger than the income tax for most people. Yet Republicans have treated the income tax as the same impediment to economic growth and middle-class millstone that it was in Reagan’s day.

Indeed so. Something similar may be said of some members of today’s Tory party. Like some of their American cousins they also instinctively consult the household gods – of whom the Blessed Margaret is, reasonably, the supreme being – for inspiration.

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