Ronald Reagan's Real Legacy, Part 2
Specifics On Reagan’s Real Record
This is a followup to and continuation of Ronald Reagan’s Real Legacy, part one, which reveals Reagan's history and real agenda and explains why his legacy has been so devastating to the nation and world, especially in terms of its enabling the wealthiest few to get incredibly richer at the expense of everyone else.
As most of us know, that caused the middle class to shrink, the working poor population to grow, and the rates of poverty, hunger and homelessness to increase. That's why the first article explains how and why Reagan was so well groomed and trained by corporate executives to play the role he did as a governor and president.
Ronald Reagan was a very charming man, and a good actor in his role. But even though he was actually good in many respects, this article reveals the actual consequences of Reagan's dark side, the parts of his record that most Americans do not know or forget, and that right-wing partisans simply deny because they don’t want to admit how or why Reaganism and Reaganomics has been so damaging.
The real record reveals that the way Ronald Reagan gained the power of the presidency, and the way he used that power as president, set precedents followed later by George W. Bush, who not only continued Reagan’s agenda, but expanded it and made it even more harmful in some very ominous ways.
Of course, since 2008, many Republicans have shunned Bush and blamed him for America’s economic, domestic and foreign policy problems, and they’ve insisted that Bush was not a true Reaganite. However, that is merely a tactic to keep Ronald Reagan on his pedestal, and keep his false image alive as if he was a great president. That image is crucial to the Republican Party and to their claims of both patriotism and religiosity.
“We are all Reaganites!” That is what Bush’s Vice President, Dick Cheney, proudly said of the Bush Administration. And that’s true, despite the claims of Republicans who have since sought to deny that. In fact, in 1980 Dick Cheney endorsed Governor Ronald Reagan for president, becoming one of Reagan's earliest supporters in Washington. In 1983 Donald Rumsfeld (Bush’s Secretary of Defense) was appointed Special Envoy to the Middle East by President Reagan. In 1986 Reagan appointed Paul Wolfowitz (Bush’s Deputy Secretary of Defense) to be Director of Policy Planning at the Department of State. And Lewis Libby (a top Cheney adviser during the Bush Regime) worked with Paul Wolfowitz in the Reagan State Department's policy planning staff.
Of course, Ronald Reagan did not steal an election as blatantly as George W. Bush did in 2000. However, Ronald Reagan also gained the power of the presidency by hook and by crook, even though he did it unwittingly, having been cunningly indoctrinated and converted by corporate executives. That is why his legacy as president is what caused many of the troubles and suffering so many people have increasing had to endure during the last 30 years. (For more details, see the articles on the menu to the left.)
Now, most Americans do not know that Ronald Reagan won the 1980 presidential election by getting only 50.7 percent of the popular vote, and the only way he was able to win by even that much was by making a secret deal which underhandedly ensured a victory over incumbent President Jimmy Carter.
The secret deal was made possible because in 1980 America’s prestige was on the line because Iran was holding 52 Americans as hostages, and President Carter had been trying to secure their release. Carter’s efforts were squelched, however, because Ronald Reagan made a secret deal with Iran's leader, Rouhollah Mousavi Khomeini. The deal was that if Khomeini rejected President Carter’s efforts to secure the release of the hostages (which would probably ensure Reagan’s victory over Carter), the U.S. under Reagan would then provide Iran with weapons in exchange for freeing the hostages.
Sure enough, as soon as Reagan defeated Carter and 20 minutes after Reagan was inaugurated, the hostages were set free, and Iran got weapons from the U.S. via Israel. Pretty dirty deal, eh?
Of course, when many people saw what happened and protested, Congress "investigated" and concluded that there was no evidence that a deal had been made. However, several knowledgeable sources — most notably former Iranian President Bani-Sadr and former Naval Intelligence officer and National Security Council member Gary Sick, and even a former Reagan/Bush campaign and White House staff member — have confirmed that a deal was indeed made.
