Reagan’s legacy.

I blame Reagan. (for just about everything!)

A while back, I suggested online, somewhat provocatively, that
Reagan was the worst President ever. I got surprisingly few
responses. Just one, which said:
Reagan the worst president? Really? – 20 million new jobs were
created – – Inflation dropped from 13.5% in 1980 to 4.1% by 1988
Unemployment fell from 7.6% to 5.5% – Net worth of families
earning between $20,000 and $50,000 annually grew by 27% –
Real gross national product rose 26% – The prime interest rate
was slashed by more than half, from an unprecedented 21.5% in
January 1981 to 10% in August 1988
Saving the American economy, bringing down the Soviet Union,
freeing 350+ million people from Communism, creating 20+
million jobs. That makes him the worst President? I think Obama
and Jimmy have a firm lock on the first and second worst
Presidents ever.
Please, whatever you are drinking and or smoking, stop.
The last part is quite amusing, but on the negative side, if his
supporters are to be believed his (admittedly very good line) Mr
Gorbachev, tear down this wall, was the one and only reason for the
collapse of the Soviet Union. Of course, it wasn’t, any more than
American disinvestment in South Africa was the only reason for
the collapse of the Apartheid regime (and incidentally it rhymes
with hate, not light).
Both regimes collapsed because their leaders saw the writing on
the wall, and to their very great credit, Gorbachev and De Klerk
willingly gave up power and transitioned to a more democratic
style of government. They both got Nobel Peace Prizes – Reagan
did not.
But I am blaming Reagan for everything, so let us give him credit
for bringing down Communism. It was probably not a good
thing.
I say that because in even the most cursory reading of history one
phrase jumps out again and again: balance of power. Once the
Soviet Union crumbled, the US was left as the only power that
mattered, at least until Europe united and China flexed its
muscles. But more significantly, the fall of communism was not a
victory for democracy; it was a victory for capitalism. And the PR
machine for capitalism is far more persuasive than that for
extreme socialism. The result is that through the miracle of
globalization, capitalism is now dominant to the extent that, as
reported by Oxfam, referring to 2016, “1% of the world’s
population will own more wealth than the other 99%”. Put
slightly differently, “Eighty people hold the same amount of
wealth as the world’s 3.6 billion poorest people”.
Eighty people! The top five are Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Armancio
Ortega, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison. The Koch brothers
come in at six and seven because they are only worth 40 billion
each, but combined they outrank Gates. And if you take just three
of the Waltons, they top the lot with a staggering 104 billion
dollars. I mentioned the Waltons in my letter: I don’t want to be part
of a system that allows 6 people (the heirs of Sam Walton) to control as
much (unearned) wealth as the bottom 30% of the population. The
responses I got showed that many people do not actually think
about what they are saying, or understand what they are reading.
The common thread was “Good luck to them, they worked hard
for their wealth.” They may have worked with the money they
inherited; they certainly didn’t work for it. That is what
Capitalism does; it grows money to the exclusion of all
considerations of fairness, equality, workers’ rights,
environmental issues or the future of the planet. Money makes
money and the rich get richer. The money going into their
pockets has to come from somewhere, so the poor get poorer.
Trickledown economics just has not worked. Bill Maher sums it
up perfectly: Trickle-down economics is like having three dogs, giving
one of them a wiener and expecting him to share it with the other two.
There is much more to be said about capitalism, but here I am
busy blaming Reagan for the ills of the world. So moving on.
From the Straits Times of Singapore:
“Mr Ronald Reagan was not universally beloved in the 135
countries of the developing world, nor was he especially well
understood. His presidency was often perceived as a swaggering
statement about American military and political pre-eminence in a
world in which the erstwhile Soviet Union was already imploding.
And yet, far more than any post-war American president, Mr
Reagan influenced emerging countries, their markets and their
governance. In many ways, he can be rightly called the father of
contemporary globalization.”
PBS’s The American Experience had this to say:
“As the economy rebounded strongly from the recession of 1981-
82, (Reagan’s) ratings began to soar even higher. More Americans
were working than ever before. New businesses were being started
up and Wall Street was robust with activity. Still, worried voices
pointed to a ballooning federal deficit as a sign that tax cuts,
coupled with increased defense spending was a recipe for disaster.
And while “Reaganomics” was helping to produce more and more
millionaires, the disparity between rich and poor grew greater and
greater. Reagan challenged his fellow citizens to “dream heroic
dreams,” but made no mention of making sacrifices for the benefit
of future generations.”
So now we have rampant capitalism, globalization (two sides of
the same coin) and a rising oligarchy controlling the world. FDR’s
comment on that was: That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of
government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling
private power. Lenin’s comment was a little more ominous: fascism
is capitalism in decay.
But he wasn’t done yet. As The New York Times noted in 2011:
More than any other labor dispute of the past three decades,
Reagan’s confrontation with the Professional Air Traffic
Controllers Organization, or Patco, undermined the bargaining
power of American workers and their labor unions. It also
polarized our politics in ways that prevent us from addressing the
root of our economic troubles: the continuing stagnation of
incomes despite rising corporate profits and worker productivity.
Air travel was significantly curtailed, and it took several years
and billions of dollars And just incidentally Reagan led the
actors’ strike of 1952.
I blame Reagan for setting the stage for climate change denial.
Why in heaven’s name would anyone think it progress to remove
solar panels from the White House roof? I can see the President
not getting around to such a forward-thinking move, but to
actually turn back the clock and take them off? A slap in the face
to Carter who had installed them? A sop to his friends in the
fossil fuel business?
I blame him for setting back educational progress. Hidden among
his better known quotes is this one: Why should we subsidize
intellectual curiosity? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because that is
what leads to innovative thinking, the sort of stuff that made
America great? Reagan proposed eliminating the Department of
Education and halved the federal budget for education, while
seriously eroding the power of local school districts.
I blame him for messing around with taxes. Reagan started the
idea of tax cuts for the wealthy, part of his trickle-down
economics. For the rest of us he raised taxes eleven times and
tripled the federal deficit.
I blame Reagan for exacerbating the dire population situation. We
have Jesse Helms to thank for the ruling that the United States
government will not give any monetary assistance to family
planning clinics around the world that offer abortion services.
Ronald Reagan introduced the global gag rule in 1984 to prohibit
foreign NGOs from receiving US family planning assistance even
if they try to circumvent the Helms amendment by using non-US
funds to provide abortion services, counseling, or referrals, or
engage in advocacy within their own countries to liberalize
abortion-related policies. I’m not sure how that rule is
implemented but the population when Reagan took office was
4.438 billion. It is now over 7 billion and expanding daily. It is
frightening.
I’d like to blame Reagan for voter suppression and the incredible
divisiveness there is in the country, but I can’t find enough
evidence. There is enough evidence, however, to blame the
Republican Party. I heard President Clinton in 2013 say that they
launched a campaign 40 years ago to become the permanent
majority. As Paul Weyrich, one of the creators of the Republican-
Religious Right Alliance, a founder of ALEC, and a founder of the
Heritage Foundation, famously said: “We don’t want everyone to
vote. Quite frankly, our leverage goes up as the voting population
goes down”. So much for democracy. So, When I read another
Reagan quote: The world’s hopes rest with America’s future, I have to
disagree. I think there is a better way.

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