Mark W. Hendrickson
Mark W. Hendrickson is a faculty member, economist, and contributing scholar with the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania. These articles are from V & V, a web site of the Center for Vision & Values.
The Debt-Ceiling Dance and the Annual Budget Ritual
Once again it's time to talk about raising the statutory limit on the U.S. government's debt - the so-called "debt ceiling." Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has estimated that Uncle Sam will reach the debt ceiling before Tax Day, possibly even before the end of March.
Even earlier, on March 4 to be precise, the current appropriations resolution that is funding government spending will expire.
Are these two stories giving you a sense of dj vu? They should. These two closely related issues are perennial events. Congress has raised the debt ceiling 74 times in the past 70 years, and, of course, passing an annual budget is necessarily an annual event.
The same two sides square off against each other on both issues. On the one side are the (relatively) fiscal conservatives, the so-called "deficit hawks," the belt-tighteners; on the other are the budget-busters, the "deficit doves," the big spenders.
The big spenders are riding a long winning streak. Every time federal debt has reached the debt ceiling, Congress has raised it.
Prediction: There may be some fireworks first, but Congress will soon raise the debt ceiling again, and raise it significantly. Look at the numbers: President Obama has mentioned a possible $30-billion reduction in spending from a pending $1.65-trillion deficit this year. Speaker Boehner has countered with a proposal that is doubly large: $61 billion. One is tempted to say that the hotly contested debate between shrinking the deficit 2 percent or 4 percent is a tempest in a teapot.
Let's look at the numbers another way: Even if $61 billion ends up being trimmed from the budget, Uncle Sam will still spend over $3.6 trillion this year. Here's a trivia question for you: Who was president when Uncle Sam spent $2 trillion in a year for the first time? Give yourself an "A" if you answered George W. Bush.
Federal spending has nearly doubled in the last decade - a decade of anemic economic growth, as is the rule when government expands at the expense of the private sector. Obama has talked about hitting "reset" buttons on other issues. Why not get serious about runaway government and reset federal spending to where it was, say, five years ago? The sad thing is, even such a gigantic pruning as that would still leave Congress having to raise the debt ceiling, because the deficit would still be enormous, further adding to the national debt.
Every year, we go through the same ritual before passing a red-ink-drenched budget. Deficit hawks protest the immorality of burdening the next generation with debt and warn of potential catastrophe if the government goes further into debt. What they are up against is this: There are far more lobbyists defending specific dollars of federal spending than there are in favor of cutting them, and besides, the big spenders don't worry about deficits because national bankruptcy serves their agenda. Perhaps someday there will be enough tea partiers in Congress to force across-the-board cuts or eliminate rafts of federal agencies, but not yet.
As for the debt-ceiling dance, it, too, follows a familiar pattern. The belt-tighteners warn of eventual chaos when the federal debt finally reaches a breaking point; the big spenders warn of the immediate inconveniences that would result from failing to raise the debt ceiling, and thereby partially shutting down government.
In what amounts to a high-stakes game of "chicken," the big spenders always win, because the fiscal conservatives always blink. They know that a majority of the public fears the disruption of a government shutdown today more than they do a potential major upheaval at some unspecified date in the future. We fiscal conservatives have come across like the boy who cried, "Wolf!" We have warned about the perils of red ink for years, but Armageddon hasn't come. I think we will be proven right eventually, but we can no more foretell when the federal debt will blow up than we can predict which straw will break the camel's back.
Have you asked yourself why we are debating raising the debt ceiling above $14.3 trillion? Answer: because earlier congresses didn't rein in spending and curb the national debt at $10 trillion, $5 trillion, $1 trillion, or less. The big spenders always prevail in the annual budget ritual and the debt-ceiling dance. Someday, we will mourn that fact.
Wisconsin Unions vs. Governor Walker: A Battle for the Soul of America
Editor's note: A version of this article was first published by the Christian Science Monitor.
It is hard to overstate what is at stake in the dramatic showdown between Wisconsin's teachers and their Republican governor and legislature. The political and economic course of our country hinges on how the issue of public-sector unions is resolved, in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
For the sake of our country's political and economic future, Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican colleagues need to prevail in the current contest with the Wisconsin teachers' union and their allies.