In 1986, Reagan finally admitted sending weapons to Iran, because the truth had come out. However, Reagan still steadfastly denied it was part of an arms-for-hostages deal. However, two weeks later Reagan’s National Security Adviser John Poindexter was forced to resign, and national security aide Col. Oliver North was fired because of a widening "Iran-Contra" scandal, which was a related scheme. Then Reagan’s Attorney General admitted that $30 million of profits from the sale of U.S. arms to Iran had been diverted to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.
In 1987 a Congressional Commission let Reagan off the hook by concluding he had merely been "misled" by his staff about the trade of arms to Iran for American hostages, and about the secret war against the Nicaraguan government. And only then did Reagan acknowledge a "mistake" regarding the the sale of arms to Iran and the Iran-Contra affair, since he could then be held blameless (which is why Reagan is known as "The Teflon President").
Ronald Reagan was actually a right-wing Republican extremist, and even though he appeared to have the best interests of the people and the country at heart, the actual effect of Reaganism has enabled the greed and self-interest of very aggressive and ambitious wealthy people, at the expense of the majority of people, at the expense of the infrastructure of the country, and at the expense of the environment.
Reagan’s initiatives and policies were very harmful in many areas. Just to give a few examples, they squelched efforts at developing solar power and other alternative energy sources, dangerously diminished protection for old growth forests, pristine redwood forests and wildlife habitat, enabled corporations to begin the trend of diminishing workers rights, benefits, retirement and safety protections. And that was all for the benefit of big businesses and giant corporations so they could increase their profits.
That is why Reagan’s economic policies were considered by his critics to be "welfare for the rich," because that’s what they amount to. But, in spite of that, Reagan and the Reaganites claimed and promised that concentrated wealth, even though held by a relative few, would "trickle down" and benefit the whole country in many ways. And, even though that has proven to be a false claim, the Reaganites persisted in that claim, George W. Bush continued it from 2000 to 2008, and even today right-wing Republicans and Libertarians persist in making that claim.
That’s why extreme right-wing Republicans today still insist on continuing tax breaks for the wealthy, claiming they are against "job-killing taxes." They use that fear tactic as an implied threat, that if you demand they pay more than what they’ve been able to get away with paying in taxes, it will mean even more unemployment.
The truth, however, is that their big businesses and corporations have already refused to rehire the employees they fired or laid off in 2008 and 2009, even though they have enjoyed record profits. And now they threaten and warn that more jobs will be "killed" if they are required to pay higher taxes (what they should pay in taxes).
You see, it’s all about perception and appearances, and they don’t always resort to fear tactics. In fact, they always sell Reaganite economic policies as "free enterprise" and "free market" policies and "globalism," and they claim that it’s all good for the people, the nation, and the world.
But, again, the truth is that their policies have proven over the last 30 years and especially during the last ten years to be great for the wealthiest few, but extremely detrimental to everyone and everything else.
Reaganite policies have enabled most of the wealth in America to be redistributed to those who were already very wealthy, which is why 90 percent of the wealth is now held and controlled by the wealthiest few. But, by appearing very charming while being very condescending and pejorative toward progressive Democrats, labeling them as "tax and spend liberals" and "bleeding-heart liberals," Reagan was able to start extreme right-wing trends that continued through 2008 and even now still enable the wealthiest few to the detriment of everyone else.
That is why Reagan's real legacy must be exposed, for the sake of truth and justice, and for the sake of generations to come. It will help us and our children and future generations to avoid being deceived, divided, and led astray by other bad leaders who may be just as charming and deceptive. We must see demagogues for what they are, because if we recognize and realize their impact and their legacy it will help us grow and evolve into a more civilized, just, and equitable society.
