From Warren Cole Smith: It was the fall of 1981. The United States was coming out of a recession. Ronald Reagan had been president since January. Among his first acts in the White House had been to dramatically cut spending for social programs.
And the woman sitting next to me on an airplane was not happy about it.
I was sitting on the aisle, and she had the window. She worked for an organization called Camp Fire Girls, now called Camp Fire USA, and she couldn’t stand Ronald Reagan. I wanted to know why. She described an after-school program she ran that served hundreds of poor children. I remember thinking then that it sounded like a worthwhile endeavor. The program had received about $100,000—almost its entire budget—from the federal government. Reagan had eliminated that funding.
In 1981 I was a young man whose thinking was in a state of transition. In 1976 I had voted for Jimmy Carter, but in 1980 I pulled the lever for Reagan, in part because I thought Carter had shown general incompetency regarding economic matters. I had graduated from college in 1980, in the midst of the Carter Recession. I then spent more than a year in a series of part-time and temporary jobs, all the while looking for full-time employment. I had voted for Reagan not so much because I was a conscious part of the “Reagan Revolution,” but because—like many who voted for Barack Obama in 2008—I was hoping for change.
So when this Camp Fire Girl leader started railing against Reagan, I offered no defense. “That’s terrible,” I said. “Sorry that program got eliminated. What do you do now?”
“Oh,” she said. “I still run the program.”
I was confused. “I thought you said Reagan eliminated the program,” I said.