That isn't easy for me to say. As an educator, I have great respect for all those (and they are many) in my chosen profession who capably and even brilliantly serve our nation's youth. The fact is, though, that the status quo is untenable.
The budget crunch isn't merely a projected crisis some 30 years in the future. Right now, several state and local governments are careening toward fiscal disaster. There are many factors, of course, but a major one is that retirement plans for public-sector workers are spectacularly underfunded, perhaps by as much as $3 trillion nationwide.
Governor Walker is being cast as the ogre for proposing to avert the onrushing flood of red ink, but the blame properly belongs to his predecessors who made unaffordable and unkeepable promises. All but the most zealous ideologues will admit that you can't spend what you don't have, and even some Wisconsin teachers are now indicating a willingness to help balance the state's budget by contributing more to their pension and health benefits.
Politically, this battle is the ultimate partisan clash. Unions and the Democratic Party are joined at the hip. Unions collect mandatory dues from their members, then contribute massive financial and human support to the electoral campaigns of their political allies (overwhelmingly Democrats). Democrat office-holders repay these favors by granting unions generous legislated benefits, both monetary and in the form of rules that strengthen the political power of union officials. Wisconsin's Democratic senators took the extraordinary step of fleeing the state in what appears to be a desperate ploy to preserve the flood of union money coming to them, while Republicans seem every bit as hopeful of reducing the flow of tax dollars to their political opponents.
Indeed, it is the use of tax dollars to lobby for more government spending, and thus for more taxes, that is the crux of the problem. Public-sector unionism is the ultimate conflict of interest, because the necessary objective of these unions is to capture control of the very legislatures that vote on their compensation packages.
Even the strongly pro-union Franklin Roosevelt believed that key tactics employed by private-sector unions were inappropriate for workers on the public payroll. In his words, "The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service" due to "distinct and insurmountable limitations."
I share FDR's conviction that, in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, those who work for the government must be servants of the people. When public-sector unions threaten to withhold their services unless the taxpayers, through their elected representatives, pay up, it creates a process of political extortion by which the majority of citizens is made subservient to the public-employee minority. This is the way things work under feudalism or socialism, but is the exact inverse of the proper order in a truly democratic republic.
Some have called the Republican proposals in Wisconsin "union busting." This is inaccurate. Walker is proposing to reform unions, not to abolish them. He seeks to make the payment of union dues voluntary instead of compulsory.
If teachers believe that what the union leadership is doing is worthwhile, they can continue to support those activities through voluntary contributions. If, on the other hand, Republican teachers would rather not contribute to Democratic candidates, they could follow their conscience and opt out. In a democratic republic, people should be free from being coerced into supporting candidates and causes to which they are opposed.
What is really at stake in the Wisconsin donnybrook is whether individual liberty or government power has the upper hand in our country. We are witnessing a battle for the soul of the republic.
America's Debts: Even More Calamitous Than We Thought
Brace yourself. This isn't going to be pleasant. If you're in a bad mood or get easily upset, you may wish to pass on reading this article.
The country is in even worse shape economically than we thought. We awoke on Feb. 14 to find that this year's federal budget deficit is going to be larger than previously projected - a record $1.65 trillion.
Recently, the official accumulated debt of the federal government passed the $14 trillion threshold. A trillion is a gigantic number. If you stacked $100 bills flat on top of each other, then turned that stack on its side, a trillion dollars would stretch from where I live in western Pennsylvania to somewhere past St. Louis. That's just ONE trillion. Multiply that by 14, and it would stretch from here to Honolulu and back with plenty to spare.
The really bad news is that Uncle Sam's debt is significantly greater than $14 trillion, and I am not referring to the tens of trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities representing undeliverable government promises. According to data released by the U.S. Treasury on January 21, the public debt is $20.7 trillion, an increase of $3.3 trillion in just the last year.
The larger sum - actual existing debt of $20.7 trillion - includes such off-budget items as bailouts, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, student loans, and who knows what else? I have to say "who knows what else," because the leviathan federal government long ago became too large to keep track of. For example, 25 years ago the Grace Commission, instituted by Ronald Reagan in the hope of identifying ways to streamline the federal government, was unable to tabulate how many people worked for the federal government, although they did manage to identify 963 federal programs that redistributed wealth.