More On How, When and Why Reaganism Was Established
As mentioned in the lead article, as a young man Ronald Reagan was a supporter of President Roosevelt's New Deal. But he changed and became an enemy of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs and policies, and it was not only because he was influenced and poisoned by the slanderous hatemongering of Senator Joseph McCarthy and Senator Richard Nixon in the 1950s. It was also because several years before he seriously got into politics he became a corporate spokesman and television pitch man for General Electric. And Reagan was carefully groomed by top executives in that corporation.
The main influence was Lemuel Boulware, General Electric’s president of labor and community relations from 1956 until 1961. Boulware was known for his tough stance against labor unions and he was a champion of modern American Neo-Conservatism, advocating the destruction of labor unions, unregulated markets, lower taxes, and limited power of government. Boulware carefully groomed Reagan in right-wing partisan political ideology from 1954 to 1962 while Reagan was a spokesman for the company.
Very few Americans know it now, but during that time Boulware and General Electric’s CEO Ralph Cordiner mounted a national political campaign behind the scenes, recruiting major corporate allies, teaching employees to learn the fundamental political skills to win elections, and developing shareholder lists for political mailings, and thus cunningly turned GE employees into advocates of Republican causes in order to sway voters.
Ronald Reagan played a key role in this as spokesman and communicator, and was sent out into what was called "the mashed potato circuit" of civic forums, mostly in the South and smaller states, and especially in cities and towns where GE dominated the economy. That, in fact, is how and where Reagan was trained, and that is how a lot of Americans, many of whom had to listen to Reagan as GE employees, were swayed by corporate Neo-Conservative Republican ideology.
During that time and afterward, Reagan began to rise in political stature by becoming an advocate and supporter of Richard Nixon in his campaign for the presidency. He then ran for president, and his political stature rose even more with his support for Republican candidate Barry Goldwater in his campaign for the presidency, because Reagan graciously conceded the Republican nomination to Goldwater at the Republican Convention.
It should be noted that in a speech supporting Goldwater, Reagan said something that was shockingly misleading and mean-spirited. He said: "We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet."
To heartless, selfish people, that may have seemed funny. But even though it was very revealing and exposed Reagan’s mean streak (which came out again in 1969 when as Governor of California he ordered a bloody police riot against demonstrators in Berkeley), most American just let it go over their head, perhaps because of Reagan's skill at acting disarmingly charming.
In 1980, because of his skill as a charming television pitch man, Reagan finally had his opportunity to be elected to the presidency, even though Americans were generally unaware that Reagan's agenda was to to destroy Roosevelt’s great legacy and restore Hamiltonian style "Christian Meritocracy." Americans were unaware, and many still are, that Reagan and his speech writers were very clever and cunning about crafting the message to seem good and beneficial to all. And Reagan won because he was a very effective television spokesman.
For example, in 1980 while he was running for president, Ronald Reagan quipped: "Wage and price controls have failed since the time of Diocletian. I ought to know. I'm the only one here old enough to remember that."
Naturally, that got a laugh, as the script writer knew it would, and it was, admittedly, disarmingly clever. And, it proved to be a winning strategy because people loved it.
However, that statement was deliberately designed to create the illusion that it is foolish to control prices and incomes, and that government should not put any limits or constraints upon businesses. And the fact is that Reagan’s statement was blatantly misleading, and false. He and other Neo-Conservative Republicans obviously thought they were right, and they were probably well-meaning, but they were actually wrong.
The fact is that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had instituted remarkably successful wage and price controls. Roosevelt implemented an economic plan which was part of a greater, comprehensive plan. It was efficiently and effectively organized and regulated, and it improved the military, agricultural, manufacturing, industrial and civilian conservation capacity of America. And, it enabled Americans to win World War II in less than four years from the day America entered the war.
