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Reagan’s 1984 Labor Day Message—Still Relevant!

Reagan’s 1984 Labor Day Message—Still Relevant!

Welcome to Labor Day—the calendar’s signal that the August doldrums are behind us, and that it’s time for a long slog toward “The Holidays” and the inevitable pedal-to-the-floor pace of an election year.

It’s sometimes hard to remember that almost none of the political battles we’ve fought over the past 8 months are over novel issues. Jobs, the economy, dealing with foreign governments—it has all been done before, in some form or another.

Today, let Ronald Reagan’s 1984 Labor Day message remind you why conservatives should fight for principles—not just for or against haphazard policies that come and go with each new President or Congress. Give it a read—you’ll find some familiar themes. [Emphasis mine]:

Today, we pay tribute to America’s working men and women, and I join with all Americans in celebrating the dignity and productivity of our working people. Labor Day brings a fitting opportunity to salute those who built our great nation and whose spirit, hard work and courage are now building a new era of lasting economic expansion filled with greater opportunities for all our people.

America is on the move again. We’re witnessing the fastest rate of job creation in the world—7 million jobs in the last year and a half—and today, more Americans are working than ever before. The erosive effect of inflation on workers’ paychecks has ended, and the increase in after-tax personal income is the largest in our history.

A rising economy and greater opportunity give us confidence, but our work is far from finished. Too many of our fellow Americans are still out of work or down on their luck. We must not and will not rest until everyone who wants a job has found one, until all Americans can reach as high as their vision and talents take them. We must and we will make certain that the American dream remains a springtime of hope for all our people. Meaningful work, not welfare, is every American’s hope, and we have a continuing responsibility to make those hopes a lasting reality.

Labor Day, 1984, also finds American workers facing many new and different challenges and opportunities. The nature of our labor is changing rapidly. Occupations unheard of just ten years ago are opening up opportunities. America’s future growth and prosperity depend on how well we take advantage of these opportunities.

We must also compete effectively in foreign markets. Exports account for 25 percent of the total value of all goods produced in our country. Exports mean jobs for our people and growth for our economy. We’re committed to keeping markets open to free trade, and to make them grow.

As America’s workers enjoy this holiday, let us all be thankful for the prosperity we have achieved and let us work together to meet the challenges ahead and turn them into opportunities for all Americans.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. For those of you who have the day off, enjoy the holiday! For those of you still working hard today, thank you.

h/t to the Washington Times, who has Reagan’s 1981 message posted in their Editorial section.

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See, one…just ONE…of the things that Reagan got was that the absolute BEST protection for working Americans was a thriving FREE MARKET.

(Which is not to say he never misstepped. He did.)

    Midwest Rhino in reply to Ragspierre. | September 7, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    This abominable record … also prompted Milton Friedman to write that the Reagan administration has been “making Smoot-Hawley look positively benign.”

    Sure, “free trade” rhetoric accomplished with a long list of quotas, tariffs, import duties, restrictions. Many are listed in the link right before that quote, and quotes from trade specialists in Reagan’s administration that called his protectionist proclivities “dangerous” and vigilante”.

    The 1988 article states it is good to have another country buy our debt. But there are limits on that, as servicing the debt becomes a burden. And that was before ZIRP and QE, back when economics and deficit spending was just taking root.

    But sure, Reagan’s rhetoric recognized advantages of trading globally, especially when it was to America’s advantage.

      Ragspierre in reply to Midwest Rhino. | September 7, 2015 at 8:44 pm

      You should have had the integrity to finish the quote:

      Of course, the administration sometimes claims that it adopted mild restrictions to head off a rabidly protectionist Congress. But, as Friedman put it,

      “Poor excuse. The president retains his veto power. While Congress might have overridden some of his vetoes, it would have been clear where the blame lay. As it is, the administration has given members of Congress–of both parties–a free ride. They enjoy the luxury of supporting special interests always eager for restraints on their competitors while avoiding the responsibility for imposing higher costs on consumers. The result has been an escalation of protectionist rhetoric.”

      Protectionism IS ABOUT “special interests”. Not the general good of the people.

      MARKET competition is GOOD for American businesses. Protecting them from it is like protecting dinosaurs from competition in their environment. It just prolongs their death, rather than prompting them to adapt.

        Midwest Rhino in reply to Ragspierre. | September 7, 2015 at 9:35 pm

        I appreciate that you can’t make your lame argument without personal attack, which highlights your weak point.

        The whole article enforces my point, including the extended quote you gave.

        I’m listening to Coulter on her book (C-SPAN2), and glad to hear she also is not big on NAFTA or the “free trade” argument, which is really about getting cheap labor to the elite.

        “Free trade” is about protectionism for cheap labor for the elite. Open borders imports cheap labor for them, and “free trade” lets them make big profit away from the tax and regulatory hell of the US.

        But I won’t claim you don’t have the integrity to say that, I think you’re just ignorant, as you reveal over and over, with a topping of venom.

        Please direct future venom to the Cato Institute which completely refuted your claim that Reagan was such a free trade hero. It was the whole point of the whole article. Reagan was not afraid to punish nations that he felt did not treat us fairly.

          Ragspierre in reply to Midwest Rhino. | September 8, 2015 at 9:39 am

          No. Reagan was often MORE afraid of what special interests would obtain from Congress by way of interference in markets. And he did the wrong thing, acting against principle and sound economics.

          And, anyone who reads my first post will see your “hero” bullshit for what it is.

