Ronald Reagan’s Real Record
This is a followup to the article on Ronald Reagan’s Real Legacy, 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").
All that is important because it demonstrates the typical partisan political rationale that Republicans often resort to, that the end justifies any means necessary to gain power or to carry out their agenda. And, while Democrats are certainly not above being tempted to also resort to such rationalization, history shows that right-wing Republican ideologues are prone to do so. And it has often been that way throughout the history of the systemic, winner-take-all partisan political contest for political power.
All the facts of the matter are important for Americans to know, because 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 — especially to the working poor, the poor, the mentally ill, the environment, the infrastructure, etc.
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.
The Efforts to Maintain Reaganism and Reaganomics
Of course, the Reaganites and Libertarians are desperately trying to save and maintain Reaganism by obstructing, slandering and denigrating Barack Obama, who is the best hope for at least a semblance of democracy in America.
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 predatory lenders and banks, and by the 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 turned into 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.)
Even Worse Impact of Reaganism
Unfortunately, Reagan's attitude and policies revealed that he was either ignorant of the facts, or simply didn't care. Indeed, until public protest forced Reagan to back away a bit from his drastic cuts in human services, things had gotten so bad that his Agriculture Department sought to cut the school lunch program and, to suit their purposes, even redefined ketchup and relish as vegetables to try to claim that kids were getting proper nutrition.
To make matters worse for workers and families, Reagan also put an end to the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, which threw 400,000 people into unemployment lines. He cut Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), putting another 500,000 people out looking for jobs. He reduced spending for Housing and Urban Development, which drastically reduced affordable housing and triggered the increases in poverty, hunger and homelessness that have continued to the present day.
Reagan also changed the definition of "unemployment." Before Reagan was president, if people worked less than 21 hours a week, they were not counted as employed. But, Reagan changed the definition so that if people worked 20 hours or more per week, they were to be counted as "fully employed." He also made it so that if people were out of work for more than two years, they were no longer counted as "unemployed." And all that was to make it appear as if unemployment was not as bad as it really was (and no president since then has corrected that situation).
The reality is that Ronald Reagan caused and ignored a lot of human suffering. But one of the worst things he did was wage war on the labor force, and particularly on labor unions. This began when Reagan fired and replaced 13,000 air traffic controllers in 1981 after they staged a work stoppage to bring attention to their plight. Rather than advise fair negotiations or allow collective bargaining, Reagan abused his power to simply break their union. (And notice that today Republicans are still doing the same thing, and, like Reagan, they do the bidding of corporations and ignore the fact that it was labor unions that finally established many worker rights and enabled the American Middle Class to grow large and great --- until Reaganism began to gradually but steadily shrink it and diminish it to what it is today.)
Reagan not only refused to bargain or negotiate fairly. He then demonized all other labor unions and labeled strikers as greedy, lazy, selfish and unpatriotic. This sent a clear signal to the business world and the labor force. In fact, it was more than a signal. It was an opening salvo that started an open war on labor unions. It opened the floodgates to negative attitudes and unfair treatment of employees and workers everywhere, and it started a trend that has continued to this day, with diminishing rights and protections, loss of benefits, and unfair, inequitable compensation for workers. (And by the way, that trend has steadily increased during the last 30 years, and even today it is why Republicans are still trying to destroy labor unions and prevent collective bargaining, serving the interests of big businesses and corporations while betraying and denying the rights of all employees who work hard for a living.)
By 1982, just one year into Reagan's recession, 44 percent of all union contracts included either wage freezes or wage give-backs, while in the prior years between 1964 and 1980 before Reagan came to power there had been no wage freezes or give-backs. Even worse, the Reagan strategy was just the beginning of an anti-worker, anti-labor trend that has continued to this day. It has had an extremely devastating effect on the middle class and the working poor throughout the eighties, nineties and beyond (because it was continued and expanded by the Bush regime).
Reagan also manipulated the membership of the National Labor Relations Board, the organization that mediates labor disputes. He made sure it was dominated by conservatives who consistently ruled in favor of business and against workers and union organizers. He did the same thing wherever possible on the courts by appointing extremely conservative right-wing judges.
