Thursday, 3 February 2011
No comparison between thriving Reagan era and today
would have been 100 years old on Sunday. To mark the date, Yahoo! News asked readers to compare their lives today with their lives during his presidency. Below is an essay from a reader.
News – The author and her mother celebrating Christmas in the 1980s. (Photo by Cathy A Montville)
More than a few newly elected U.S. presidents, armed with crisp and innovative dreams of resuscitating , could have shared the following words with its citizens. But only Ronald did say it. It is, in fact, from his inaugural speech on Jan. 20, 1981: "The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we as Americans have the capacity now, as we've had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom."
It was 1981. I was a 26-year-old mother of three- and five-year-old daughters. I was living in Europe. My husband (now ex) decided to end his stint as an sergeant. After eight years traveling as a military wife, I packed my humble existence into boxes, hopped a plane at Ramstein Air Base, and headed back home to Worcester County, Mass., where I still live today.
At the same time, America's 40th president was moving into the . My return to civilian life in New England embraced an uncomplicated American vision: I wanted a job, to own a home, and provide a respectable life for my kids. They were not earth-shattering, but rather humble, goals. The new president, Reagan, whom I viewed as a poised political maverick, was now my best hope.
Reagan was soft-spoken. He was loud and clear, though, when in his inaugural speech, he said thegovernment is the problem, not the solution to the country's difficulties. In contrast to that consoling 1981 presidential decree, it appears to me today that the government uses an unnerving "little-by-little" takeover approach. I find this method of governing extremely uncomfortable.
Keep in mind, I had lived three years in Germany when Reagan took office. I spent those years listening to the sad, painful stories of my amazing German friends about Communist rule in what was then .
Because of them, my perspective about an overbearing, controlling government without freedom of choice was, and still is clearly, altered forever. Trust me when I say this: You do not want the anguish of that type of story a part of your family history.
When Special Interest Groups Were You and Me
Reagan conveyed that, in his eyes, special-interest groups were ordinary people like you and me. They were the shopkeepers, clerks and factory workers. Despite long-standing economic inflation across the United States, which naturally played a role in unemployment, I was fortunate that in the early part of the '80s, Massachusetts was holding its own.
I was also fortunate to have the sheer luck of having a daily newspaper take me on as a news correspondent. I did not have prior experience, but the publisher applauded my nerve to apply for a job I knew nothing about. He gave me a local beat to cover and a month to prove myself. I stayed on with that paper for more than 10 years.
The going wage in Massachusetts was not much to celebrate. Honestly, no one dared complained. Any job that offered a paycheck was better than having no income. Within my circle of family and friends, I do not recall anyone collecting unemployment. In my area of the state, dozens of big and small thriving furniture factories, which were the backbone of once-bustling communities in north-central Massachusetts, were still the staple.
Reagan Years and Today? There Is No Comparison
As the 1980s pushed on under the Reagan administration, overall life improved immensely. Wages increased, economic growth was steady, and interest rates fell by half. I was living in the first home I ever owned. I should note: I bought an ordinary, three-bedroom house in late 1984 for $62,000. That same house would sell for about $299,000 now because of the location and the huge yard. Crazy -- that is what I say.
In 2011, maybe three factories in my area remain open under minimal operation. The rest stand quiet and empty -- a sad reminder of the factory owner's mass exodus south. That began in the '90s after Ronald Reagan left after two terms in office. Rising taxes and high heating-fuel costs in winter were reason enough for all these businesses to pack up and head out.
Now, thanks to even higher taxes, the ridiculous cost of living, and the soaring cost of forced health care in the state, unfortunately even more small businesses are ditching Massachusetts every day.
I have been a successful New England small-business owner in distribution and sales for the past 18 years. My husband and I have reached a time when we should be kicking back a bit to relax. Following years and years of hands-on hard work to grow our business, we seriously cannot see our way clear to relax for even a moment in this current frail economy. We are willing to go the extra miles if we have to. Some rest would be nice, though.
I am not a presidential historian. I do not pretend to be an economic genius. I can only share a glimpse of what my life was like during the Reagan era. Was it better then, and less stressful? Yes. Were people happier, more thoughtful, and a whole lot less about themselves? I believe so. Ronald Reagan wanted America to once again be the model country the world admired. Here's hoping that vision is still on the table. If not for me, then let it be a reality for my four beautiful grandchildren.
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