In fact, Roosevelt’s legacy not only produced great prosperity for a large and great middle class by implementing proper wage and price controls and fair and proper regulations and policies to protect the public from the forces of greed and self-interest. Roosevelt’s New Deal also provided a safety net for the elderly and disadvantaged, with the Social Security Act. (And, by the way, if you read the 21st Century Declaration of Independence, you will see recommendations that the safety net should be available only to those who actually need it, because those with very high incomes now take enormous amounts out of the Social Security fund, even though they certainly don’t need it and can well afford to live in luxury without it).
Roosevelt’s great legacy is proven, because the American middle class became large and great because of Roosevelt’s New Deal. However, Ronald Reagan’s political agenda and legacy as a governor and a president was in opposition to and detrimental to all that.
Most Americans are not aware of the impact of Reagan’s favoritism of the wealthy few, and they are not aware of his betrayal of the people while seeming to be their hero because he said: "God bless you, and God bless America" at the end of every speech.
That was because Reagan actually convinced himself that he served God and Country. He believed it because he was supported by evangelical leaders like Billy Graham, who led Reagan to believe that "Judgment Day" was coming, as did other evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and other right-wing partisan political ideologues who led the Christian Right. (And in that sense, Reagan was rather like George W. Bush would be from 2000 to 2008.)
Reaganism and Reaganomics was sold as "Christian" because the Christian Right pushed the "gospel" of prosperity which claims that their wealth is a reward from God. And, as a "religious" political doctrine, it was and is, of course, very convenient and very politically expedient for those who are wealthy. And it was a political strategy that worked beyond their wildest dreams. They’ve gotten incredibly rich during the last 30 years.
The truth, however, as Jesus said, is that the rich have about as much chance of getting into heaven as a camel has to fit through the eye of a needle.
Wealth from money can change people, as it did Reagan and so many others, and it can produce lust for more and more money. As the Christian gospels actually say, money can be the root of much evil, because money can easily corrupt people without them realizing it. Jesus not only said that a greedy, selfish rich man who profits unfairly at the expense of others puts his soul in grave jeopardy. He also said that even though we generally reap what we sow, it is unfair to profit unfairly at the expense of others.
In spite of the truth, Reaganism enabled the most corrupt of the wealthiest few to rationalize that their greed was not bad, It enabled them to justify themselves with the idea that they were entitled to enjoy extravagant wealth, even though and even while everyone else was growing less and less prosperous. It enabled the Reaganites and the "Religious Right" to operate on the idea that God helps those who help themselves, and so they helped themselves, and managed to ignore how that effected the majority.
The clarion call of the Reaganites demanded that they pay less taxes because "people should be self-reliant and not dependent on government handouts."
Of course, people should be self-reliant if and when possible. However, it is grossly misleading to characterize public assistance as "government handouts," when public assistance is actually an investment in people and a helping hand. But Reagan pejoratively labeled it as "welfare" and made it a dirty word, and he claimed that it enabled and coddled "welfare cheats" and made all recipients "dependent," even though the facts of the matter prove him wrong in the vast majority of cases.
For example, the most famous myth about "welfare fraud" was begun by Ronald Reagan during his 1976 presidential campaign, in which he told a story about a "welfare queen" who he said was arrested for welfare fraud. Reagan claimed: "She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran's benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000."
That story, at the very least grossly exaggerated minor cases of welfare fraud, and despite all the efforts investigative reporters made to find this so-called “welfare queen,” no one ever found that such a person existed.
Actually, Reagan had stooped to a very misleading and dishonest tactic to destroy the great legacy of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, as well as the popular Great Society programs of the 1960s. And Reagan specialized in exaggerated and even fabricated stories that were almost always unsubstantiated and were usually false, but were so sensational that they played on stereotypes of welfare cheats and appealed to right-wing conservatives as well as well to do Democrats who tended toward fiscal conservatism.
The facts of the matter reveal the real legacy of Reaganism and show that the Reaganite propaganda was grossly exaggerated, deceptive, and misleading, as is explained in the articles titled Poverty: America’s Hidden Shame, and Ignored American History. For Reagan simply swept the issue of poverty and inequity under the rug, and claimed that the democratic efforts to reduce poverty produced "lazy bums" and "destroyed wealth." But that was shameful corporate propaganda.
