But in the early 1980s, the U.S. was also at a military crossroads. The war in Vietnam still stung. The U.S. had an "okay Army," according to military analyst James Carafano. "There was no money to modernize weapons and equipment," Carafano told Congress in 2005. "Even if they had the people to fill the ranks, there wasn’t enough money to pay for training and maintenance. It was all okay -- as long as we didn’t actually have to fight anybody." The Reagan administration increased spending on defense, but also oversaw a massive reorganization that made the military more efficient and effective.
In 1986 Congress passed the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff became the principal military advisor to the president, and the act "streamlined the operational chain of command from the president to the secretary of defense to the unified commanders," the National Defense University library explains. There's no doubt our country is in a time of military transition. However, there’s no reason it can’t emerge stronger, just as it did in the Reagan years.
Finally, consider taxes. "The 1986 Tax Reform Act was designed to improve three aspects of the tax code: efficiency, equity, and simplicity," writes economist Jason Fichtner. The bill sailed through the Senate 97-3. The measure worked, closing loopholes and eliminating subsidies. Of course, lawmakers have spent the last 25 years undoing their 1986 reform, but there's no reason they couldn't change course and once again craft a simpler, flatter tax code.
Americans face problems today we didn't have in the 1980s, of course. For one thing, more of us rely on Washington. "In 2009, 64.3 million Americans depended on the government (read: their fellow citizens) for their daily housing, food, and health care," reports The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Dependence on Government.
But dependency isn't destiny. Americans came together 25 years ago under a Republican president and a Democratic congress and solved some big problems, leading to a generation of explosive growth. There's no reason we can’t do so again and, in the words of the Cars, "Let the Good Times Roll," once again.