Reagan years: A contrarian’s view

June 4, 2009

California abandoned the memory of the guy who worked tirelessly to keep California in the Union during the Civil War, Unitarian Universalist preacher Starr King, replacing his statue in the U.S. Capitol’s pantheon of state heroes (two to a state) with a statue of Ronald Reagan.  June 4 marks the fifth anniversary of Reagan’s passing.

Statute of Thomas Starr King of California, then in National Statuary Hall (U.S. Capitol)

Statute of Thomas Starr King of California, then in National Statuary Hall (U.S. Capitol)

Older son Kenny sent a note today, saying he now understands why I was so troubled by the Reagan years.  Some guy at The Free Speech Zone added it up — it has what AP history classes call a “point of view,” but calculate the serious factual error to fact ratio:

1) Treason: As a private citizen, and BEFORE the election, in contravention of both law and tradition, Reagan’s minions and handlers illegally negotiated with the Iranians to induce them hold the American Embassy hostages until after the elections,to embarrass President Carer and to prevent his successful negotiation of an “October Surprise.” Sent future VP George Bush, Sr., and future CIA chief William Casey to Paris to negotiate the deal.

2) Sent arms, including chemical weapons, to both Iraq and Iran during the decade-long Iran-Iraq war, making those two countries the two biggest US arms trading partners at precisely the time when it was illegal to trade with either due to both US and UN laws.

3) Iran/Contra: Used drug traffickers to transport illegal arms to Nicaragua, ignoring the contraband which was brought back on the return trip, creating  a massive and immediate increase in cocaine trade in urban California. Illegally used the CIA to mine harbors and ferry Contra troops in Nicaragua. Eventually, several administration staffers were convicted of crimes ranging from lying to Congress to conspiracy  to defraud the U.S. The scandal involved the administration selling arms  to  Iran and using proceeds from the sales to fund a guerrilla insurgent group in Nicaragua

4) Created alQaeda in Afghanistan to oppose the Soviet puppet/occupation there

5) Sponsored right-wing, State terrorism in El Salvador,  Honduras, Haiti, and Guatemala against indigenous insurgents who were fighting the dictatorial, hereditary regimes there. Illegally invaded  and occupied Grenada, overthrowing the democratically elected President

6) Lied about ALL of this activity before Congress, and suborned his Secretary of Defense to perjury, as well.

7) Rescinded Carter policy that all US international financial support be based upon valid human rights records.

8) Took the world to the brink of nuclear war, putting nuclear weapons into Europe, violating the very provision that was the settlement to the Cuban missile crisis.

9) Instituted the so-called “Mexico City” doctrine, effectively barring recipients of U.S. foreign aid from promoting abortion as a  method of family planning.

10) Instigated trickle-down/voodoo economics, which was the beginning of what has recently culminated in the crash of the bubbles. Here is a subset of his regime’s economic sins:

a) Within the first year of the policy, we were in a depression caused in large measure by the policy. The “historic” 27% tax-cut was skewed two to one in favor of those making over $200,000 per year, in percentages, and far more in real dollars. By the end of the second year, increases in state and local taxes more than replaced the cuts for the middle class. b) Wages throughout Reagan/Bush remained stagnant in real dollars for the next 12 years, the longest and worst growth performance in middle class wages in US history. Average national growth was the lowest since the early 30s.

c) Conspired with corpoRat and congressional allies to sustain spending by loosening credit, to replace the wages they were  not going to increase.

d) Named Ayn Rand acolyte and free-market apostle Alan Greenspan as Chief of the Federal Reserve.

11) The HUD/DoI Scandals: Samuel Pierce and his associates were found to have rewarded wealthy  contributors to the administration’s campaign with funding for low  income housing development without the customary background checks, and lobbyists, such as former Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt, were rewarded with huge lobbying  fees for assisting campaign contributors with receiving government loans and  guarantees. Sixteen  convictions were eventually handed down, including several members of the Reagan  administration.

12) Appointed some of the “worst” Federalist Society/strict constructionists to the federal bench, including Scalia, Kennedy, and O’Connor, ALL of whose votes were crucial in (illegally) installing GW Bush in the presidency in 2000, and named Rehnquist Chief Justice.

13) Ordered the revocation of the FCC regulation called “the Fairness Doctrine,” and opened up the Press to the rash of consolidations which has led, now, to a compromised, toothless, stenographic, lap-dog “Fourth Estate.”

14) Initiated the attack on labor unions by attacking PATCO, the Air Traffic Controllers union, creating a crisis in airport control towers nation-wide, and importantly, started the slow erosion of US worker wages and benefits.

15) Through the appointment of James Watt, who claimed that the environment was “expendable” since the “second coming of Christ was at hand,”, Reagan reduced clean water and air standards, reduced labor, mine, and industrial safety standards,and cut funding to supervisory and regulatory agencies charged with monitoring those industries.

16) Increased the defense budget to 240% previous levels.

17)  Systematically ignored the beginning of the AIDS/HIV epidemic, blaming the victims publically.

18)The S&L collapse: Reagan’s “elimination of loopholes” in the tax code included the elimination of  the “passive loss” provisions that subsidized rental housing. Because this was  removed retroactively, it bankrupted many real estate developments made with  this tax break as a premise. This with some other “deregulation” policies  ultimately led to the largest political and financial scandal in U.S. history:  The  Savings and Loan crisis. The ultimate cost of the crisis is estimated to have totaled around USD $150 billion, about $125 billion of which was consequently and directly subsidized by the U.S.  government, which contributed to the large  budget deficits of the  early 1990s.

19) Called ketchup a vegetable for the purposes of school-lunch funding and reduced early education and head-start funding.

20) Symbolically ripped the solar panels, installed by Pres. Carter, from the White House,and blamed trees for causing air pollution.

I had thought the savings and loan crisis more the result of Senate Banking Committee Chairman Jake Garn’s doing, but the dates are right.  Nobel Economics Memorial Prize winner Paul Krugman offered some insight there, don’t miss Krugman’s column on our current economic woes.

He didn’t mention the killing of the program to wipe out measles, in the 1981 Budget Reconciliation.  Paltry program cost $3 million a year, should have been done by 1985.  Savings of about $12 million.  Without the program, measles roared back.  I could come up with a half dozen similar stories.

History teachers, got enough for a POV question on Reagan?

Scared yet?


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