That was a cunning way to justify cutting taxes for the wealthy and for their corporations, which Republicans claimed would create American jobs, but actually enabled corporations to enjoy enormous profits, start building plants overseas and employ foreign workers, which made unemployment much worse in America. Even more to the point, it was also a cunning way to justify cutting human services programs for Americans that needed help, which Reagan did with gusto.
In this article you will find more discussion on Reagan's foreign policies, which supported ruthless, murderous dictators. But there is a wonderful and great movie that reveals the reality of that far better.
The movie is The House of the Spirits, a 1993 dramatic film that is very enlightened, and expresses some very valuable lessons regarding love, organized religion, and government. The film stars Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons, Winona Ryder, and Antonio Banderas. Based on the 1982 novel La Casa de los Espíritus by Isabel Allende, the film is about the life of a young lady before and during the military dictatorship in Chile which was supported by the U.S. Government.
The film won awards in Bavaria, Germany and Denmark, and it was highly regarded by liberal progressives in many countries because it revealed the true nature of a “Patron” (land baron) who considered himself a good Christian and a patriot when he was in fact an often wicked man who lusted for power and self-gratification at the expense of others. And part of the film’s great value is that he eventually learns some extremely hard lessons and realizes his vain folly.
Unfortunately, the film was held suspect and was panned by critics in America because at the time it came out the Reaganites controlled both houses of Congress, and they, like Reagan, supported dictators in many counties like Chile, Guatemala, Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc. In fact, the Reaganites were enjoying so much popularity because of Ronald Reagan’s fabricated, misleading image that the only way democratic politician Bill Clinton was able to become president was by taking a political position quite a way to the right of center.
Nevertheless, the film was very timely in 1993, and it is even more timely now. Everyone should see it, and learn the lessons that it so clearly and vividly teaches.
The Efforts to Maintain Reaganism and Reaganomics
Of course, these days the Reaganites and Libertarians are desperately trying to save and maintain Reaganism by obstructing, slandering and denigrating Barack Obama, who is certainly not perfect but is the best hope for at least a semblance of democracy in America (even though he too publicly invokes the name of Ronald Reagan).
However, Reaganism will ultimately crumble and be relegated to the pages of history, exactly where it belongs. It has lasted as long as it has only because it was very cleverly and well-sold, and many gullible Americans bought it because Reagan and the Reaganites waved the flag and thumped their bible, as if they served God and Country. But they didn't.
That's why Reaganism began to crumble, even though it was not recognized at the time, when the political corruption which enabled the horrific corporate corruption of companies like Enron, Global Crossing, WorldCom, Adelphia and Tyco were exposed in the late 1990s and 2001. But that, unfortunatelym did not expose it enough.
Even the financial crisis caused in 2008 by banks and predatory lenders and financial companies like Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual, AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did not expose it enough. So, it now must be thoroughly exposed so that the American people fully realize how inherently deceptive and corrupt Reaganism (which was expanded and made worse by Bushism) really is.
It must be exposed not merely for political-economic reasons in order to reform government. It must be exposed also for religious reasons, because under Reagan and Bush the U.S. epitomized the symbolic "Babylon" as described in the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation, the most powerful military-industrial empire. So, for those reason and for the sake of history, we must not allow a false image of President Ronald Reagan to stand. The stone of truth must shatter that image according to the prophecy of Daniel.Exposing the Myths About Reagan.
The Reagan Myths
The Reaganites, Libertarians and Neo-Conservatives claim, and want you to believe, that Ronald Reagan accomplished the following:
1) Restored America to prosperity and self-confidence;
2) Cut taxes for all and reduced the size of government;
3) Rebuilt America's military strength and pride;
4) Cured "Stagflation" and
5) Won the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
Of course it is true that Reagan did appeal to American egotism and feelings of nationalism with a lot of flag waving and bravado. He also increased spending on the military, continuing the increases that his democratic predecessor Jimmy Carter had already made. However, some of the claims listed are blatantly false, and the rest are, at best, only half truth.