The consequences of Reagan's war on workers have been devastating. Twenty years after Reagan implemented his policies, the percentage of union members working in private sector businesses dropped below ten percent. That was the lowest percentage in sixty years and the lowest in the western world.
That is an indicator of how successful Reagan's war on labor unions has been, and it is why so many formerly middle class workers are now not paid enough to support their families. It is why they have to pay more in health insurance premiums and more in payroll deductions. It's why they have to either endure shrinking health and retirement benefits or go entirely without. It is why workers have to do more work with less resources. And it is why top corporate executives still enjoy absurdly extravagant income "compensation" packages, while everyone else has become less and less financially secure, more and more people fall into the working poor population, and poverty, hunger and homelessness increase.
By the way, in 2011 Reaganite Republicans renewed their war on labor unions, so we should consider some relevant history about that war, because Reagan didn't actually start it.
In the 1920s, corporate bosses and other employers used violence to silence workers who wanted to form or belong to labor unions. Hired goons and thugs would go out with baseball bats and bust heads and break up any workers who assembled to voice their grievances.
That is why in 1935 Congress and President Roosevelt passed The National Labor Relations Act, which limited the means with which employers could react to workers who wanted to create or become members of labor unions, engage in collective bargaining, and take part in strikes and other forms of concerted activity to express or communicate their grievances and requests.
In 1947, however, Congress passed The Labor–Management Relations Act, also called The Taft–Hartley Act, which amended the National Labor Relations Act. The Taft-Hartley Act was designed to monitor and control the activities and power of labor unions. In order to pass the act, Congress had to override U.S. President Harry S. Truman's veto. Truman argued that it was a "dangerous intrusion on free speech," and that it would "conflict with important principles of our democratic society." Labor leaders called it the "slave-labor bill." But, while it did have a negative effect on labor unions, in spite of that, labor unions grew. And their success, along with the great results of Roosevelt’s New Deal, enabled the American Middle Class grew large and great.
That’s why Reaganism was designed to wipe out the New Deal, and also destroy labor unions.
There are many other reasons why Reagan damaged America and caused suffering and hardship, but his actions against the workers of this country and against the poor and the working poor were the worst. And his policies, like Bush’s, were grossly hypocritical, because while they were purported to be Christian, they certainly did not treat the least of our brethren as they would treat the Lord, as the Christ Jesus said we should do. In fact, they were cruel and heartless.
Now, yet another myth about Reagan is that he was always amiable and liked everyone. But, in fact, Reagan possessed an ugly mean streak, and his political career really fits the definition of a demagogue who stirs up the emotions and appeals to the pride, prejudice and hate of a lot of people to serve his own partisan political interests.
Ironically, Reagan’s mean streak was exposed long before he became president. It was demonstrated as soon as he became Governor of California back in 1967. For example, it was demonstrated in his disregard for the mentally ill and for all the professionals who cared for them. Reagan demanded steep budget cuts in state hospitals, and he demanded that the mentally ill be released from state institutions if they could be deemed "not harmful to society." In doing that, Reagan started a trend of turning mental patients in state institutions out on the street, which he pushed even harder when he became president.
Consequently, most state government policies now dictate that no matter how mentally ill patients are, as long as they can somehow be deemed "not harmful" they can no longer be cared for in a public hospital or state institution. The rationale of Reaganite Republicans is that "we can't afford to care for them." That's why we see so many mentally ill people on the street, homeless. That's also why we have seen the increasing criminalization of the mentally ill, because many communities find that throwing them in jail is the easiest way to get them off the street.
Reagan’s mean streak revealed itself as soon as he became president too, and history will eventually reveal the truth about him. In fact, it’s been gradually happening for awhile, and that will increase.
For instance, a genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt in March 2013 elicited chilling testimony from Mayan survivors who as children watched their families slaughtered by a right-wing military that was supported and supplied by U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
As the New York Times reported on April 15, 2013, the entire Native Mayan Ixil population was a military target for genocide in a campaign endorsed, supported and funded by the Reagan administration. But of course, the ostensible justification for Reagan and his national security team in 1981 for supplying military aid to the regime of the brutal right-wing dictator of Guatemala was to pursue the goal of exterminating "Marxist guerrillas" and people associated with their "civilian support mechanisms." A very convenient way to justify it.