Not only is our current national indebtedness more than 40 percent greater than the already horrendous commonly cited figure, the Social Security program is in worse shape than expected, too. As recently as a month or two ago, it was widely accepted that payouts from Social Security would start to exceed revenues in 2016. In a stunning development, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report on January 26 which projected that revenue shortfalls will begin this year and continue uninterrupted until all unfunded IOUs are exhausted by 2037 (if not much sooner). The CBO projects what would have been a $45 billion shortfall this year, but thanks to the terrible deal that President Obama and congressional Republicans forged in December - the one that included a 2-percent reduction in Social Security withholding from workers' paychecks - this year's Social Security red ink is expected to hit $130 billion.
At the state level, finances are deteriorating at a sickening speed. Governors are starting to ask the Obama administration for permission to drop people from Medicaid (280,000 people in Arizona alone). Moody's, the debt-rating agency that seems to wait until after a collapse has happened to lower its rating of an entity's finances, is making noises about downgrading the credit rating of several states.
At the municipal level, many bonds continue to tank as municipalities careen toward bankruptcy. Of the three largest bond insurers, two are already bankrupt while the survival of the third is in doubt.
Meanwhile, Obamacare is ripping us apart. The administration itself has already granted over 200 waivers to well-connected businesses and labor unions from having to comply with its unaffordable costs (meaning that wealth is being redistributed from those who don't receive the exemptions to those that do).
Two federal judges have upheld Obamacare while two others have ruled it unconstitutional. The result is that some state governors and attorneys general are voiding it within their jurisdictions while others are not. Obama is proceeding with costly implementation despite the bill's uncertain status. Besides the confusion and uncertainty that this is sowing, valuable time will be consumed in waging this titanic constitutional struggle - time that could and should be spent addressing the ballooning spending/debt crisis.
Given the magnitude of governmental fiscal woes, the struggle in Washington between Democrats who talk about (but don't propose) a possible spending freeze in one small corner of the federal budget, and Republicans who claim to want to cut $100 billion of annual spending, is a cruel joke. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns!
The financial condition of governments at all levels is worse than it ever has been. Neither political party seems ready to address the crisis in any meaningful way. As a result, our financial predicament is even worse than most of us had thought.
Hu's in Town, Time to Talk "Money"
China's President Hu Jintao is visiting the United States this week [This article was published on January 19]. This means we can count on two things: 1) a proliferation of Hu/who jokes (think: Abbott and Costello, "Who's on first?"); and 2) disputes about the respective monetary policies of the two countries.
Chinese officials gripe about the Federal Reserve's cheap-dollar policy. American officials denounce China's policy of preventing the yuan from appreciating vis--vis the dollar. The fact is that both China and the United States are currency manipulators. Like a dysfunctional couple, the two constantly squabble, each complaining about the other's shortcomings while ignoring its own.
In this latest round of bickering about currencies, Hu told reporters that the dollar's dominance in the world currency markets is a "product of the past."
Literally, this is indisputable. In 1944, the Bretton Woods agreement established the dollar as the international reserve currency. What rankles some Americans, though, is Hu's clear implication that dollar dominance is a relic of the past, that the buck is a "has-been" in terms of suitability for serving as the world's reserve currency.
While we may resent a foreign leader taking this stance, Hu is correct. At the time of Bretton Woods, the adoption of the dollar as the anchor for the global monetary markets made sense. The United States accounted for more than a third of the world's economic production, had abundant gold reserves backing our currency, and expressed a readiness to redeem dollars for gold that made the dollar "as good as gold."
The situation has changed radically since then. As other countries experience explosive economic growth, U.S. dominance correspondingly diminishes. Even more to the point, this isn't your grandfathers' dollar. It has been nearly 40 years since President Nixon reneged on our solemn promise to redeem paper dollars with gold upon demand by our foreign trading partners. Decades of government over-spending and currency debasement have produced a diminished, sickly dollar that - far from providing stability to global currency markets - produces uncertainty, disruptions, and losses throughout the global economy.
At some point, the dollar will cease to function as the world's reserve currency - not because of any demands by Chinese leaders, but of necessity. The dollar is on a path of self-destruction and foreigners will not passively sit still and go down with a sinking ship.