          Free markets benefit all the people. Protectionism is about feeding the interests of the influential few.

          You’ll know that when you learn some basic economics. And some basic politics. That would be good, too.

        Midwest Rhino in reply to Ragspierre. | September 7, 2015 at 9:45 pm

        For those that don’t want to follow the quote, here are some things Reagan did that were not “free trade”.

        ” Presidential Deeds

        Words are not deeds. Unfortunately, a look at the record leads to the question: With free traders like this, who needs protectionists?

        Consider that the administration has done the following:

        — Forced Japan to accept restraints on auto exports. The agreement set total Japanese auto exports at 1.68 million vehicles in 1981-82, 8 percent below 1980 exports. Two years later the level was permitted to rise to 1.85 million.(33) Clifford Winston of the Brookings Institution found that the import limits have actually cost jobs in the U.S. auto industry by making it possible for the sheltered American automakers to raise prices and limit production. In 1984, Winston writes in Blind Intersection? Policy and the Automobile Industry, 32,000 jobs were lost, U.S. production fell by 300,000 units, and profits for U.S. firms increased $8.9 billion. The quotas have also made the Japanese firms potentially more formidable rivals because they have begun building assembly plants in the United States.(34) They also shifted production to larger cars, introducing to American firms competition they did not have before the quotas were created. In 1984, it was estimated that higher prices for domestic and imported cars cost consumers $2.2 billion a year.(35) At the height of the dollar’s exchange rate with the yen in 1984-85, the quotas were costing American consumers the equivalent of $11 billion a year.(36)

        — Tightened up considerably the quotas on imported sugar. Imports fell from an annual average of 4.85 million tons in 1979-81 to an annual average of 2.86 million tons in 1982-86. Not only did this continued practice force Americans to spend more than other consumers for sugar, but it created hardships for Latin American countries and the Philippines, which depend on sugar exports for economic development. The quota program undermined President Reagan’s Caribbean Basin Initiative and intensified the international debt crisis.(37)

        — Negotiated to increase restrictiveness of the Multifiber Arrangement and extended restrictions to previously unrestricted textiles. The administration unilaterally changed the rule of origin in order to restrict textile and apparel imports further and imposed a special ceiling on textiles from the People’s Republic of China.(38) Finally, it pressured Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea, the largest exporters of textiles and apparel to the United States, into highly restrictive bilateral agreements. All told, textile and apparel restrictions cost Americans more than $20 billion a year.(39) The Reagan administration has stated several times that textile and apparel imports should grow no faster than the domestic market.(40)

        — Required 18 countries–including Brazil, Spain, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Finland, and Australia, as well as the European Community–to accept “voluntary restraint agreements” to reduce steel imports, guaranteeing domestic producers a share of the American market. When 3 countries not included in the 18–Canada, Sweden, and Taiwan– increased steel exports to the United States, the administration demanded talks to check the increase. The administration also imposed tariffs and quotas on specialty steel. These policies, with their resulting shortages, have severely squeezed American steel-using firms, making them less competitive in world markets and eliminating more than 52,000 jobs.(41)

        — Imposed a five-year duty, beginning at 45 percent, on Japanese motorcycles for the benefit of Harley Davidson, which admitted that superior Japanese management was the cause of its problems.(42)

        — Raised tariffs on Canadian lumber and cedar shingles.

        — Forced the Japanese into an agreement to control the price of computer memory-chip exports and increase Japanese purchases of American-made chips. When the agreement was allegedly broken, the administration imposed a 100 percent tariff on $300 million worth of electronics goods. This episode teaches a classic lesson in how protectionism comes back to haunt a country’s producers. The quotas established as a result of the agreement have created a severe shortage of memory chips and higher prices for American computer makers, putting them at a disadvantage with foreign competitors. Only two American firms are still making these chips, accounting for a small percentage of the world market.(43)

        — Removed Third World countries from the duty-free import program for developing nations on several occasions.

        — Pressed Japan to force its automakers to buy more American-made parts.(44)

        — Demanded that Taiwan, West Germany, Japan, and Switzerland restrain their exports of machine tools, with some market shares rolled back to 1981 levels. Other countries were warned not to increase their shares of the U.S. market.

        — Accused the Japanese of dumping roller bearings, because the price did not rise to cover a fall in the value of the yen. The U.S. Customs Service was ordered to collect duties equal to the so-called dumping margins.(45)

        — Accused the Japanese of dumping forklift trucks and color picture tubes.(46)

        — Failed to ask Congress to end the ban on the export of Alaskan oil and of timber cut from federal lands, a measure that could substantially increase U.S. exports to Japan.

        — Redefined “dumping” in order “to make it easier to bring charges of unfair trade practices against certain competitors.”(47)

        — Beefed up the Export-Import Bank, an institution dedicated to promoting the exports of a handful of large companies at the expense of everyone else.(48)

        — Extended quotas on imported clothespins. “

No other country, I am told, makes a like observance. But in America this high tribute is paid in recognition of the worth and dignity of the men and women who toil.

You come here as representative Americans. You are true representatives. I cannot think of anything characteristically American that was not produced by toil. I cannot think of any American man or woman preeminent in the history of our Nation who did not reach their place through toil. I cannot think of anything that represents the American people as a whole so adequately as honest work. We perform different tasks, but the spirit is the same. We are proud of work and ashamed of idleness. With us there is no task which is menial, no service which is degrading. All work is ennobling and all workers are ennobled.
—Calvin Coolidge

I want one of those…