Home Capitalism The Reagan Legacy: Economic and Social Disaster

The Reagan Legacy: Economic and Social Disaster


The United States was once the envy of the entire world. Even some very wealthy and prominent individuals in England and France settled here because they wanted to participate in a land of unimaginable opportunity.

But in the years since Ronald Reagan, that opportunity has declined. And while there have been occasional spurts of unstoppable talent and ingenuity, for the most part the United States of America has been in constant decline.

Few people know this better than our economists. But few economists will speak out about the real reasons we are in decline. The reason that they will not is because their incomes depend upon their promoting half-truths that will keep their employers profitable and keep workers in a steady state of deprivation.

Of course this is only a theory. It is a theory in the same way that Evolution is a theory. The gradual accumulation of data over time leads to an inevitable conclusion. It either proves or disproves the fact that Dinosaurs lived millions of years ago…and we did not.

Here is one theory and let’s see if it is proved or disproved. The theory is that by 1981, Ronald Reagan had spent years working for GE, the most Conservative corporation in the world at that time, had long been the son-in-law of an arch-conservative surgeon, and had already also persuaded the People of California that these anti-worker ideas were actually good enough for them to make him Governor. As it turned out, they were wrong.

 In the process, to no one’s advantage more than his own, he had switched callously from a union president to an American President who broke and busted a union. He then went on to promote dialogues and propaganda against unions, leading to legislation that destroyed unions in this country. 

The theory further posits that, working on behalf of giant corporations like General Electric and oil companies and multi-millionaires, Reagan finally developed a plan, which after he was elected President, he worked out with a crackpot economist to rationalize tax reductions on the rich. Reagan, the super salesman, armed with the arguments against the value of assembly and public demonstration, against collective bargaining, against a government for the People and by the People….would persuade the great American unwashed that everything they had held dear was, in fact, ruining their lives.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. This “great American President” was a liar of supreme proportions.

He cut taxes on the rich from 70% down to 28%. This cut government revenues by one-third. He then took taxpayers’ money and gave it to private industry for munitions and other formerly government functions. This resulted in tripling he national debt, but even more insidious, it reduced tax rates so low that it became impossible to raise them to where they needed to be.

By the end of his term he had taken the national debt from $800 billion to $2.14 trillion. That was bad enough. But he left so much structural debt to George Bush the First, that, at the end of his term, we were $4 trillion in debt, even with tax increases.

His famous statement, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help  was wrong. The nine most terrifying words in the American language should have been, “My name is Ronald Reagan and I’m your President.”

Reagan created the Big Lie and it was taken up by the Big Rich, the greedy segment of the Big Rich. The Big Lie simply said that you can run a government of ever increasing sophistication and complexity in a world that is technologically expanding  while reducing taxes to an absolute minimum. This was the lie that was taken up and turned into a political philosophy, or political propaganda to simply make the rich unbelievably wealthy while destroying the economy.

The fact is quite clear and has been for a long, long time. You cannot withdraw the income from society into the personal bank accounts of the rich where it does not wait for use when times are bad or act as a reserve when people retire but simply stays out of circulation permanently. This simply dries up the economic life of a nation.

The actions of the Right have been very obvious to anyone who wanted to look for them. The Right has used their new wealth to gobble up natural resources…the rich already own most of the new natural gas wealth that should belong to the People. The Rich have elected a President, through lies, and a Vice President, through lies, who let Arabs attack us on our own shores, created two wars, gave somewhere between $600 billion and $1 trillion of taxpayer money to pharmaceutical companies, allowed logging in national parks, failed to enforce water-and-air polluting legislation so that hundreds and perhaps thousands of miles of rivers have been permanently damaged, and whole areas of the country have been completely denuded of forests and irreparably damaged. We’ve had oil spills on an unprecedented scale and gasoline prices having gone from $1.5o per gallon to $3.50 per gallon…while we now have so much oil that we EXPORT it!

We went from an $800 billion national debt in 1980 to a $17 trillion national debt in 2012. A total of $15 trillion of that debt was spent by the Republican Party on behalf of the rich, on behalf of military contractors like Halliburton, on pharmaceutical companies, on hugely rich corporations who sell things in the United States made by Chinese workers and pocket all the profits tax free. The Republican party lies about its interest in fiscal responsibility. Listen to what Dick Cheney said: “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.”

Cheney meant that if you lie to the American people enough, in the right way, and with the promise of something free or cheap, they are so stupid that they will believe it. Reagan said to the American people that we could go on forever with huge deficits. Cheney’s point was that Ronald Reagan proved government could lie to the people and get away with it. So he started the Iraq War on another lie. And he got away with it. How many Republican Presidents, sponsored by the billionaires and global corporations will you believe before you wise up?

