Ask just about any good Republican and even quite a few democrats or so called “fiscal conservatives” who their presidential hero is and a good number will say “Ronald Reagan”. I am sure you are going to hear more than one cry for a return to the true fiscal conservative ideals of Reagan by the GOP during this election cycle. I even admit myself being fully enamored by his charm, style, and ideology when I was a boy growing up in a conservative white collar household. Trickle-down economics sure made enough sense in my young head. So did the War on Drugs. I also loved having a John Wayne or Clint Eastwood like president that wasn’t about to take crap from any other country. Also, he single handedly ended the cold war with the Soviet Union and brought down the Berlin Wall. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, he was also an accomplished actor and storyteller.
There are a lot of very wealthy people in this country that have done very well under these policies. Many have returned the favor spending an unimaginable sum of money to perpetuate the idealized image of a president that was never actually that popular and that had a pretty questionable overall record on both domestic and foreign policy. Regardless of your overall opinion of the presidency or how you interpret it, how exactly Reagan remains the hero of all the so-called “deficit hawks” remains a complete critical thinking mystery to me. I realize that some of my blogs are probably long enough so I thought this might be a good opportunity to point to a very smart individual that has helped summarize the actual result of some of these policies.
We now have twenty four years of these policies to look back on and review. I don’t intend to spend too much time analyzing numbers, you can review Hartmann’s piece on your own or spend countless hours like I have researching, reading, and looking for the truth. Like any good engineer or critical thinker it is now time to review the policies and ideals and judge how well they have actually worked in real world practice. I guess the hard thing about doing this with the Reagan legacy is that, how well the policies worked, has an awful lot to do with who exactly you are.
Let’s start with one of my favorites, the war on drugs. Reagan along with his wife decided that we had enough of the drug problems and that, as a nation, we were going to spend whatever it took to round up all of the drug users and dealers and throw them in prison. Doing some hard time would sure be enough to show people the error of their ways, right? Well, looking back at the statistics as a scientist sure makes it appear that the hypothesis was drastically incorrect. At least if you are an individual or family member of an individual dealing with drug addiction. After all, the drug user hasn’t really dealt with their illness in prison, and they have also likely met all kinds of new friends on the inside. And when they do get out, because they are now felons, they really have little opportunity for productive employment or for assimilation into society anyway. So they instead, they live the remainder of their life on Welfare, as criminals, or they re-enter the prison system as a cruel and expensive cycle of insanity continues with no end in sight. If you are a tax payer paying the unbelievable costs to incarcerate the millions of drug addicts over and over again since the 80’s, it has not worked so well for you either. On the other hand, if you are one of the millions and millions of people that actually profit big time from policing, prosecuting and incarcerating, then the plan is working like a charm.
Let’s talk about foreign policy. Reagan ended the cold war right? He is why we no longer have to worry about the Soviet Union launching a nuclear missile at us. Let’s forget about the fact that Reagan supplied weapons to Iran and the fact that he also supplied weapons to Afghan warlords such as Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban, at least we don’t have to actually lie awake at night worrying about the Russians anymore. Also, Reagan showed us that the United States can fly aircraft right into an “evil” country like Libya and attempt to assassinate their leader. And our bad-to-the-bone President doesn’t even need an act of War or permission from congress to do it. And no other country can or will stop us! Wait a minute, hold the phone! I just flipped on the news and it appears that US Russian relations are still pretty much as “COLD” as ever, Libya’s still a stronghold for unrest and we have troops engaged all over the globe with more new enemies than we could have possibly imagined in the 80’s. Did our country’s new and continued Dirty Harry presidential policies of national “offense” actually make us safer?
And finally let’s talk trickle-down economics. Although the reality is that Reagan actually raised taxes on almost everyone in the United States he is known as the great tax cutter. This is because he did in fact cut tax overall. But make no mistake about it, these tax cuts were not to you and me, these cuts were for the exact same small group of ultra-rich people that the Republican Party has remained focused on to this day. The theory was that if you drastically cut taxes on the rich, de-regulate big business, the money would “trickle down” to the rest of us. Has that theory actually worked? Again, it really depends on who you are.