As you will see, Reagan’s attitude and policies, many of which were later copied and expanded by George W. Bush (son of Reagan’s Vice President and successor), are some of the biggest reasons why the U.S. Government has been falling, and why we have had such bitter partisan gridlock; political corruption; corporate corruption; bad relations between labor and management; huge income disparity (income gap between the richest and poorest); diminishing protection of the environment; increasing racism; growing poverty, hunger and homelessness; a shrinking middle class; and diminishing financial status for the vast majority, while the rich have been getting a whole lot richer - incredibly richer.
And that's just the domestic problems.
So, let's first examine the Reaganite claim that Reagan furthered the cause of liberty by reducing the size and scope of government. That is what Reagan himself claimed when he left the White House in January 1989, because in his farewell address he said: "There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts." He also said: "Through more and more rules and regulations and confiscatory taxes, the government was taking more of our money, more of our options, and more of our freedom."
Reagan was wrong about that because he erroneously believed that private institutions, like big businesses, corporations, religious groups and other private interest groups were the real providers of our freedom and liberty, not government. That is blatantly untrue, because as the Founding Fathers said, government can and should secure the blessings of freedom and liberty for the people. And, in fact, only government can do that, by properly regulating business and commerce, establishing and enforcing laws, and providing for the common defense and safety of the people.
In spite of those facts, and because Republicans and the wealthiest few do not like to pay their fair share of taxes and do not like government regulation, Ronald Reagan said: "We must remove government's smothering hand ... to reinvigorate those social and economic institutions which serve as a buffer and a bridge between the individual and the state."
That was misleading propaganda, and the "smothering hand" phrase was simply deceptive and demagogic. In fact, Reagan’ view of freedom was warped. Freedom loses its meaning when people cannot pay their bills, save money, go to college, or belong to the religion of their choice. Government under Reaganism imposed a form of economic and religious captivity and tyranny, but not according to the laws of physics. Liberty does not naturally contract as government expands. In fact, again, only government can ensure our freedom and liberty.
The fact is that we the people need and must have a level of government capable of regulating commerce, promoting the general welfare, and establishing, protecting and maintaining our liberty and equal civil rights, all of which have diminished under the Reaganites, and especially under the rule of Reaganites like Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and all the rest of those on the New Right or Neo-Conservative Movement.
Now you may ask, how and why did they gain and maintain power? That’s a good question, and they answer is that the Reaganites have been supported by organizations with deceptive names to make them seem good, like the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies; The Moral Majority; The Christian Coalition; Citizens for Excellence in Education; Concerned Women for America; Eagle Forum; Family Research Council; American Family Association; Heritage Foundation; Center for Individual Rights, etc.
Those organizations and political action groups are not what they claim to be, because even though they claim to serve all the people in the name of God and Country, they actually serve the interests of the wealthy few.
Spiritually blinded by their own self-righteousness, greed and self-interest, they don't realize they are like the man who shoots himself in the foot. And in 2001 and again in 2008 that is what became painfully evident to the whole world.
The point is that Reagan's so-called "anti-government" rhetoric was damaging to the country. And it was hypocritical, because Reagan did not reduce the size of government. In fact, he doubled the size of the federal bureaucracy, and he only reduced the government's ability to help people who truly need help. He cut taxes for the wealthy and he tripled the national debt and deficit, and thus set a bad example that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney later followed, which is why Cheney made the claim that "Reagan proved that deficit spending is good."
Reagan’s policies and initiatives also gave corporations greater license and freer rein to abuse their monetary power, and because Reagan thus enabled greedy and corrupt corporate executives, the inevitable consequences began to be exposed with the corporate scandals of the 1990s, as I’ve mentioned. But, in doing so, Reagan did not reduce the size of government, nor did he reduce government spending.