According to a White House "Situation Room Checklist" dated April 8, 1981: “State believes a number of changes have occurred which could make Guatemalan leaders more receptive to a new U.S. initiative: the Guatemalans view the new administration as more sympathetic to their problems and they are less suspect of the U.S. role in El Salvador."
That of course was a reference to the fact that President Jimmy Carter had not been sympathetic to the right-wing dictators, and also a reference to the Reagan administration’s expanding support for another right-wing dictatorial regime in El Salvador, notorious for slaughtering its political opponents (including Catholic clergy) with the infamous “Death Squads” that were also supported and funded by Reagan. (And Reagan also supported cruel and murderous dictators in many other countries as well, claiming that they were not dictators but good leaders who were merely "fighting the communists" -- a misleading rationale and justification Reagan successfully sold to many Americans.)
Sure enough, Reagan created a bloodbath in Berkeley, and while today all conscientious and reasonable Americans would condemn such violent brutality against protesters, at the time all the Reaganites and most Republicans cheered.
That is very significant, because in doing that, Ronald Reagan exacerbated the violent right-wing reactionary confrontations that had swept across America in the 1960s — first in reaction to the civil rights movement and demonstrations, then in reaction to the anti-war demonstrations and marches all across the country. All that conflict and violence caused a tremendous amount of grief, despair and suffering. And when it peaked with the brutal police riots against anti-war demonstrators in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, then with Reagan’s crackdown on the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley in 1969, and then with the killing of student protestors at Kent State in 1970, it left the country deeply divided and terribly polarized. And no wonder. It was horribly brutal and violent abuse of power.
Reagan's mean streak is also evident in the "anti-crime" initiatives he pushed as president, because Reagan's ideological bent politicized criminal law issues. The result was unforgiving legislation known as the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which ushered in both procedural and substantive laws that are terribly unfair and continue to haunt the administration of federal criminal justice. It severely restricts the discretion of judges, and results in terribly unfair prescribed minimum sentences.
But, perhaps the most damaging thing Reagan did was to claim that government was the problem. That served the interests of the wealthiest few, big business and large corporations, at our expense. Advocating "deregulation," entitlements and tax cuts for the wealthy, Reagan started a trend that has had a devastating effect during the last 30 years, because it increasingly granted wider corporate license and free rein, which enabled horrible abuses of the power of money.
Reaganism enabled and allowed terrible shirking of corporate responsibility, and this has consequently affected our lives in innumerable negative and devastating ways due to the resulting corporate greed and corruption. The corporate scandals of the 1990s and 2000s and the financial crisis caused in 2008 by predatory lenders, banks and financial institutions are merely symptoms of all the greed and corruption, and they were like the tip of a huge iceberg.
The Reaganite "corporate welfare gravy train" ensured maximum corporate profits, and enabled the incomes of corporate executives and chief executive officers (CEOs) to skyrocket to incredible heights during the last twenty years. In fact, just in the decade of the 1990s, CEO income rose 481 percent! The combined pay of America's five highest paid CEOs in 1999 was a staggering $1.2 billion, and the average CEO in America is now paid about five hundred times the average employee's wages.
To show you the rate of increase, back in 1980 the average CEO of a major corporation was paid 42 times more than an average American worker. By 1990, CEOs were paid 85 times more than workers. By 1999 (after Congress was controlled by Republicans for just five years), CEOs were paid 476 times more than the average worker. And that trend continued and got even worse due to Republican abuse of power. (See the articles on Poverty: America’s Hidden Shame and The American Economy for some other relevant information and statistics.)
All this speaks to Ronald Reagan's real legacy and record, and an accurate and full history will reveal that. It will also reveal that George W. Bush not only continued but expanded Reaganite policies and caused even more harm and injustice. That is why we must repudiate Reaganism, Bushism, the "Christian Right," the so called "Tea Party" Libertarian Movement, and the right-wing Neo-Conservative Movement, once and for all -- because it's not a matter of "politics." It's a matter of what's rights and what's wrong -- and even though Reagan was very charming, he was dead wrong.