Donald Devine, who served as a top official and adviser in the Reagan administration, believes the ascension of Joe Biden to the presidency along with the Democrats taking the reins of Congress should be viewed as an opportunity for conservatives.
“I think in some ways this [new administration] is a great thing for conservatives because it’s clear that President Biden and [with Democrats in] control of both houses of Congress, they are going to do pretty much everything they want to do over the next couple of years,” Devine told The Western Journal on Thursday.
That was the same day Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act into law with no Republican support.
The former director of the Office of Personnel Management under former President Ronald Reagan contended that the problem with the ambitious big government agenda Biden has laid out is that it simply will not work — given its reliance on the notoriously unwieldy, and often inept, bureaucratic state.
Devine is the author of the new book, “The Enduring Tension: Capitalism and the Moral Order,” in which he makes the case why economic freedom, undergirded by a return to Judeo-Christian mores, is the foundation for American prosperity.
“Since welfare-state bureaucracies often fail in their basic responsibilities, how can we expect them to succeed in the more complex matter of socialist planning of whole economies…?” the former University of Maryland government professor asks in his book.
Biden clearly plans a return to the heady days of the Great Society, with a further expansion of the welfare state. He said as much in remarks from the White House on Friday, celebrating the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to — since the Johnson administration, maybe even before that — to begin to change the paradigm,” Biden said, referring to the tax cut model of free market-driven growth employed under Reagan in the 1980s and former President Donald Trump during the last administration.
“All it’s done is make those at the top richer in the past and everyone else falling behind,” he added. “This time, it’s time that we build an economy that grows from the bottom up and the middle out.”
“This law is not the end of our efforts though. I view it as only beginning.”
The president promised to make the wealthy pay their “fair share,” arguing that “folks living on the edge, they’re paying.”
Actually, according to the nonpartisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation, the top 1 percent of earners in America paid over 40 percent of all federal income taxes in 2018, versus 19 percent in 1980 prior to the Reagan Revolution.
The top 50 percent of income earners paid approximately 97 percent of all federal income taxes in 2018, while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining of less than 3 percent — thanks to the high standard deduction, child tax credit, earned income credit and other deductions.
Those credits and deductions were increased under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 enacted under Trump.
Biden also proudly touted that he was “given the dubious distinction of having to implement the [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009] back when we came into office, Barack and I.”
CNN reported the Obama/Biden administration oversaw the worst economic recovery since World War II.
By contrast, Reagan’s was the largest peacetime expansion since the war, despite starting in a recession that arguably was worse than the Great Recession (unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent at the beginning of the Reagan presidency versus 10 percent a decade ago).
During his time in office, over 18 million new jobs were created, according to CNN.
Beyond cutting taxes, Reagan also slashed regulations on businesses and negotiated favorable trade deals. In other words, he did pretty much the exact opposite of what the Obama-Biden administration did in 2009 during the Great Recession.
During Obama’s two terms, just 11.6 million jobs were created, according to FactCheck.org, though there were approximately 80 million more people living in the country.
Trump followed the Reagan formula after taking office in 2017.
Further, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Asian-Americans were enjoying the lowest unemployment rates ever recorded.
With Trump’s policies still in place, the economy rebounded strongly — with unemployment back down to 6.3 percent in January from a peak of 14.8 percent in April 2020.
Devine believes ultimately the Reagan/Trump approach will be shown superior to the leftward tack Biden is taking.
“I think it’s going to be absolutely clear to everybody in two — and certainly in the four years — that this whole progressive solution to the problem doesn’t work,” he said.
“They tried this for almost a century now,” Devine continued. “And I think what we’re witnessing now is the end of an era. We’re seeing the end of the progressive reforms started slowly under [Woodrow] Wilson, picking up on the Franklin Roosevelt, [and] peaking under Lyndon Johnson …”
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“And that’s why I think the book [“Enduring Tension”] is so important, because it gives two years for conservatives to start thinking seriously about what is critically important, what isn’t, what kind of things do we have to do …”
Devine emphasized his hope that conservatives will not waste this time in the political wilderness at the federal level.
“I mean, this is a time for us to think and acting — especially acting locally — and realizing, as my great boss Ronald Reagan said, the secret of America’s success has always been federalism and decentralization. And what progressivism is — very simply defined, going right back to Wilson — progressivism is relying on experts to run things with great power from the center,” he said.
“What Biden is going to demonstrate is that it doesn’t work.”
Reagan focused on a few key things when he ran for office and governed, Devine said.
“Reagan’s slogan when he ran — people forget about — he said, ‘This is what I’m running for: God, family, freedom, neighborhood, work.’ Those are the values that made America great. And that’s where the Great Society got off the trajectory of the Constitution.”
Devine concluded that we as a nation have got to “get back to the basics of the Constitution and really the whole moral order of Western Civilization. This is our only way back. We should look forward to this challenge.”
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