Posts tagged ‘President Reagan’


Mandate Candidate Tax Disclosures

Although the Federal Election Commission requires Presidential candidates to reveal assets and liabilities on Ethics Form 278, there is currently no law mandating the disclosure of tax returns, but there should be. Although it has been a tradition for over four decades for aspiring Presidents and incumbents to release several years of tax returns, Mitt Romney has surrendered only two. The Congress should impose a 7-year mandatory look-back period to correct this type of reluctance.

During the 2008 Republican primaries, Mitt Romney refused to disclose any tax returns whatsoever, and so far in the 2012 race, he yielded only his 2011 return, which showed 20.9 million in gross income, and his 2010 papers, that disclosed another 21 million in revenue. Voters are entitled to many more years from Romney, if he expects to be taken seriously in November.

President Barack and Michelle Obama released eight years of tax returns before the 2008 election. They grossed $240,000 in 2000, $275,000 in 2001, $260,000 in 2002, $238,000 in 2003, $207,000 in 2004, 1.6 million in 2005, $991,000 in 2006, 4.2 million in 2007, and 2.6 million in 2008. Since becoming Commander-in-Chief, he reported 5.6 million in 2009 (only $374,460 in Presidential pay), and 1.7 million in 2010, and his 2011 return. Sen. John McCain also made his tax returns public in 2008.

George W. and Laura Bush reported $936,000 in 2007, $765,000 in 2006, $738,000 in 2005, $784,000 in 2004, $822,000 in 2003, $856,000 in 2002, $811,000 in 2001, and $894,000 in 2000. Sen. Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry also showed us their numbers.

Bill and Hillary Clinton disclosed $417,000 in 1999, $509,000 in 1998, 1 million in 1996, $316,000 in 1995, $263,000 in 1994, $293,000 in 1993, and $290,000 in 1992, in addition to several other returns, all the way back to 1980. Bill’s 1996 challenger, Sen. Bob Dole, also surrendered to the media his tax returns.

George H. W. and Barbara Bush grossed $456,000 in 1989, $452,000 in 1990, and 1.3 million in 1991. His challenger, Gov. Michael Dukakis had no problem releasing his tax returns.

Ronald Reagan reported $345,000 in 1987, $320,000 in 1986, $394,000 in 1985, over $400,000 (illegible) in 1983, $741,000 in 1982, and $412,000 in 1981.

Jimmy Carter reported $270,000 (illegible) in 1979, $254,000 in 1978, and $350,000 in 1977. President Ford also showed the public his tax returns.

Richard Nixon reported $736,000 in 1969, $262,000 in 1970, $262,000 in 1971, and $282,000 in 1972.


Ask Eisenhower Re Budget, Not Reagan

One of those free copies of the right-wing USA Today was laying around the hotel lobby, and since I had a minute, I glanced at the opinion page, where the editor asked “What Would Reagan Do?” regarding the Debt Limit. I kind of chuckled, because the borrow-and-spend policies of the past 30 years started under Reagan, and he would be the last person we should ask for advice.

If Republicans wanted a true fiscal model, they should instead ask: What Would Eisenhower Do?” The General was the last Republican to deal honestly with balanced budgets. He knew enough about military spending from his service to warn the nation, as he left office, against the Military-Industrial-Complex.

President Reagan on the other hand, raised the Debt Ceiling 18 times, and just used his Hollywood credit card to keep borrowing. He cut corporate income taxes, but increased Social Security taxes on ordinary workers. His misguided borrow-and-spend policies predictably increased the National Debt threefold over eight years.

Reagan’s apologists now re-write history, as they defend his borrow-and-spend military programs by suggesting they somehow ended the Cold War. The truth is one man ended the Cold War, and his name was not Reagan, it was Mikhail Gorbachev. After Gorbachev wisely withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988, he advocated reform by promoting glasnost (openness) and perestroika (rebuilding). Once Reagan was out of office, and no longer a threat to the Russian people, Gorbachev conducted open elections in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. Gorbachev’s policies allowed for a Soviet dissolution in 1991. Reagan’s out-of-control military spending had nothing to do with it.

The bottom line is for the past 30 years, the U.S. has been in a borrow-and-spend mode. Since major sources of tax revenues were given away by Reagan, Bush, and Bush Jr., the government does not have enough money. In the Eisenhower days of the 1950s, there had to be tax revenues, before any spending took place, and yes, that included military budgets for wars, like the ones Bush Jr. started in Afghanistan and Iraq. Eisenhower would have raised taxes to pay for those wars. The Republicans of today would be wise to use Ike’s approach as their model for governing.


National Debt: Lower It The Left Way

Rational people have always believed that except in extraordinary circumstances, taxes must cover spending. We lost our way when President Reagan and the supply-siders made taxes a dirty word, and introduced voodoo economics. Things worsened as Reagan’s disciples, like the light-weight President Bush II, increased the policy of borrowing-and-spending, to where debt is out of control.