Looking ahead, President Hu stated that he desires a "fair, just, inclusive and well-managed international financial order." That sounds reasonable enough. But what constitutes a "well-managed" international financial order? Are there central bankers in other countries who could manage the system better than the Fed? Since China's central bank has increased its money supply by 180 percent in just the last five years, I wouldn't trust them to manage a currency well. (Despite cranking up their printing presses, the Chinese are trying to blame us for the inflation that they are currently suffering!)
Unfortunately, neither American nor Chinese officials are considering the two reforms that are needed in order to establish a viable international monetary regime. They are not only "off the table," but off the radar screen.
The two insuperable problems that afflict the international monetary order today are the acceptance of fiat currencies and government monopolies. It is impossible for a country, let alone the entire world, to build a durable monetary order on the weak foundation of an un-backed paper currency. Indeed, history demonstrates that fiat currencies inevitably end up being worth exactly what they are - insignificant scraps of paper. And if you ever have wondered why consumer products get better and better over time, while our money - the most commonly traded good of all - continues to deteriorate in quality, the answer is simple: The former are subject to competition and consumer choice, while government's money monopoly denies consumers a choice. People pick good stuff over bad stuff when free to choose, but governments deny us that freedom and instead impose on us the most pernicious monopoly of all - a monopoly on money.
If President Hu and American leaders truly want a well-managed international currency regime to emerge, they need to make these two reforms: 1) repeal legal-tender laws so that free competition can determine what will be used as money; and 2) have a separation of money and state comparable to our separation of church and state (what Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek called "the denationalization of money"). Human governments have never demonstrated the honor and integrity needed to preserve the purchasing power of the money they issue, and the world is poorer as a result.
Welcome to America, Mr. Hu. I'm sorry that your dialog with American leaders about money will be such a waste of time.
The New-Old Barack Obama
The 2012 presidential campaign has begun. Not being a political junkie, it gives me no pleasure to report this phenomenon. And no further proof of this assertion is needed than Barack Obama's tactical shift.
You may recall, during the first two years of his presidency, Obama's statements that he didn't care if he turned out to be a one-term president. So dedicated was he to his progressive agenda, so desirous was he of ushering in an era of permanent big government, that he refused to compromise with Republicans, conservatives, Tea Party activists and other assorted atavistic types. He would build a progressive utopia or get voted out of office trying.
My, how a mid-term electoral "shellacking" changes things. Since November, Obama has seemed to be moving toward the political center. There can be only one possible explanation for this apparent transformation: The man wants to be re-elected, and will do what he has to do to achieve his goal.
Even before the New Year dawned, President Obama swallowed his egalitarian pride and accepted a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts. This was an outstanding deal for Obama, enhancing his plausibility as a moderate while receiving Republican support for hundreds of billions of dollars in spending that benefit Democratic Party special interests.
In the first week of January, Obama replaced, as chief of staff, the partisan pit-bull Rahm Emmanuel, with the more moderate (at least, in tone) Bill Daley.
In his State of the Union address, Obama played to the middle, paying lip service to free enterprise while making the case that it's up to government to ensure future prosperity. His call for a five-year freeze on "discretionary spending" was brilliant. While wooing independents and moderates with his talk of fiscal restraint, he must have delighted his leftist allies with his proposal to make the Pentagon bear the lion's share of spending cuts. (A pre-speech release went so far as to describe defense spending as "nonsecurity" spending, but somebody wisely deleted that gaffe from the final version).
According to Obama's own calculations, this freeze will realize savings of $400 billion over the next decade. That sounds like a lot, but it amounts to less than one percent of planned spending.
Reversing his earlier opposition to bi-national trade agreements, Obama has begun to push for ratification of long-pending trade deals with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. These deals make economic and political sense. They should help contribute to economic growth - always a plus for a president seeking re-election - and will enable Obama to portray himself as more pro-business.
If gas prices rise to $4 per gallon, don't be surprised if Obama reverses his administration's two-year-old policy of stifling domestic oil production. His team will, of course, spin this as a heroic Obama riding to the rescue, when, in fact, the prudent policy would have been to unleash domestic producers from day one of his term.
