The Last Refuge of Failure is Myth: The REAL Ronald Reagan

Reagan Hood Image

When a political party is absent of achievement, they must rely on myth.

That being the case, Republicans are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth as if it was the birth of their savior, rewriting the history of failed “Trickle Down” policies that have turned the once vibrant American middle class into economically insecure Serfs.

Elevating Ronald Reagan to sainthood is a survival mechanism for the Republican Party, whose policies have also had the results of turning the US into the least upwardly mobile with the widest income gap of all industrialized nations.

But this downward spiral for the working class is not a problem to Republicans.

Republicans believe in a ruling elite who owns and runs everything and a large pool of cheap labor underneath them to exploit…

As Journaisimo wrote in “So Long Reaganomics, You Won’t Be Missed

“I wonder if CEOs for big pharma and health insurance companies sit around drinking scotch and laughing their asses off watching YouTube videos of all the boobs rallying to protect their positions of power.

I mean think about it, the Tea Partiers fought tooth and nail to protect health insurance companies so they can deny them – the protesters – health care, to take away their health care when they need it and to bankrupt them when they get sick.”

To peddle their trickle-down snake oil to the suffering masses, Republicans are forever in search of a spokesman (or woman) to be the friendly face of fascism, leading the former middle class into compliant Serfdom.

For example, Wayne Slater, author of “Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush” Reported that when Karl Rove met George W. Bush he told his friends, “’I can make him president of the United States,'” He didn’t say, “This man really should be President!”  He knew what all the Republican establishment knows… image is everything – especially when your designs are… let’s just say… greed-centered, far from altruistic and abysmal failures in the eyes of the majority of the population.

Given the lack of long term memory in the American psyche, by the time Reagan sought the office of the Presidency, many people had forgotten the world prior to the New Deal and came to view their new economically secure station as a consequence of “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps” rather than the natural outcome of protectionist trade policies, tariffs, high marginal tax rates and collective Union bargaining.

Into this memory hole stepped Ronald Reagan who, with a big shout out to “state’s rights”, felt confident launching his Presidential campaign in the town where three civil rights workers — Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman — were murdered in 1964 – as a dog whistle call to racists who, forgetting the struggles of the past, had begun to self-identify with the “upper class” and could be manipulated into turning against the poor (read “brown people”) who, they were told, were only out for the “handouts” courtesy of our hard-won social safety net.

So, if FDR was the revolutionary whose policies created a strong middle class for generations, Ronald Reagan was the counter-revolutionary whose attacks on those policies can be directly traced to the collapse of the American Dream.

Just look at the numbers (Courtesy of Dave Johnson: From the post Reagan Revolution Home To Roost — In Charts)

“In each of the charts below look for the year 1981, when Reagan took office. Conservative policies transformed the United States from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation in just a few years, and it has only gotten worse since then:

USA net international investment position

Working people’s share of the benefits from increased productivity took a sudden turn down:

This resulted in intense concentration of wealth at the top:

And forced working people to spend down savings to get by:

Which forced working people to go into debt: (total household debt as percentage of GDP)

None of which has helped economic growth much: (12-quarter rolling average nominal GDP growth.)

(read the original post at Campaign for America’s Future, which includes the Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series.

Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling
Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation

Liberal talk show host and author Thom Hartman broke it down,

“when Reagan came into office we were the largest exporter of manufacturing goods and the largest importer of raw materials on the planet. And, the largest creditor–more people owed us money than anybody else in the world.  Now, just 28 years later, we’re the largest importer of finished goods, manufactured goods; the largest exporter of raw materials–which is kind of the definition of a third-world nation — and we’re the most in-debt of any country in the world. This is the absolute consequence of Reaganomics.”

But it’s all about appearances.  The truth is, by the time FDR was elected to his third term, Republicans were already desperate to find someone to compete with his legacy.  The difference is, FDR’s legacy is real and Ronald Reagan’s is a concoction even Republicans themselves don’t understand.

For instance, a liberal caller left Rush Limbaugh stammering to explain the Conservative ideation of a “a tax raiser, an amnesty giver, a cut-and-runner, and he negotiated with terrorists.”

The scary thing for American is that President Obama also feels the need to reinforce the Republican brand and endorse the Reagan Myth.

Paul Krugman wrote,

“Bill Clinton knew that in 1991, when he began his presidential campaign. “The Reagan-Bush years,” he declared, “have exalted private gain over public obligation, special interests over the common good, wealth and fame over work and family. The 1980s ushered in a Gilded Age of greed and selfishness, of irresponsibility and excess, and of neglect.”

