When I read Bill Shipp's column on former President Jimmy Carter (June 16) I was reminded of the famous joke President Lincoln told about the little girl who rushed in one day to the house and excitedly told her father she had just witnessed the hired hand and one of the milkmaids climbing into the hay loft. She explained how they both pulled down their pants, and then she told her father she suspected they were going to pee on the hay.
Unfortunately Shipp cannot claim the innocence of the little girl. Yes, he did report facts as he saw them, but his take was creative enough that Jayson Blair would be green with envy.
My high school and college years spanned the Carter/Reagan years, and I experienced the effects of the 20 percent plus interest rates and the social malaise and the confiscatory tax rates. Carter offered us only ways to deal with the problem and told us how to sacrifice to survive. I remember the button-down sweaters (you had to keep the house cold in the winter to save energy). And while Carter gave us the harsh realities of life (we would never defeat the Soviet Union; we had to coexist with them) he never offered us any way to solve the problem.
Shipp parroted the standard myrmidon line of the exploding federal budget under Reagan. This is usually accompanied by the claim that it was due to the drop in tax rates. Reality shows that while the top tax rate dropped from 76 percent to 25 percent, we actually doubled the amount of taxes collected during the Reagan administration.
Shipp seems to personally blame Reagan for the deficit, but Congress passes the budget. And while military spending rose, entitlements and social programs rose significantly more.
Shipp seems to blame a lot of Carter's problems on terrorism. I must agree that the Iranian Embassy crisis was one of the major events that influenced the downfall of Carter. But the embassy attack was not an attack by a faceless whackjob like we see today. It was an attack on American soil by the ruling powers of the nation of Iran. It was embarrassing to watch a Third World nation violate American soil and degrade our embassy staff.
Rather than hit the Iranians within days of the takeover, Carter tried to use the United Nations and diplomacy to solve the crisis. Then, after our enemy had a chance to fortify the embassy, Carter tried the infamous Desert One mission. This poorly organized mission only served to make the United States look more inept. His desire to use civilized methods of negotiation to solve a problem with uncivilized 14th century yahoos was a failure. The Carter administration created an appearance of faintheartedness in a world that will always be ruled by the appearance of strength.
Shipp made the usual whining explanation that it was Reagan's positive attitude contrasted with Carter's hard truths that brought Reagan's success. This is a rather sophomoric assessment. Carter saw each problem as something that was beyond the scope of the government to solve. In the realm of government socialism, if the government cannot solve the problem there is no solution. Reagan saw the potential of individual Americans to surmount the problems. Reagan looked at America and saw the incredible potential of private citizens to succeed if we could just get government out of the way.
While Carter told us how bad things were, Reagan told us how great we could make the future. Ironically, Carter has (by his recent notable work with private groups like Habitat for Humanity) followed the direction of private solutions to problems, while the party of Reagan appears to have taken the path of government solutions.
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