Reagan the best President? This recent Gallup poll may be the poll to end all polls…literally. It may only prove that people in the United States in 2011 have no idea what is going on here or in the rest of the world. They must be so busy with chaff like “American Idol” or “Survivor…Downtown Newark” that they fail to pay attention to what is happening or read about what has happened in this country.
Reagan should not be mentioned in the same breath or on the same page as either Lincoln, Washington, Teddy Roosevelt or, least of all, FDR. In fact, not only did Reagan do less by far for the country than FDR, but also instead of fixing a Depression, he actually started a Recession. In addition, he created the fiscal template that has become a disaster for this country. For all his personal foibles, Clinton was far better–ten times better than Reagan
Reagan did a lot of things that will be discussed and debated…fiscal policies involving taxes and cutting social services or international policies like challenging the Soviet Union, then making treaties with them. But his failure lies in the fact that he became enamored of a foolish fiscal policy that has left horrendous consequences in a misguided political philosophy and in a disastrous financial outcome. In other words, Reagan left a political party to follow an insane theory and left the country in a state of permanent budget deficit, on a path to disaster.
By 1991, when Republicans had held the veto power totally from 1981, and during which time they had held both the House and Senate for periods of time, the Congressional Budget Office, under President Bush the First, undertook a study and released information that showed that massive tax cuts did not stimulate the economy sufficiently to even recover a sizable fraction of what they cost government. Simply put, for every tax dollar that did not go to government and went into some millionaire’s pocket or some corporation’s pocketbook, even after many years, the government only received between a dime and at the very most..20 cents!
So what happened? Reagan, believing in this nonsense, spent like crazy, cut taxes like crazy..cutting taxes on the most profitable accounts, the top 1% by half. So from paying $70,000 on an extra million, they went to $28,000 on that same extra million. The government not only never recovered that money from future tax gains…tax revenues did increase–but so did the population…but Reagan’s tax policy created enormous deficits that we have never been able to persuade Congress to repeal. It is a death spiral.
So now, Reagan’s heirs–the heirs to the tax-the-poor (yeah, that makes sense) philosophy–want to cut back government because George W. Bush–the consensus worst President of all time–and Dick Cheney–decided they needed a war to help their military contractor friends and their oil company friends. They would never have been able to do any of this had Reagan not done what he did.
And why not? Because Reagan, like Kennedy–another overrated, if beloved, President–was indeed a great communicator. He was as one book calls him, the ultimate salesman. He made people believe that he believed and cared and would protect them. He may have believed that he was doing the right thing. But he did conceal that he was not by any stretch of the imagination a man of the People.
Whatever he believed personally. Reagan took the side of big corporations, including that of his long-time benefactors, GE. He placed anti-labor activists on the National Labor Relations Board who were pro-active in de-certifying unions, who began the outsourcing of jobs, who replaced strikers with non-union labor and who were allowed to engage in other anti-union practices.
Reagan himself created a controversy with the union for the country’s air controllers. He made them sound unreasonable, petty and overpaid. Of course, air traffic controllers have a tense job, working with total concentration for hours at a time. They were actually being overworked to dangerous levels. Reagan created the conflict and then fired them all, replacing them with supervisors and new hires. He broke their union, PATCO. Air traffic controllers today are not unionized. He set the tone. After that, corporations knew where they stood.
Reagan’s job, as the global corporations saw it, was to help them cut costs to make them more competitive around the world. In order to do that, he needed to cut government. In order to cut government he needed to reduce some of the costs associated with the so-called social safety net, generally referred to as welfare. He used changing attitudes towards the organization of mental health treatment as an excuse to dump hundreds of thousands of homeless people onto the streets. They ended up, in a Reagan era society– deliberately without enough temporary housing–sleeping in the vestibules of buildings and in cardboard boxes over warm-air grates in sidewalks. They sat and begged along Fifth Avenue and Michigan Avenue. Reagan looked the other way or said that it was what the mentally disturbed wanted. They wanted, he said, to be free, to have choice. He lied…if only to himself.
Everything became fiscal because everything that had been about helping the people now became about helping corporations. Corporations wanted to be helped with cheaper labor and with lower taxes. The great impassive face of America, turning from the great compassionate face of America began under Reagan. Oh, he could sound compassionate. But his actions contradicted the expressions on his face as he posed for the cameras. This was no great President. No Lincoln, nor Washington nor remotely Jefferson. And his name should never be spoken even in the same room with the name Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Eisenhower was a better President. Hoover…yes, that Hoover…was better. Truman was better. A very good case could be made that Carter, Ford and Bush the First…any one of them or those three in succession could have made a vastly more positive impact on this country than Reagan did without any of the foolish economic policies that have put us head over heels in debt.
It wasn’t merely an idiotic theory of economics, which David Stockman, Reagan’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget
recognized immediately was going to be a disaster. It was the choice of some of his staff. They were among the worst to ever hold those positions. One could say that Lincoln, even Washington, made some difficult decisions to keep a fragmented society working together. But Reagan won in a very popular way and won his second term in a landslide.
But….James Watt–Secretary of the Interior? Watt was a harsh anti-environmentalist, allowed more drilling and mining, drastically reduced funds for conservation and wildlife protection, increased mining operations on national land by five times what it had been, and said that he would have released all 80 million acres of government land to private industry had it been up to him.
Reagan’s administration was corrupt. There were 138 convictions, indictments or serious investigations of officials in the Reagan administration. Those who were indicted, convicted and went to jail or were given probation and fines included or resigned in disgrace, in addition to James Watt, included: White House advisor Lt. Col. Oliver North, White House aide Lyn Noftziger, EPA Secretary Ann Gorsuch, Attorney General Ed Meese, Chief of Staff John Poindexter, White House advisor Richard Secord, Press Secretary Mike Deaver, Military Aide Robert MacFarlane and many, many more. Numerous heads of Savings and Loan Associations wen to jail in the huge, multi-billion-dollar S & L scandal. Many more high Administration officials including people like Deputy Commerce Secretary Guy Flake, head of the FAA Lynn Helms, National Security Advisor Richard Allen and Chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Edwin Gray resigned or were investigated for some kind of corruption. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was indicted in 1992 for actions he took in the Reagan Administration but was pardoned by the first President Bush.
Nancy Reagan is said to have influenced many of Reagan’s decisions after consulting a seer. Reagan never had better than a 7.5% unemployment rate for his entire term. Reagan knew that the Russian military was falling apart…every intelligence official of that time says that the entire U.S. military knew it, but he committed to a quadrupling of the military budget.
We could go on all day. Reagan was not one of America’s top presidents. Period.