Contrast that with Mr. Obama’s recent statement, in an interview with a Nevada newspaper, that Reagan offered a “sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”

Maybe Mr. Obama was, as his supporters insist, simply praising Reagan’s political skills. (I think he was trying to curry favor with a conservative editorial board, which did in fact endorse him.) But where in his remarks was the clear declaration that Reaganomics failed?

For it did fail. The Reagan economy was a one-hit wonder. Yes, there was a boom in the mid-1980s, as the economy recovered from a severe recession. But while the rich got much richer, there was little sustained economic improvement for most Americans. By the late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they had been a decade before — and the poverty rate had actually risen.

When the inevitable recession arrived, people felt betrayed — a sense of betrayal that Mr. Clinton was able to ride into the White House.

Given that reality, what was Mr. Obama talking about? Some good things did eventually happen to the U.S. economy — but not on Reagan’s watch.”

Obama’s tacit endorsement of failed policies may appease his incessant compulsion to kiss Republican ass, but it does nothing to ensure that the working people of America will ever be restored to it’s former glory, for to truly overcome a problem, we must face reality no matter whose Emperors are revealed to have no clothes.

As Will Bunch wrote this week in an op-ed for CNN.com:

Both the towering slab of stone — and the untruths told in its shadow — epitomize what Ronald Reagan has become as the nation prepares to celebrate his centennial on February 6: Not a real flesh-and-blood man, but a myth. And this is not a harmless myth, but a political fairy tale that has brought disastrous real-world consequences for America and its citizens for more than a decade.

In the name of the Gipper, the nation has not only encouraged unbalanced budgets and corporate greed beyond anything that Reagan would have imagined or condoned, but waged a bloody war in Iraq that Reagan biographers such as Lou Cannon, who covered him for three decades, agree he would have never supported.

Instead of acknowledging that Reagan’s 1980s presidency has been misrepresented to create disastrous policies in the 21st century, the body politic is doubling down on the Gipper — on both sides. The Republican presidential sweepstakes for 2012 is shaping up as a competition for who can cite Reagan most often, while the Obama has been said to be engrossed in Cannon’s exhaustive and balanced portrayal of Reagan’s up-and-down presidency, “Role of a Lifetime.”

More truth from the Daily Kos:

“Reagan was a divisive figure with very average approval ratings, who started his eight-year run with a surge in unemployment and ended with a scandal so serious that nearly a third of Americans thought he should resign. It was the 1980s, when the fictional words of Gordon Gekko that “greed is good” rang true for too many Americans, when a disastrous deregulation of the savings-and-loan industry foreshadowed the financial mayhem done in his name.

Today, with Reagan dead for nearly seven years after a decade out of view due to Alzheimer’s disease, the Republican Party has sold a huge chunk of the electorate — many too young to remember Reagan’s presidency — on a man who did not exist: A man who only cut taxes (he raised them almost every year of his presidency); who shrank the size of government (he increased it); who caused an American economy revival (while turning the nation from a creditor nation into a debtor nation); and who single-handed won the Cold War (although in a 1989 USA Today poll, before all the myth-making, 43 percent of Americans credited Mikhail Gorbachev for the collapse of the Berlin Wall and just 14 percent credited Reagan). Simply put, a myth.

So, on this anniversary of the birth of the Class War’s front man, let’s remember the truth. Even Reagan’s own Budget Director David Stockman is currently doing the media rounds explaining the failure of Reaganomics. Whereas, until Reagan got a hold of them, liberal policies improved the lives of Americans, so much so that many of today’s Republicans trip over each other trying to position themselves as the protectors of the policies their historical counterparts -including Ronald Reagan – fought to prevent.

Think Progress has also put together a list of 10 Things Conservatives Don’t Want You To Know About Ronald Reagan

Tomorrow will mark the 100th anniversary of President Reagan’s birth, and all week, conservatives have been trying to outdo each others’ remembrances of the great conservative icon. Senate Republicans spent much of Thursday singing Reagan’s praise from the Senate floor, while conservative publications have been running non-stop commemorations. Meanwhile the Republican National Committee and former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich are hoping to make few bucks off the Gipper’s centennial.

But Reagan was not the man conservatives claim he was. This image of Reagan as a conservative superhero is myth, created to untie the various factions of the right behind a common leader. In reality, Reagan was no conservative ideologue or flawless commander-in-chief. Reagan regularly strayed from conservative dogma — he raised taxes eleven times as president while tripling the deficit — and he often ended up on the wrong side of history, like when he vetoed an Anti-Apartheid bill.

