Taxes Part III: The Reagan Years

The history of taxation in American has a long and infamous history. Since the imposition of the very first tax --- The Navigation Tax of 1651 --- taxes have been wildly unpopular in America. When the Constitution was written and ratified, the only taxes allowed were to pay the debt and provide for the common defense and general welfare. At times, taxation was implemented during wars to fund the government and the war effort, with no intention of becoming permanent. However, since 1913, the United States of America has adhered to a communist plank second only to the abolition of all private property: a progressive or graduated income tax.

What purpose does an income tax serve? In our four-part series on taxes, we'll explore its history in America and how a tax once promised to never climb above seven percent has, at times, ballooned to 77 percent at the hands of an out-of-control government.

Part III: The Reagan Years

During the presidential election of 1976, then president Gerald Ford and candidate Jimmy Carter battled over taxes in a debate. Carter’s class warfare argument resonated with enough Americans to help win the election. Under Carter, taxes remained over 70 percent for the wealthiest Americans while the economy was the worst in peacetime since the Great Depression. Interest rates, unemployment and inflation all skyrocketed under Carter, and Americans endured gas lines and shortages and a general dampening of American morale.

Into this environment came a former actor, former governor of California — Ronald Wilson Reagan.

His middle name “Wilson” was an ode by his parents to Woodrow Wilson. However, he couldn’t have been more different from his namesake. Reagan was a true conservative, socially and fiscally. He received advice from economists like Art Laffer and Milton Friedman. After his election in 1980, Reagan promptly fought for and obtained a massive tax cut in 1981, lowering the top tax rate to 50 percent. It sparked the economy and pulled the United States out of its economic and morale malaise.

In 1985, from the Oval Office, Reagan pitched further tax cuts to his fellow Americans.

In 1981, our critics charged that letting you keep more of your earnings would trigger an inflationary explosion, send interest rates soaring and destroy our economy. Well, we cut your tax rates anyway by nearly 25 percent. And what that helped trigger was falling inflation, falling interest rates and the strongest economic expansion in 30 years. Over the course of this century, our tax system has been modified dozens of times and in hundreds of ways. Yet, most of those changes didn’t improve the system. They made it more like Washington itself: complicated, unfair, cluttered with gobbledegook and loopholes designed for those with the power and influence to hire high-priced legal and tax advisers.

But there’s more to it than that. Some years ago, an historian, I believe, said that every time in the past, when a government began taxing above a certain level of the people’s earnings, trust in government began to erode. He said it would begin with efforts to void paying the full tax. This would become outright cheating and eventually a distrust and contempt of government itself until there would be a breakdown in law and order.

Well, how many times have we heard people brag about clever schemes to avoid paying taxes, or watched luxuries casually written off to be paid by somebody else, that somebody being you? I believe that in both spirit and substance, our tax system has come to be un-American. How would the proposal work?

The present tax system has 14 different brackets of tax rates, ranging from 11 to 50 percent. We would take a giant step toward an ideal system by replacing all of that with a simple three-bracket system, with tax rates of 15, 25, and 35 percent. By lowering everyone’s tax rates all the way up the income scale, each of us will have a greater incentive to climb higher, to excel, to help America grow. The power of these incentives would send one simple, straightforward message to an entire nation: America, go for it.

To young Americans wondering tonight, where will I go? What will I do with my future? I have a suggestion: Why not set out with your friends on the path of adventure and try to start up your own business? Follow in the footsteps of those two college students who launched one of America’s great computer firms from the garage behind their house. You too can help us unlock the doors to a golden future. You too can become leaders in this great new era of progress, the age of the entrepreneur.

Reagan and his policies, derisively referred to as Reaganomics, were mocked by the left. He was called stupid, reckless and senile. However, Reagan succeeded in lowering taxes. In fact, instead of 35 percent for the top rate, he actually lowered it to just 28 percent in 1986 --- the American economy boomed.