Obama's strategy is masterfully conceived. It is a classic "two steps forward, one step back" tactic for advancing his larger progressive goal of increasing the federal government's power over the distribution of wealth in our society.
Some of his leftist supporters, less mature and less canny than the president, have already started to howl in protest of his perceived move to the center. This can only help Obama to appear more centrist, and disguise the fact that his compromises are relatively minor concessions.
If Obama were to continue trying to ram through his big-government agenda after the mid-term election, he would have sealed his fate as a one-term president and triggered a conservative backlash. Instead, he is positioning himself to win a second term and so solidify his progressive agenda.
Obama, to his credit, has learned patience. He wants four more years to empower unelected bureaucrats to extend their stranglehold on the economy, four more years to appoint federal judges and Supreme Court justices who share his disdain for the Constitution's restraints on executive power, four more years to veto any legislative attempts to reverse the trend toward bigger government.
Democrats should take heart and Republicans had better watch out. This man means business, and he is already doing what he does best: campaigning. The "new Obama" that some people see is really just the old Obama - a clever, driven politician committed to a permanent expansion of government power.
The Economics of the State of the Union
The news from Egypt has thrust President Obama's State of the Union off the front pages. While that news is critical, so is further analysis of the State of the Union, especially from an economic perspective. My previous column focused on the political dimensions of the State of the Union address, about how Barack Obama has already entered full campaign mode in an attempt to woo the 5 or 10 percent of the swing vote that he needs for re-election. Today, let's look at the economic aspects of the speech.
One would hope that, after two years of failed policies and economic stagnation, President Obama would have seen the need for a changed economic strategy. Alas, beyond a few cosmetic touches, Obama's approach to economics remains substantially unchanged.
Here are a few examples:
In the address, Obama stated a self-evident truth: "None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be."
Agreed. But then, apparently unaware of the incongruity, the president proceeded to advocate increased government funding to three specific industries: biomedical research, information technology, and clean energy. So deeply ingrained is Obama's love of central planning, so confident is he in his ability to foresee what future generations will need, that he specifically called for 80 percent of electricity to come from renewable energy sources by the year 2035, as if anyone knows what relative costs will be or what new technologies will be available that far ahead.
Indeed, President Obama seemed blithely unaware of the sad history of federal support for alternative energies - wasteful boondoggles, such as Synfuels and ethanol. At least he was consistent, though. He also appealed for federal support of high-speed railroads, another industry in which the federal government already has shown its incompetence. In the 1800s, there was only one railroad connecting the Midwest to the Pacific Coast that did not go bankrupt - James J. Hill's Great Northern, notable for being the only such railroad not to have received federal subsidies.
Obama stated the obvious truth that Uncle Sam's deficit spending is "not sustainable."
How could he say this with a straight face when the current fiscal year's deficit is projected to be $1.65 trillion - an all-time record? How serious is he, given that he offered only two specific areas for spending cuts: defense spending and subsidies to oil companies?
Well, he did say something about cuts for community action groups, but since ACORN is drowning in criminal charges, cutting spending there was a foregone conclusion. And, for the record, I support withdrawing all subsidies for oil companies. But let's withdraw taxpayer-funded subsidies from all energy producers. Percentage-wise, the subsidies for wind and solar are many times as great per kilowatt of energy than they are for oil. Amazingly, President Obama wants to increase subsidies to - actually, he uses the words "invest in" - those wretchedly uneconomic forms of energy.
The president mentioned a government loan to a company that became successful. Fine. But private loans are just as capable of starting businesses and creating jobs, and they do it without dipping into the taxpayers' pockets. Government doesn't need to be "encouraging investment," as Obama said; rather, government should stop discouraging investment and job creation, which it does when it siphons precious resources from the productive private sector.
Let's have "a government that is more . . . efficient," proclaimed President Obama.
Sounds good, but how? Government bureaucracies, insulated from the profit-loss discipline of competition, are inherently inefficient. Why single out the Pentagon for spending cuts? ALL bureaucracies are wasteful. That's the nature of the beast. If he really wanted a more efficient government, Obama would have recommended the elimination of specific agencies and bureaucracies.
Obama called for more government "investment" in infrastructure. (At least he's not calling it this kind of spending "stimulus" anymore.)