When President Eisenhower served (1953-61), the debt increased just 8.2% in 8 years, from 266 to 288 billion. During the Kennedy and Johnson terms (1961-69), it rose only 22.5%, from 288 to 353 billion. In the Nixon-Ford years (1969-77), national debt climbed 97%, from 353 to 698 billion. Democratic President Carter (1977-81) slowed the growth rate to 43%, from 698 to 997 billion.

Things really changed when President Reagan (1981-89) and his supply-side Republicans arrived. Reagan was able to fool voters into believing the budget could be balanced through simultaneous tax cuts and spending increases, but as he gave taxes away, the debt shot up a whopping 186%, from 997 billion to 2.8 trillion.

Republican President Bush I next increased the debt another 57%, from 2.8 to 4.4 trillion, before Democrat President Bill Clinton, allowed only a more modest rise of 32%, from 4.4 to 5.8 trillion.

The country then suffered through another major dose of borrow-and-spend, as Bush II gave away prescription drugs, and started two wars, without raising any taxes. Debt went up a staggering 105%, as Bush II more than doubled it, from 5.8 to 11.9 trillion.

While national debt was modestly increased by Democrats Kennedy-Johnson (22.5%), Carter (43%), and Clinton (32%), the amount added by the latter-day Republicans is unsustainable, as Nixon-Ford brought it up 97%, movie star Reagan used his credit card to add 186%, and Bush II borrowed to increase it by 105%.

While deficit spending has been the norm for a long time, and both parties deserve some blame, it is time to recognize that the budget-balancing Republicans of my father’s generation left the building with Eisenhower, long ago. The time for tax breaks is over. We have to attack the debt the right way, which is to say, we have to do it the left’s way, by electing fiscal Democrats.


China Will Not Apply Western Law

The news reported yet another crackdown against dissidents and rights advocates in China. While we may and should criticize human rights abuses, we also need to understand why the Chinese distrust of the western approach to law.

China never set out to colonize the world. They instead built a Great Wall to keep people out. From the arrival of the colonial Portuguese (1517) through the 20th Century, western European powers imposed their will on China. At the point of a gun, Britain seized Hong Kong (1842), and later the Kowloon Peninsula. They forced China to surrender their seaports to nine western states, under unfair treaties (1860). China was required, for example, to give Britain a lease to Hong Kong, rent free, for 99 years (1898). The west ultimately controlled 60 Chinese ports.

The unfair treaties led to anti-Western sentiments and the Boxer Rebellion (1898-00). Troops from England, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Russia and the U.S. were sent to suppress it. Following WWII, Mao Tse Tung’s troops won the Chinese Civil War (1949) and ushered in a People’s Republic, which ousted the Europeans from the mainland, for the first time in 432 years.

As the American War in Vietnam (1965-73) escalated, Mao feared the infiltrating power of the U.S. and started a Cultural Revolution to purge China of all western influence (1966-68). A Red Guard of 22 million teens moved all persons educated in the West to the rice fields. They carried Mao’s little Red Book and quoted his works, as they closed schools and universities, to restructure the curriculums. They attacked those who resisted, such as journalists and intellectuals. Some were forced to wear dunce caps, and were given manual work to get their minds right.

When Mao died, his anti-western policies were reversed (1976) and the Gang of Four (including Mao’s wife) were put on trial for Cultural Revolution excesses (1978). President Carter established diplomatic ties, ending decades of strained relations (1979). China reopened their law schools and resumed trade with the west, as they moved from a controlled to a market economy (1979). The law schools started graduating attorneys again in 1983, following a 17-year hiatus. President Reagan traveled to China and signed trade deals, which allowed U.S. businesses to conduct trade (1984).

I personally witnessed the Chinese legal system that year. I toured a prison in Beijing in 1984, which housed 1,900 prisoners, of whom 50 were counter-revolutionaries. As I walked through the facility, the inmates were making bicycles. They could not look at me. Their inability to even glance away, for just a split second, was chilling. I had been in U.S. jailhouses, as a lawyer, but the strict atmosphere in this prison, made a lasting impression.

I also visited the People’s Court in Shanghai, where I noticed no trials in progress, even though the city had millions of residents. I asked how many lawyers there were in Shanghai and was told there were only 850. Individual rights were at great risk in China, given the shortage of lawyers, caused by the Cultural Revolution.

While China subsequently increased their number of attorneys, they still give the state more respect than the individual. When students rallied for democracy in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and demanded a free press in 1989, the army fired upon them.

While China today is now willing to conduct trade with the west, they still distrust the Anglo-American western legal system, which was so unfair to them for hundreds of years during the colonial era. This is why it is difficult to convince China to accept our approach to law. The Chinese politely reject westerners who lecture them regarding law, particularly when the preachers are from one of the countries that historically abused their rights.