Federal government spending was 25 percent higher when Reagan left office than when he took office, and the federal civilian work force increased from 2.8 million to 3 million. And that's not even including the huge increase in Defense Department civilians that Reagan hired.
By comparison, under eight years of Bill Clinton's democratic presidency (which the Reaganites falsely claimed "favored and produced Big Government"), the federal civilian work force went down, from 2.9 million to 2.68 million. Under Clinton, federal spending grew by only 11 percent, less than half as much as under Reagan. As a share of Gross Domestic Product, federal spending diminished from 21.5 percent to 18.3 percent under Clinton, more than twice Reagan's reduction.
It's also a myth and a lie that Reagan's tax cuts led to the late 1980s and 1990s prosperity. They did enable some wealthy individuals and profitable corporations to pay no taxes at all, which enabled them to prosper a lot. However, Reagan’s policies inevitably led to recession and tripling of the national debt. And because of Reagan’s recession, the unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent in 1982, two years into Reagan’s first term, and in 1983 it was still 9.6 percent.
Many in the labor force were punished and suffered because of that, of course. But Republican tax cuts richly rewarded their very wealthy supporters — the wealthiest one percent of the population who provided 80 percent of the funding for political campaigns.
As for the claim that Ronald Reagan "cured stagflation, according to respected Economist Allan Greenspan, much of the credit for the resolution of the stagflation is given to two causes: 1) A three year contraction of the money supply by the Federal Reserve Board under Paul Volcker, initiated in the last year of Democratic President Jimmy Carter's term, and 2) Long term easing of supply and pricing in oil during the 1980s oil glut.
Furthermore, while Republicans and Libertarians generally blame Carter for stagflation, many experts cite two basic factors that caused stagflation in the first place. One was a series of "adverse supply shocks," mainly the huge hike in the price of oil (prior to the oil glut), and the other was excessively expansionary monetary policy, especially in 1972-3 during Republican President Nixon’s reign, which caused fears of inflation to become widespread.
The historic record shows that in 1979, Reagan’s predecessor Jimmy Carter appointed Paul Volcker chairman of the Federal Reserve. Inflation was running at about 12 percent when Carter took office, but Volcker dealt with it, producing a recession, but in 1982 when he eased off, the economy recovered. Reagan had very little to do with the recovery, even though he is given credit for it.
The 1980s were boom years not only because of Carter and Volcker. Oil prices steadily dropped, falling below $30 a barrel in 1986 (in inflation adjusted terms). That was due to reduced demand during the recession and increased oil supply thanks to a Jimmy Carter executive order ending price controls on oil. And Ronald Reagan had very little to do with that either. In fact, Reagan’s policies were distinctly secondary to Fed policy, the oil glut, deficit spending, and a weak dollar.
Now, another myth is that Reagan won the Cold War with the Soviet Union. But let’s examine what really happened.
Reaganites claim that Reagan's "Star Wars" Initiative, his tough rhetoric in his speeches criticizing Soviet Russia, and his costly defense buildup were all part of a successful strategy to defeat communism and win the Cold War. But, actually, in Reagan's Star Wars address of 1983, in which he first proposed to build a defense against incoming nuclear missiles, he stated it would "introduce greater stability" in the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union.
In fact, because most Americans did not want a bigger arms race and more nuclear proliferation, so even though Ronald Reagan did increase military spending overall, he found it politically expedient in his second-term to seek detente and disarmament, and he even made a show of becoming friends with the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.