Yes, infrastructure clearly needs some repairs, but I don't trust Team Obama to do it right. I'm mindful of the nearby exit ramp that was widened to two lanes as part of Obama's stimulus package, even though it is so lightly used that mine is usually the only vehicle on it.
Obama promised a new website that would show us where our tax dollars are going. When I recall how inaccurate was his stimulus/jobs website, my response to the president is, "No thanks, save the money."
The State of the Union address showed an appalling ignorance of basic economics and the lessons of history. Sadly, President Obama still thinks like a central planner, even as he seeks to widen his appeal to the middle. He is decades behind the times. His is the path that leads to stagnation.
Honoring Reagan's Memory in the Most Honorable Way
It is fitting that we are pausing to remember President Ronald Wilson Reagan on the centennial anniversary of his birth this February, a month that also includes Presidents' Day. There continue to be many poignant remembrances and fitting tributes to our 40th president. Indeed, the Gipper accomplished much, and we, his countrymen, are grateful.
One of Reagan's greatest accomplishments was engineering our victory in the Cold War. And one of the key factors that made this victory possible was Reagan's deep understanding of economics. He knew that the Soviet economy was brittle, weak, moribund. He knew that it couldn't hold up in an arms race against our vibrant free-market economy.
In hindsight, the decrepitude of the Soviet Union's centrally planned socialist economy is obvious, but it was by no means so in the 1980s. Believing the Iron Curtain's propaganda lies and a Potemkin village appearance of prosperity, many intellectuals, experts, and Sovietologists believed that socialism was the wave of the future. In the 1980s, the CIA reported to Reagan that the Soviet economy was vigorous and thriving. The Nobel prize-winning economist, Paul Samuelson, confidently wrote that the Soviet economy was booming and quickly catching up to the United States.
How could Reagan be so sure that he was right when most of the experts were saying that he was wrong?
The answer lies in the fact that Ronald Reagan understood economics better than any other American president. Reagan was influenced by the economic writings of Grove City College professor Hans F. Sennholz. He also read The Freeman, the monthly publication of the Foundation for Economic Education (it still exists today). This means that Reagan was familiar with the Austrian school of economics - the only school that has supplied a logical proof of why socialist economies are inherently self-destructive and doomed to fail.
The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, in his 1922 masterpiece, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, had demonstrated logically the impossibility of rational economic calculation under central planning. Anyone who grasped that theory would know, as Reagan did, that the Soviets' centrally planned economy was programmed for stagnation and decrepitude - that it was a paper tiger, and all we had to do to prevail against the Soviet challenge was to stand firm and keep our government from crippling our economy the way the Soviet government had crippled theirs.
This points to a scandal, perhaps a tragedy, today. As we commemorate the life of a great president whose understanding of the superiority of the private-property order over socialism contributed so much to freedom and prosperity, both at home and abroad, in the aftermath of the Cold War - the economic understanding that was one of the key pillars of Reagan's philosophy and policies remains largely unknown today. The Austrian analysis of socialism - one of the greatest advances in economic science and one of the keys to understanding the 20th century - remains untaught except at Grove City College and on a few other campuses. As a result, Americans elected a president who is doing his best to take us in a socialistic direction - the direction of economic suicide.
As we pay tribute to Ronald Reagan, we look back at an era when people around the world voted with their feet for capitalism over socialism. Refugees fled from East Germany to West Germany, North Korea to South Korea, and mainland China to Hong Kong - always away from less freedom and prosperity toward greater freedom and prosperity.
Human beings still have the same preference and make the same choice today. Sadly, though, today businesses and individuals are leaving the United States in favor of less economically oppressive locations.
Demagogues on the left denounce these people as traitors for rescuing their property from government's redistributive plans. The rest of us should regard this phenomenon as a warning sign that, for the first time in American history, a significant number of people are leaving America so that they can be economically freer.
If we really wish to honor Reagan's memory in a meaningful way, then let us reverse the Big-Government policies that are driving productive citizens out of our country. Let us remember Reagan's lesson that government is the problem - not the solution - to our economic challenges. Let us re-establish America as the land of liberty, the favored destination of those who love liberty. Ronald Reagan would be honored to be honored in that way. *