To the Editor:
Many political leaders look back to the President Ronald Reagan years as the Golden Age of Republicanism. Good things happened under his leadership. Some programs have stood the test of time; others were brought down by Republicans – even during his presidency. Mr. Reagan brought up the following three visions in his 1988 Independence Day radio address. Let's take another look.
His issues of the day were establishing a Medicare gap program for seniors, supporting what he specifically described as the then-new George H.W. Bush initiative for the North American Free Trade Agreement, and winning the War on Drugs through offshore anti-money laundering policies. How has the Republican Party done on these issues over the 24 years that followed? Here's a scorecard:
Medicare Gap – The Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act was a law that President Reagan signed just before the Fourth of July in 1988 to protect seniors from gaps in Medicare coverage. It was repealed after the insurance industry revolted. Nancy Johnson, the Republican Congressional Representative from Hartford, Conn. – then the insurance capital – led the charge. Seniors were cut off from President Reagan's Medicare drug coverage. His vision for a national health care solution to "a financial specter facing our older Americans: the fear of an illness requiring acute care so expensive that it can result in having to choose between bankruptcy and death" was dashed. Subsequently, many elders have faced financial hard times and even ruin when sickness struck.
President Obama was able to solve this pressing problem through the Affordable Care Act. President Reagan's solutions to concerns about gaps in Medicare were built into this new health care law to protect seniors. Now, the current Republican leadership is fighting for its repeal, just as Hartford Republican Nancy Johnson did in the 1980s. There is no good way to spin the current Republican thrust to throw President Reagan's vision out into the trash for the second time. Seniors continue to be the whipping boys and girls of those who want to take their Medicare cards away. I feel duty-bound to remind my fellow Republicans that trashing Medicare coverage is not the Reagan way!
The North American Free Trade Agreement – President George W. Bush, the son of the sponsor of NAFTA, extended its reach to eight more Central and South American countries. But now the Republican Party is turning its back on this agreement, fruit of the labor of three Republican presidents – Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. NAFTA continues to break down barriers to trade in the Americas. But many politicians find NAFTA's provisions to be at odds with their concerns about saving jobs at home.
Both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama need to walk very carefully through such NAFTA jobs issues as supporting manufacturing jobs in Canada and Latin America. I doubt that candidates Romney and Obama will actually say much about NAFTA. But if they do, they will have to recognize that the first President Bush, then working for President Reagan, is considered the father of NAFTA. This law of the land that potentially takes jobs away from American citizens could be a political land mine for Obama and/or Romney.
War on Drugs – Echoing the sentiments of Vice President Bush and Canada's Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Mr. Reagan declared that "the best new place to hit the drug trade is in its most vulnerable spot: money laundering." His legislation, passed in 1986, has trapped many drug dealers and other conscience-free people. Some of Mr. Reagan's anti-money laundering provisions have been recast into the post-911 USA Patriot Act. One focus has always been money flowing through offshore tax havens. This financial part of the original War on Drugs reaches out to most countries of the world.
We are already hearing a lot about mega campaign finance issues and offshore tax havens. One would hope that no campaign official or Super PAC donor will wind up in Reagan-era anti-money laundering traps that have already ensnared prominent politicians from both major political parties. Spending offshore cash on domestic political activity can be very tricky.
Our Republican leadership bows in homage to Ronald Reagan. They need to be reminded of where Mr. Reagan stood on Medicare gaps for seniors and other complex Reagan issues, including NAFTA and cash recapture from overseas. Most importantly, those who are now waving the liberty and freedom flags must not throw our senior citizens back onto the rubbish heap where they crash-landed after the insurance industry did its "thing" on Medicare Catastrophic back in the Reagan days. Our favorite Republican president would not smile down on us for that kind of behavior.