The U.S. military buildup had really begun under Reagan's predecessor, President Carter. Furthermore, it was not Reagan's rhetoric or the military buildup he continued that brought down the Soviet Union. It was mostly the result of the failures and consequences of the Soviet political- economic system that brought about its gradual and inevitable decline, and thus the end of the cold war. More specifically, it was the result of the reforms of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It really wouldn't have mattered what Reagan did. The Soviet Union still would have fallen. In fact, as early as the mid-1970s before Reagan became president, the Soviet system was already beginning to collapse. Gorbachev realize that, and tried to establish transitional policies and democratic reforms.
Despite that, during Reagan’s first term he called the Soviet Union an "evil empire." But that was mainly to serve the interests of and benefit the U.S. Military Industrial Complex, and during his second term Reagan really had no choice but to embrace Gorbachev.
The facts are that as early as 1974 when Gorbachev became the First Secretary to the Supreme Soviet, he had advocated reforms. After he became a member of the Politburo in 1979, and particularly after he became General Secretary by the Politburo in 1985, he was able to really implement the reformation. It was Gorbachev's reforms that then enabled him to take part in summit conferences with U.S. President Ronald Reagan during Reagan's second term, and it was his reorientation of Soviet strategic aims that were the main factors in ending the Cold War. Gorbachev also ended the political supremacy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. And, for these efforts, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Now, yet another myth is that Reagan restored traditional family values, which he spoke of a lot. But, in fact, Reagan's policies were damaging to most American families. According to the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, the 1980s saw significant rises in child poverty, teen-suicide, births to unmarried teenagers, single-parent families and illegitimate births — and marriage rates and the percentage of children living with both biological parents went down.
Reaganite budget cuts to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor and the working poor certainly contributed to some of that economic decline, and especially to child poverty. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported in 1984: "Low-income programs were reduced more than twice as deeply (in proportionate terms) as social programs not concentrated on the poor. Overall, the low-income programs bore nearly one-third of all cuts made anywhere in the federal government even though they constitute less than one-tenth of the budget. No other part of the federal budget was cut so deeply."
The Urban Institute also noted: "Because of the president's emphasis on self- sufficiency and productivity, the administration might have been expected to give some emphasis to human resource programs (education and training, public service employment, nutrition programs, Medicaid and social services) as a means of addressing poverty and welfare dependency. Instead, these were the very programs in which the administration generally proposed the deepest cuts."
Reagan's policies and views were particularly unpopular with African Americans, who severely criticized Reagan for opposing racial quotas and affirmative action, and for seeking to obtain a tax credit for Bob Jones University, a segregated white racist southern school. Besides that, Reagan had campaigned promoting "states rights" (a term that was at that time a code word referring to racial segregation), appealing to racists in the South. And Reagan’s appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Civil Rights Commission effectively rendered it impotent.
That was because Reagan opposed certain civil rights legislation, and he even went to far as to say: "If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his right to do so."
Reagan was actually permissive of racial prejudice and discrimination, which is why Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP and a longtime civil rights activist, said: "For many Americans, this was a time best forgotten," said. "He was a polarizing figure in black America. He was hostile to the generally accepted remedies for discrimination. His appointments were of people as equally hostile. I can't think of any Reagan policy that African Americans would embrace."
Early in his first term, Reagan ordered some of his toughest budget cuts in Medicaid, food stamps, aid to families with dependent children, and other programs that were badly needed by large numbers of lower-income families, Black and White.
After all, not many years after Reaganism really took hold due to the Republican control of Congress in the 1990s, and especially after their so-called "Welfare Reform" took hold in 1996, twenty percent of American children lived in poverty — and 62 percent of them were White; 32 percent of them were Black; and 29 percent of them were Hispanic.
What's more, nearly 90 percent of all children in poverty lived in mixed income cities and suburbs, not in urban ghettos. And about 14 million American children lived in poverty despite the fact that 97 percent of them lived in families in which at least one adult worked full time. (And, by the way, those statistics got worse between 2000 and 2008.)
(Continued at Ronald Reagan's Real Legacy, Part 3, which discusses more of the terrible impact of Reaganism on the nation and world.)