Ronald Reagan, in my estimation, was a nightmare. He is adored as a grandfather like figure who transformed America, whilst his equally as evil minion, Thatcher “transformed” Britain. A Corporate bitch at best, a war criminal for what he did with Guatemala at worst. Reagan once commented on Guatemala:
“President Ríos Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment. … I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice.”
President Rios Montt, staunch anticommunist, and funded almost entirely by the Reagan administration, was according to a Roman Catholic investigation, guilty of commanding widespread torture, rape, political murders and genocide against the indigenous population if they happened to show left wing sympathies.
Greg Grandin, a reputable historian found that:
“In Nicaragua, the U.S.-backed Contras decapitated, castrated, and otherwise mutilated civilians and foreign aid workers. Some earned a reputation for using spoons to gorge their victims eye’s out. In one raid, Contras cut the breasts of a civilian defender to pieces and ripped the flesh off the bones of another.”
Quite ironically, one of America’s most wanted terrorists, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, was funded almost exclusively by the Reagan administration, whilst also given full immunity for cocaine trafficking, people trafficking and other horrific offences, purely because he didn’t really like the Soviets either.
Whilst Reagan was quite happily knowingly funding rape, death, and genocide over in Latin America; back in America he was launching an all out assault on organised labour. His Chief of Staff (ex-chairman of Merrill Lynch, and vice chairman of the New York Stock Exchange) Donald Regan helped build policy around this new Neoliberalist ideal. In 1981, air traffic controllers went on strike to demand better working conditions. 12,000 in all. When 12,000 people go on strike, ones instant reaction is that perhaps management isn’t all that great. 12,000 people are not holding the industry to ransom; the management is holding the people to ransom. Reagan didn’t see it that way. He had them all fired. As a result, management could now just replace striking workers, meaning workers didn’t dare speak out against poor working conditions. Which meant that management could do whatever the fuck they wanted. The median real wage did not grow, during the entire 1980s. But, the gap between rich and poor more than doubled, and the homeless rate was at the highest in decades. As a result of his tax cuts for the rich, the deficit reached record highs. After forcing a recession on the American public, he then managed to cut Federal low income household funds, by 84%.
What about the middle class? According to research undertaken by Wallace Peterson, author of “The Macroeconomic legacy of Reaganomics“, The middle class share of the economy in 1980 was 61.7%. In 1985, that had shrunk to 58.2%. Similarly, the poverty rate under President Carter reached a peak of 12.1% before falling to 11.9% by the end of his term in Office. Under Reagan, between 1981-1986, the poverty rate shot up to 14.7%. Unemployment under Carter started falling and finished at 7.5% by the end of his term. Between 1981-1986, under Reagan, unemployment shot up to 8.1%.
Under Obama, the unemployment rate has dropped from 10% to 9.7%, whilst U.S. Department of Commerce states that 4th quarter GDP growth went from 5.7% to 5.9%, the best rate of growth in seven years. Obama doesn’t have Fox News on his side, Reagan still does. That’s the difference.
What Reagan essentially did, with his ideal of cutting the size of government and slashing aid to those who needed it most, was to bankroll the rich, spit on the poor, create a new class of homeless people, and use this new smaller government (which in fact, had more federal employees than any government before it) to undertake the task of destroying any left wing opposition in Latin America. That was the American Government’s new mission. Constitutional? Apparently so, if you ask Republican America.
Economist Mark Weisbrot is quoted as stating that Reagan’s economic policies were “mostly a failure”. Free-market-failure-denial-sufferers, will never accept that Reagan was an utter failure. Weisbrot goes on to point out that: “The median wage was flat, and there was a massive redistribution of income, with wealth going to the top one or two percent of the population”
Was he the most popular President of the past century as some conservatives would have us believe? No. He never reached the 90% approval rating that even George W Bush and his father achieved, and Bill Clinton managed roughly the same rating during his two terms, surpassing Reagan in the second half of each of their terms.
The hysteria about the debt and stimulus across the U.S, is crippling the recovery. America needs more stimulus. As does Britain. It didn’t go far enough. What the World doesn’t need, is another Reagan or Thatcher propagating the rumour that neoliberalism is the only way out of recession, because for millions upon millions of people, it certainly isn’t. During a recession of such huge proportions, a lack of easily affordable healthcare (a universal system), lack of a safety net, and lack of foreclosure federal help, means the majority is far more at risk from financial ruin and psychological depression. One of the many reasons i’ll never vote Conservative.
Reagan’s legacy was one of homelessness, selfishness, arrogance, lack of compassion or empathy, hate, Corporate greed, death, and misery. All in the name of an economic policy disastrously known as “trickle down”. History will remember both him and Thatcher as little beacons of horror and misery. That’s all.
Obama now needs to man up, recognise that he’s President, recognise that the Democrats control Congress, and make sure the Republicans – as well as being a laughing stock for the entire World – know that they are largely irrelevant now.