During the Republican presidential debates, much has been made of who can best re-energize the Reagan coalition. Some have suggested it is time to move beyond Reagan, and in one sense they are right.
But the continued popularity of President Reagan is not based on mere fondness and nostalgia for the 40th president, likeable though he was. In fact, if he were here he’d probably admit, with a wink and a joke, that his policies didn’t always live up to his own ideas.
Rather, Reagan’s enduring popularity is based on the reality that – as we approach his 97th birthday Feb. 6 — the big ideas he espoused for America still make sense.
These big ideas are timeless American principles of strength, prosperity and optimism.
Where we must break from Reagan and the past is in our recognition that application of these principles to today’s circumstances will require new ideas, new political skills, and new leaders.
One of those timeless big ideas is Reagan’s notion that the size, scope and power of government should be limited.
Of course this idea is as old as the founding of our nation, when Thomas Jefferson wrote “the government that governs best, governs least,” and the framers of our Constitution allowed the federal government only limited, enumerated powers while all other power was left to the people.
President Reagan said that “Man is not free unless government is limited.” He knew that the more power government takes – and the more of our money it controls – the less free we become. And when the government does step in and try to “help” it often complicates things. Or, as Reagan put it, “[the government] tends not to solve problems, but only rearrange them.”
Hurricane Katrina is a great example. President Bush was chastised for responding too slowly to the disaster, but when the Feds did step in the results were grievous. In 2006 CNN reported that a federal audit found nearly $1 billion in fraud related to the relief effort. Government-issued gift cards were used to purchase everything from $200 bottles of champagne to vacations in the Dominican Republican. But is anyone really surprised?
The old joke that the scariest sentence in the English language is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” is only funny because most Americans recognize the bureaucratic inefficiency and incompetence of many government programs.
Of all the key tenets of the Republican Party, the ideal of limited government should be one of the least controversial. Yet under a Republican-controlled Congress spending was out of control. According to the American Conservative Union, federal spending increased $303 billion between 2001 and 2005 – without including crucial spending increases in military and homeland security following 9/11!
The 2006 elections sent many spend-happy Republicans home permanently as Americans placed their trust in the Democrats’ message of reform and accountability. But have matters improved with the Democrats in control?
Brian Riedl, the lead budget analyst of the Heritage Foundation, pointed out in a recent article that December’s omnibus spending bill contained an astounding $20 billion in congressional earmarks – classic “pork-barrel spending.”
“Earmarking is a corrupting process,” Riedl said. “It effectively gives individual lawmakers their own pot of tax dollars to distribute to organizations of their choosing. So rather than file an application, many federal grant seekers today have to make a political donation. Lobbyists promote their matchmaker role, effectively auctioning government grants to the highest bidder.”
That is a perfect breeding ground for corruption, as any number of indicted or jailed Congressmen can attest.
The only way to limit corruption in politics is to reduce the size and the power of government over our lives. When elected officials have less money and influence to spread around, the smaller gains available through bribery and corruption are not worth the risk of prosecution.
The danger of increased corruption is just one more reason to oppose the massive expansion of government in Arizona, where we have roughly doubled the state budget in the past five years while bankrupting the state and producing a deficit twice as big as the one Gov. Napolitano claims she fixed in 2003.
Let liberals argue over the best government-based solution to the problems facing our nation. If history is any guide, we can expect more government involvement in areas like health care to provide us with less quality at greater cost.
As usual, Ronald Reagan said it best: “We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefiting from their success — only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free.”
Len Munsil was the Republican nominee for Governor of Arizona in 2006. He is founder and chairman of Principled Reaganesque Outcomes PAC ( and blogs at

1 Comment

  1. Great post Len. Thanks and enjoy voting.


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