This weekend we celebrate Ronald Reaganâ€™s 99th birthday.Â The 40th President of the United States would no doubt be aghast at the gymnastics in Washington: Democrats stepping over each other to make government bigger. Twenty years after Reagan left office, America has seen diametric reversal of the philosophy he held dear, that smaller government is better government.
Here, then, is an imaginary conversation with the last conservative President, revered by many as the last great American leader.Â Actual quotations by Reagan (RR) are in italics.
Question: Mr. President, please give us your feeling about the situation in our country today.
RR: Wellâ€¦ (as he typically starts his responses with homegrown American humility) â€¦ I’m convinced that today the majority of Americans want what those first Americans wanted: A better life for themselves and their children; a minimum of government authority. Very simply, they want to be left alone in peace and safety to take care of the family by earning an honest dollar and putting away some savings. This may not sound too exciting, but there is something magnificent about it.1
Q: What effect does the size of government have on individual freedom and economic growth?
RR: Todayâ€™s Democrats, like Carter had run for the presidency on a platform calling for â€¦ Â what the Democrats called “national economic planning.” I’m sure they meant well – liberals usually do – but our economy was one of the great wonders of the world. It didn’t need master planners. It worked because it operated on principles of freedom, millions of people going about their daily business and making free decisions how they wanted to work and live, how they wanted to spend their money, while reaping the rewards of their individual labor.2
Q: Give us an example of national economic planning that would concern you today.
RR: One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it. We have an example of this. Under the Truman administration it was proposed that we have a compulsory health insurance program for all people in the United States, and, of course, the American people unhesitatingly rejected this.3
Q: President Obama has just released the largest proposed budget in the history of the United States, $3.8 trillion dollars.
RR: The ten most dangerous words in the English language are “Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”4Â It occurs to me that what I said about John Kennedy applies to Obama: Unfortunately, he is a powerful speaker with an appeal to the emotions. He leaves little doubt that his idea of the ‘challenging new world’ is one in which the Federal Government will grow bigger and do more and of course spend more.5Â But I would remind you, The size of the Federal budget is not an appropriate barometer of social conscience or charitable concern.6
Q: Does the national debtâ€”the amount of money we are borrowing from our childrenâ€”worry you?
RR: Â I was 21 and looking for work in 1932, one of the worst years of the Great Depression. â€¦ To be young in my generation was to feel that your future had been mortgaged out from under you, and that’s a tragic mistake we must never allow our leaders to make again.7
Q: Why do you feel government has gotten so big?
RR: Government is like a baby.Â An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.8
Q: What about the effect of the size of government on taxes?
RR: Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.9Â And I have to point out that government doesn’t tax to get the money it needs, government always needs the money it gets.10
Q: So raising taxes is no way to cut the deficit?
RR: Governments don’t reduce deficits by raising taxes on the people. Governments reduce deficits by controlling spending and stimulating new wealth, wealth from investments of brave people with hope for the future, trust in their fellow man, and faith in God.11
Q: Any final words, Mr. President?
RR: Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didnâ€™t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.12
Thank you Mr. President. May God bless you.
 Nationally televised address, 6 July 1976
 Reagan on the 1980 primaries, http://www.ronaldreagan.com/primaries.html
 Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine, 1961
 Remarks to Future Farmers of America 28 July 1988
 Letter from RR to Richard Nixon about John F. Kennedy, 1960
 Remarks at the Annual Meeting of the National Alliance of Business, 5 October 1981
 Address to the nation on the economy, 13 October 1982
 The New York Times Magazine (14 November 1965), p. 174
 Remarks to the White House Conference on Small Business, 15 August 1986
 Bush-Reagan Debate 1980 on Taxes at League of Women Voters, 24 April 1980
 Radio Address to the Nation on Small Business, May 14, 1983
 Address to the annual meeting of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, 30 March 1961