Putting aside possible ulterior motives, the conservative freak-out over President Obama's planned speech to students urging them to stay in school and work hard is due to fears that Obama will use his platform as an opportunity to push his agenda on unsuspecting students. Ironically, that's exactly what President Reagan did two decades ago.
On November 14, 1988, Reagan addressed and took questions from students from four area middle schools in the Old Executive Office Building. According to press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, the speech was broadcast live and rebroadcast by C-Span, and Instructional Television Network fed the program "t o schools nationwide on three different days." Much of Reagan's speech that day covered the American "vision of self-government" and the need "to keep faith with the unfinished vision of the greatness and wonder of America" but in the middle of the speech, the president went off on a tangent about the importance of low taxes:
Today, to a degree never before seen in human history, one nation, the United States, has become the model to be followed and imitated by the rest of the world. But America's world leadership goes well beyond the tide toward democracy. We also find that more countries than ever before are following America's revolutionary economic message of free enterprise, low taxes, and open world trade. These days, whenever I see foreign leaders, they tell me about their plans for reducing taxes, and other economic reforms that they are using, copying what we have done here in our country.
I wonder if they realize that this vision of economic freedom, the freedom to work, to create and produce, to own and use property without the interference of the state, was central to the American Revolution, when the American colonists rebelled against a whole web of economic restrictions, taxes and barriers to free trade. The message at the Boston Tea Party -- have you studied yet in history about the Boston Tea Party, where because of a tax they went down and dumped the tea in the Harbor. Well, that was America's original tax revolt, and it was the fruits of our labor -- it belonged to us and not to the state. And that truth is fundamental to both liberty and prosperity.
During the question-and-answer portion of the event, Reagan returned to the topic, this time telling the students that lowering taxes increases revenue:
Q My name is Cam Fitzie and I'm from St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia. I was wondering if you think that it is possible to decrease the national debt without raising the taxes of the public?
PRESIDENT REAGAN: I do. That's a big argument that's going on in government and I definitely believe it is because one of the principle reasons that we were able to get the economy back on track and create those new jobs and all was we cut the taxes, we reduced them. Because you see, the taxes can be such a penalty on people that there's no incentive for them to prosper and to earn more and so forth because they have to give so much to the government. And what we have found is that at the lower rates the government gets more revenue, there are more people paying taxes because there are more people with jobs and there are more people willing to earn more money because they get to keep a bigger share of it, so today, we're getting more revenue at the lower rates than we were at the higher. And do you know something? I studied economics in college when I was young and I learned there about a man named Ibn Khaldun, who lived 1200 years ago in Egypt. And 1200 years ago he said, in the beginning of the empire, the rates were low, the tax rates were low, but the revenue was great. He said in the end of empire, when the empire was collapsing, the rates were great and the revenue was low.
The students probably didn't know any better, but this is an idea that has been rejected by virtually every economist not named Larry Kudlow.
Do Sean Hannity and the folks at NewsBusters think President Reagan was engaging in Maoist indoctrination? Do Glenn Beck and WorldNetDaily think Reagan was pulling a Mussolini or attempting to assemble his own Hitler Youth? Or is it possible that the conservative media has decided that if Obama is for it – whether "it" means "universal health care" or "stay in school" – they're against it?