1. Reagan was a serial tax raiser. As governor of California, Reagan “signed into law the largest tax increase in the history of any state up till then.” Meanwhile, state spending nearly doubled. As president, Reagan “raised taxes in seven of his eight years in office,” including four times in just two years. As former GOP Senator Alan Simpson, who called Reagan “a dear friend,” told NPR, “Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times in his administration — I was there.” “Reagan was never afraid to raise taxes,” said historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited Reagan’s memoir. Reagan the anti-tax zealot is “false mythology,” Brinkley said.

2. Reagan nearly tripled the federal budget deficit. During the Reagan years, the debt increased to nearly $3 trillion, “roughly three times as much as the first 80 years of the century had done altogether.” Reagan enacted a major tax cut his first year in office and government revenue dropped off precipitously. Despite the conservative myth that tax cuts somehow increase revenue, the government went deeper into debt and Reagan had to raise taxes just a year after he enacted his tax cut. Despite ten more tax hikes on everything from gasoline to corporate income, Reagan was never able to get the deficit under control.

3. Unemployment soared after Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts. Unemployment jumped to 10.8 percent after Reagan enacted his much-touted tax cut, and it took years for the rate to get back down to its previous level. Meanwhile, income inequality exploded. Despite the myth that Reagan presided over an era of unmatched economic boom for all Americans, Reagan disproportionately taxed the poor and middle class, but the economic growth of the 1980′s did little help them. “Since 1980, median household income has risen only 30 percent, adjusted for inflation, while average incomes at the top have tripled or quadrupled,” the New York Times’ David Leonhardt noted.

4. Reagan grew the size of the federal government tremendously. Reagan promised “to move boldly, decisively, and quickly to control the runaway growth of federal spending,” but federal spending “ballooned” under Reagan. He bailed out Social Security in 1983 after attempting to privatize it, and set up a progressive taxation system to keep it funded into the future. He promised to cut government agencies like the Department of Energy and Education but ended up adding one of the largest — the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which today has a budget of nearly $90 billion and close to 300,000 employees. He also hiked defense spending by over $100 billion a year to a level not seen since the height of the Vietnam war.

5. Reagan did little to fight a woman’s right to chose. As governor of California in 1967, Reagan signed a bill to liberalize the state’s abortion laws that “resulted in more than a million abortions.” When Reagan ran for president, he advocated a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited all abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother, but once in office, he “never seriously pursued” curbing choice.

6. Reagan was a “bellicose peacenik.” He wrote in his memoirs that “[m]y dream…became a world free of nuclear weapons.” “This vision stemmed from the president’s belief that the biblical account of Armageddon prophesied nuclear war — and that apocalypse could be averted if everyone, especially the Soviets, eliminated nuclear weapons,” the Washington Monthly noted. And Reagan’s military buildup was meant to crush the Soviet Union, but “also to put the United States in a stronger position from which to establish effective arms control” for the the entire world — a vision acted out by Regean’s vice president, George H.W. Bush, when he became president.

7. Reagan gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants. Reagan signed into law a bill that made any immigrant who had entered the country before 1982 eligible for amnesty. The bill was sold as a crackdown, but its tough sanctions on employers who hired undocumented immigrants were removed before final passage. The bill helped 3 million people and millions more family members gain American residency. It has since become a source of major embarrassment for conservatives.

8. Reagan illegally funneled weapons to Iran. Reagan and other senior U.S. officials secretly sold arms to officials in Iran, which was subject to a an arms embargo at the time, in exchange for American hostages. Some funds from the illegal arms sales also went to fund anti-Communist rebels in Nicaragua — something Congress had already prohibited the administration from doing. When the deals went public, the Iran-Contra Affair, as it came to be know, was an enormous political scandal that forced several senior administration officials to resign.

9. Reagan vetoed a comprehensive anti-Apartheid act. which placed sanctions on South Africa and cut off all American trade with the country. Reagan’s veto was overridden by the Republican-controlled Senate. Reagan responded by saying “I deeply regret that Congress has seen fit to override my veto,” saying that the law “will not solve the serious problems that plague that country.”

10. Reagan helped create the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. Reagan fought a proxy war with the Soviet Union by training, arming, equipping, and funding Islamist mujahidin fighters in Afghanistan. Reagan funneled billions of dollars, along with top-secret intelligence and sophisticated weaponry to these fighters through the Pakistani intelligence service. The Talbian and Osama Bin Laden — a prominent mujahidin commander — emerged from these mujahidin groups Reagan helped create, and U.S. policy towards Pakistan remains strained because of the intelligence services’ close relations to these fighters. In fact, Reagan’s decision to continue the proxy war after the Soviets were willing to retreat played a direct role in Bin Laden’s ascendency.

Read the rest at Think Progress.

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