In response to:
The Man Who Stayed the Course from the November 24, 1983 issue
To the Editors:
John Kenneth Galbraith [NYR, November 24] seems to gloat over how President Reagan is driving voters back into the “liberal” fold. What he apparently has forgotten is that a liberal of sorts, Jimmy Carter, in part through gross mismanagement of the economy, drove voters into Reagan’s camp.
It was tragic that Reagan was elected by an anti-Carter vote. It would be nearly as tragic if Walter Mondale or some other so-called liberal were elected by an anti-Reagan vote. Having to choose between two undesirable candidates likely is a reason most people don’t vote.
Galbraith and other like-minded liberals could serve their cause better by promoting an agenda around which liberals and middle-of-the-roaders could rally rather than depending on a negative force like Reagan to deliver votes.
Though I consider myself a liberal—two years ago Reagan persuaded me to join the Sierra Club and rejoin the American Civil Liberties Union—I’m not ready to support any of the Democratic front-runners. As distasteful as I find most Reagan policies, liberals have not provided anything significantly better:
—Reagan is pushing the nation into war, but so did liberals like John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
—Reagan is handing billions of dollars in public resources to coal and other energy barons, but Carter attempted the same thing through establishment of the US Synthetic Fuels Corporation.
—Reagan is squandering billions on Defense Department boondoggles. But liberals, in addition to wasting billions on defense, squander billions more on non-defense boondoggles like the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
—Reagan’s policies may have thrown a few million people out of work, but Carter’s economic policies also decimated the savings and living standards of millions through double-digit inflation.
To win my support, the liberal Democratic presidential candidates will have to offer better alternatives:
—A tax structure where everybody pays a fair share.
—Economic policies that benefit everybody, not special interests.
—A stable economy with 0-2 percent inflation, enabling business, government and individuals to plan rationally and allowing interest rates to fall to levels where more people can afford houses and new cars.
As a lower-middle-income wage earner, I’m fed up with paying a higher percentage of taxes than many millionaires. And I’m fed up that I can’t borrow money for a house and new car because government outbids me on interest rates to fund deficits. If I and millions of others in my situation could buy houses and new cars, it would put people to work building useful items rather than bombs, missiles and other boondoggles.
If Galbraith wants this liberal on his side he would do better to address the economic issues facing me rather than gloat over what Reagan is doing for the liberal cause.
John Kenneth Galbraith replies:
A rather more than fair comment. While I continue to prefer the Democrats, I yearn to think that all who dissent from my views are with Mr. Morsey.
February 16, 1984