Today, many of the same people who reviled Ronald Reagan sing his praises.

Listen to the Full Series on Taxes

Part I: How Income Tax Began

Part II: What Is a 'Fair' Income Tax Rate?

Part III: The Reagan Years

Part IV: The 2016 Candidates

This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.

The Hong Kong protesters flocking to the streets in opposition to the Chinese government have a new symbol to display their defiance: the Stars and Stripes. Upset over the looming threat to their freedom, the American flag symbolizes everything they cherish and are fighting to preserve.

But it seems our president isn't returning the love.

Trump recently doubled down on the United States' indifference to the conflict, after initially commenting that whatever happens is between Hong Kong and China alone. But he's wrong — what happens is crucial in spreading the liberal values that America wants to accompany us on the world stage. After all, "America First" doesn't mean merely focusing on our own domestic problems. It means supporting liberal democracy everywhere.

The protests have been raging on the streets since April, when the government of Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed them to send accused criminals to be tried in mainland China. Of course, when dealing with a communist regime, that's a terrifying prospect — and one that threatens the judicial independence of the city. Thankfully, the protesters succeeded in getting Hong Kong's leaders to suspend the bill from consideration. But everyone knew that the bill was a blatant attempt by the Chinese government to encroach on Hong Kong's autonomy. And now Hong Kong's people are demanding full-on democratic reforms to halt any similar moves in the future.

After a generation under the "one country, two systems" policy, the people of Hong Kong are accustomed to much greater political and economic freedom relative to the rest of China. For the protesters, it's about more than a single bill. Resisting Xi Jinping and the Communist Party means the survival of a liberal democracy within distance of China's totalitarian grasp — a goal that should be shared by the United States. Instead, President Trump has retreated to his administration's flawed "America First" mindset.

This is an ideal opportunity for the United States to assert our strength by supporting democratic values abroad. In his inaugural address, Trump said he wanted "friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" while "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first." But at what point is respecting sovereignty enabling dictatorships? American interests are shaped by the principles of our founding: political freedom, free markets, and human rights. Conversely, the interests of China's Communist Party are the exact opposite. When these values come into conflict, as they have in Hong Kong, it's our responsibility to take a stand for freedom — even if those who need it aren't within our country's borders.

Of course, that's not a call for military action. Putting pressure on Hong Kong is a matter of rhetoric and positioning — vital tenets of effective diplomacy. When it comes to heavy-handed world powers, it's an approach that can really work. When the Solidarity movement began organizing against communism in Poland, President Reagan openly condemned the Soviet military's imposition of martial law. His administration's support for the pro-democracy movement helped the Polish people gain liberal reforms from the Soviet regime. Similarly, President Trump doesn't need to be overly cautious about retribution from Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. Open, strong support for democracy in Hong Kong not only advances America's governing principles, but also weakens China's brand of authoritarianism.

After creating a commission to study the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote last month that the principles of our Constitution are central "not only to Americans," but to the rest of the world. He was right — putting "America First" means being the first advocate for freedom across the globe. Nothing shows the strength of our country more than when, in crucial moments of their own history, other nations find inspiration in our flag.

Let's join the people of Hong Kong in their defiance of tyranny.

Matt Liles is a writer and Young Voices contributor from Austin, Texas.

Summer is ending and fall is in the air. Before you know it, Christmas will be here, a time when much of the world unites to celebrate the love of family, the generosity of the human spirit, and the birth of the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

For one night only at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, on December 7th, join internationally-acclaimed radio host and storyteller Glenn Beck as he walks you through tales of Christmas in the way that only he can. There will be laughs, and there might be a few tears. But at the end of the night, you'll leave with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.

Reconnect to the true spirit of Christmas with Glenn Beck, in a storytelling tour de force that you won't soon forget.

Get tickets and learn more about the event here.

The general sale period will be Friday, August 16 at 10:00 AM MDT. Stay tuned to for updates. We look forward to sharing in the Christmas spirit with you!