*Happy* Birthday, Ronald Reagan

February 4, 2011

A few years back one of my co-workers actually threatened me if I said anything negative about Ronald Reagan; the President. The threat didn’t work; I open up on Reagan. And it was all justified.

Reagan increased our national debt by 289%. He cemented the highly flawed Republican theory that trickle-down-economics was the best policy (and it was / is – for the wealthy). He plunged the first fatal dagger into the heart of the working class. His policies set the stage for the escalating rise of the super-rich at the expense of the working class. Christ! I could go on forever. But I don’t have to; others have done that for me.

It’s Reagan’s 100th birthday; or at least, will be in two more days. And the Reaganites are celebrating. They’re very proud of the fact they have spun Reagan’s true legacy. God help us.

Even though Reagan was a “smaller government” champion — at least in words, he grew government by leaps and bounds; but not in a way that helped the populace. His champion’s claim Reagan transformed people’s attitude toward government. He certainly did, as Brendan Nyhan shows us in the following graph, but not the way Reaganites claim. As it is with most of the claims about Reagan, that just isn’t true either.

The desire for larger government grew during the eight years of Reagan, but not Reagan’s kind of big government.

Of course, the most famous claim is that Reagan “defeated” the Soviet Union by making them “tear down this wall”. Bull!!! Pope John Paul II is the person responsible for fall of the Soviet Union.

From Josh Harkinson we get the following graph that shows exactly how the bottom 90% of Americans made out under Reagan as compared to the top 10%. You might see a similarity to today, since Republicans have “improved” on Reagan’s policies. So when you hear people like Stephen Moore claiming low income people saw the biggest gains under Reagan, you’ll know he’s lying.

David Corn, who also tells us that under the eight years of Reagan wages for middle- and low-income families dropped, reveals Reagan’s darker side:

The Reagan years were a time of fierce and divisive controversies, over policy and politics. Ronald Reagan’s administration more than once resorted to skulduggery to get its way. Overseas, it sided with brutes. At home, it gave tax credits to private schools that segregated. The depiction of Reagan as one of the nation’s most glorious leaders is but a conservative cartoon. His legacy is far more complicated — and blemished.

Last year Charles Lemos reported on some stubborn facts, which included some highlights of Reagan’s Presidency. Below are just a few.

  • By 1984, Reagan’s America had the greatest gap between rich and poor of any industrialized nation.
  • Income inequality rose substantially.
  • The number of millionaires more than doubled [and billionaires went up more than 5-fold].
  • The top 10 percent of US households controlled over 68 percent of the wealth in the country by 1988.
  • In 1987, real income levels for the average American family adjusted for inflation matched those in 1973. Middle-class and working Americans …. saw declines in real income from about $600 to $1,600 in the Reagan era.
  • Weekly per worker income dropped substantially during the Reagan years. The average American take home paycheque was $366 in 1972. The average worker without an advanced degree might have made about $24,000 a year in the early 1970s, but by the end of the Reagan years, that was down to around $18,000.

There are some Reaganites that admit to Reagan’s flaws. His former budget director, David Stockman, is one of them.

[T]he simplistic and reckless idea that the way to stimulate the economy is to cut taxes anytime, anywhere, for any reason, became embedded [in the GOP]. It has become a religion, it has become a catechism. It’s become a mindless incantation.

So, once again, I say to my ex-co-worker and anyone else who wants to spin Reagan: Kiss off! If you’re younger than 40 you have no idea what Reagan did anyway; you only know what you’ve been told to believe. The pure fact is that Reagan set this country on a course of destruction, and the demise of the working class. And the modern-day GOP is carrying his torch.


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