Herman Goering once said that if you create enough fear in the people of any nation, they will do anything you want them to do. We have become a nation ignorant of facts, pounded by propaganda, drowned by campaign contributions from the rich, and lied to by media and our Republican legislators. We have become a country of religious fanatics, ridiculed by the rest of the world who have moved on and do not live by the interpretation of God’s word from some part-time predatory hick preacher whose only idea is to make a living from a scam or get rich from religion as mass merchandising.

And the Catholic Church is no better. Their candidate, Rick Santorum, expects working mothers…half of all families in the U.S. today are two-earner households…to forego any kind of contraception and vote down any kind of abortion. But they should keep working without having any kind of paid maternity leave. This is not a 21st Century religion. This is a 16th Century religion.

So what is the Reagan legacy? It is a legacy of shame. Not only did he put the country into huge debt, largely unnoticed until a billionaire by the name of Ross Perot came along and pointed out that we could not go on like this forever or we would bankrupt the country. When he preached common sense to the nation, it was 1992. This is 2013 and we still have not learned our lesson.

And here is the lesson. The heirs of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Ted Cruz, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Joe Scarborough, Sheldon Adelson, Scott Walker, Rick Scott, and Mitt Romney….and thousands more like the entire Tea Party group…and the organization called ALEC…the heir to General Electric’s arch-conservatism…all these people think they can say anything and the American People will believe it.

The Republican Party and the subset called the Tea Party is  selling snake oil on a gigantic scale, like beer, to a public so ignorant, so easily fooled that they deserve to be impoverished while trillions of dollars of profits belonging to U.S. corporations sit in foreign banks. Billions on billions of untaxed income sit there while the Republicans introduce “austerity”legislation…cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and deny Americans both jobs and unemployment payments.

Reagan’s legacy is a reduction in our ability to reason on our own behalf. It is the feeling that our work is less important than the work of giant corporations. It is the notion that somewhere there are brilliant men who know more than we do and who are simply doing there best to keep we poor, stupid, lazy people from desititution. Yes, they say, we can only create minimum wage jobs because the Chinese work so much more efficiently and live on fifty cents a day.

None of this is true. The Reagan truth is that he callously turned on the American People and created, like some charismatic anti-Christ, a world that does not and never did exist. We had not only a great society but a Great Society. We had a world in which Americans had good jobs, homes, good education for their kids and in which we did not begrudge minorities the right to work their way into the Middle Class.

High unemployment until Reagan was considered anything over 5%. Under Clinton unemployment was so low that in some areas it was 1% and in other areas so low that cleaning companies could not keep employees who could do nothing other than use a mop or a broom. Pensions were paid for and corporations that failed were held responsible.

Before Reagan, radio broadcasts were held responsible to tell the truth or risk losing their licenses. So they were obligated to broadcast an alternate point of view to create a balance and allow people to make up their own minds. Reagan did away with those laws, did away with a search for the truth. He did not want the truth because he was spreading lies with his charismatic smile. By 1990 people like Rush Limbaugh were spreading their filth all over the radio from coast to coast in every small town and village sponsored by oil men and giant corporate polluters.

Let’s be very clear. The only good Republican is a dead Republican. By that I mean the only good Republicans are People like Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Anyone post-Eisenhower is either a Nixonian which is a group who felt that they were above the law, or a Reagan Conservative or a Neo-Conservative or a Tea Party member who feel that they know who God is, what God wants for you.

These people who still call themselves Republicans feel that nothing that God wants allows for a central government. The see no need to have an organization to run certain collective administrative details for society. (Naturally they would not as they are against taxes and they are against taxes because they are only in office at the sponsorship of giant organizations that do not want to pay taxes.)

They feel that, theoretically, we do not need law enforcement or regulatory systems against hazards or regulations against reckless corporate behavior or law insuring food safety or provisions for adequate medical care, or services for the elderly or indigent or incapacitated. They only want to fund materials for making war. This is the Reagan legacy…war and income inequality.

We must return to a society like that we experienced up to the Reagan era. It has not been all bad since Reagan. But–by and large–those parts of our life that are now bad, those things that give us anxiety and worry and cause pain for many citizens….those things did come from the false political philosophy spread by Conservative Republicans like Reagan, his cabinet, his political supporters and subsequent Neo-conservatives such as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and others.

We have been lied to and are being lied to today…on a monumental scale, one that will ruin this country soon if we do not act to remove Republicans and Tea Party members completely from any governance of our lives.





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