Back when I was a kid, much like today, a lot of the stores and restaurants that people went to were actually named after a person or the owner. The cool thing about it, was that the person that greeted you when you walked in the front door also had that name. If not the actual owner, probably the wife, husband, son or daughter might be the one working the register or stocking the shelves. That has changed since the presidency and policies of Reagan. The extreme tax cuts, loopholes, and incentives created for the top one percent of earners and giant corporations in this country changed everything. The name of that store owner may still be someone you know, but not likely because you have seen them in the store. More likely, you know their name because you read about them in the Forbes list of richest people in the world. Did Reagan turn mom and pop store owners into billionaire’s? No, the reality is that the ultra-wealthy just got a lot more wealthy and these giant corporations under Reaganomics now were enjoying an effective tax and interest rate that was a mere fraction of the tax and interest rate paid by mom and pop that had to shut their doors when these guys came to erect their Big Box. So yes, the Reagan legacy may be one to stand behind, especially if you are in the business of opening up giant corporations that shut down mom and pop businesses. But that is OK right? Mom and Pop can always just throw on an apron and go to work for these real businesses that make our country great and grow our economy to compete on a world stage. Of course, mom and pop will have to work a couple of these jobs and instead of turning the business over to their kids someday, most will retire much older than planned, sick and penniless. But what does matter as long as the rest of us can still buy junk from China at unimaginably cheap prices?
I could write for days on the illusion Ronald Reagan’s presidency, but the fact is, that the policies of Reagan were not how you grow the economy in the 80’s and that was never the plan or even intended outcome. The policies of Reaganomics have an actual record of growing one thing and one thing only – economic inequality. That is the one measure of growth that cannot be denied when reviewing the actual numbers associated with trickle-down economics and the policies of Reagan.
Yes, there is a debate over the policies of Reagan and no doubt some have done quite well under this economic scheme. If you are a tax accountant, banker, prison warden, or even a middle manager at a giant corporate then I assume Reagan is a hero. But if you are instead a factory worker, small business owner, teacher, snow plow driver, fire fighter, design engineer, chef, or one of the countless other real workers that actually produces something or does something real and useful for society, then things probably are not better for you at all under this scheme.
When our economy was strong, the United States was leading the world in manufacturing and innovation. Not selling billions of hamburgers or Chinese-made crap at unthinkably low prices and unthinkable large profit. I believe we should support a government that has the entire nation in mind. Not just a handful of thin-lipped white guys that like to sip scotch at country clubs and play Russian Roulette with the lives of actual working citizens. Those are Reagan’s guys and we have twenty four years’ worth of evidence to support why this didn’t work for the nation as a whole and especially the middle and working class. Yes, these policies of governmental deficit spending and rich man stimulus did pull us out of a recession, but we are twenty four years later mired in the direct long term outcome of those knee jerk policies.
Now Romney and his new sidekick are going to start resurrecting all of the same exact propaganda about why trickle-down economics, the war on drugs, and our policy of national “offense” should be further expanded in spite of the pathetic results we have seen since Reagan. It is up to the individual citizen to do their own critical thinking and make their own decision about these policies and the misinformation they are spreading. Have they worked?
My grandfather was a coal miner, factory worker, and soldier in the United States Army in WWII. Men and women like him are the true heroes that built our country and made us the strongest nation in the world. He paved the way for people like me to pursue our own dreams. When he was alive my grandfather was not confused in the least about the policies of Ronald Reagan and how devastating they would be on the working men and women of this country. Twenty four years of legacy to review tells me that not only was my grandfather very smart, unfortunately, he was also very correct.
Although I myself was lucky enough to get to go to college, earn a degree and enter the white collar job world, I refuse to forget what my hard working blue collar grandfather already knew all too well. The working men and women of this country are who make us strong. And it is these same working men and women like my grandfather, and mom and pop business owners like me, that our government should be protecting. Not the giant corporations. Hopefully more people will use critical thinking skills to evaluate the legacy of Reagan and trickle-down economic theory.
Has that money trickled down as promised? Or did that money actually dry up in Mitt Romney’s very big and very lucrative years as a venture capitalist working for a giant corporation operating under Reaganomics?
How about you? Has Reaganomics worked as well for you and your family as it has for Mitt and his family? Who are they looking out for and what do you think is their true motivation this election year?