Reagan as Magician
Part II: the Presidential
Wizard took over the oval office in 1980. He was handsome, gave
boffo speeches, looked great on TV, and made Americans feel good
about themselves. As long as you kept your eye on his ready, friendly
smile, and listened to his words you just knew we had a president
that was going to make America great again! We knew that unlike
those "tax-and-spend' Democrats, his tax cuts, increased military
spending, and getting off the back of business was going to bring
prosperity, security, and a bright future for us all.
While he was
president the press refused to push Reagan on hard issues because,
as we were told, Reagan had the quality of "Teflon". Dirt
wouldn't stick because he was "one of the most popular presidents
in history". Those of us who thought of him as one of the worst
presidents in history were made to feel slightly crazy. We felt
isolated in our opinions and tended to pull into our shells. It
is interesting, though, how objective data can pull back the magician's
curtain. As last week's article by David Chandler documents in detail,
Reagan was among the least popular, but most polarizing presidents
in recent memory.
office, he pushed his "Reaganomics" theories based on
giving big tax breaks to the rich and letting the rest of the country
fight for the crumbs that fell from the banquet table. This was
called "voodoo economics" by his primary opponent, soon
to be running mate George Bush the elder, and became labeled "trickle
down theory" by David Stockman, Reagan's budget director, who
later jumped ship in disgust.
Where did the
Reagan administration get the money to finance their spending spree?
They BORROWED it! When the government borrows big money, the country
as a whole spends the next umpteen years paying interest to the
few ultra wealthy investors who dominate the bond markets. It's
a way to hobble future administrations who might want to spend something
on social programs and pay off your rich backers all at the same
time. The debt Reagan incurred is not paid back today, and is growing
daily. Your great, great grandchildren will still be paying on it...we
cannot even start to keep up on the interest! So much for fiscal
responsibility. This is more than a right-left issue! Reagan came
in with a national debt of $94,000,000,000. ($94 billion). When
he left office, he had run it up to $4,330,000,000,000 (4.3 TRILLION!),
nearly 50 times larger! America had a good time on the false prosperity,
never giving a thought to who was going to have to pay for it.
love to use the term "flip-flop" as a pejorative, but
Reagan, their hero, was a master of the flip-flop, having flipped-flopped
from being a liberal Democrat to being a reactionary Republican,
from having flip-flopped from a responsible fiscal conservative
to being a wild-eyed irresponsible kid with a credit card. Then
he flip-flopped from believing in democracy to supporting some of
the worst and most brutal dictators around the world (like Marcos,
Rios-Montt, Duarte, Duvalier, and Saddam Hussein). He flip-flopped
from believing in the rule of law to believing in ignoring it both
at home (defying and lying to Congress) and abroad where the World
Court found the US guilty of terrorism against a country with which
we were not at war (Nicaragua).
He also armed
and trained the fundamentalist Islamic Mujahedeen (including one
Osama Bin-Laden) to fight the powerful Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
He flip-flopped from his position that we should never deal with
people who take hostages to secretly sending arms to Iran in a deal
to secure the release of 50 American hostages Iran had held for
a year...stretching out their captivity just long enough to ruin
Democrat Carter's chances of re-election (they were released at
the very moment Reagan was being sworn into office...what a surprise).
And then there was Central America.
flip-flop involved his position of "The War on Drugs"
to "The War paid for by Drugs". The illegal crusade against
independence movements in Latin America conducted by the Reaganites
dwarfed the scandal in Iran. Nicaragua was the centerpiece of his
"anticommunist" proxy wars waged against the people in
Central America. Funding for these "covert operations"
came largely from the CIA getting a cut of the pie for protecting
and abetting drug smugglers, bringing cocaine into the U.S. by the
ton, putting millions into the funding of the "Contras",
the Reagan-backed army trying to overthrow the Sandinista revolution
in Nicaragua. The idea of the ends justifying the means was current,
and many restrictions, legal and moral, were trashed, and many,
many thousands of Central Americans died thanks to the generous
By the end
of his term of office, 138 of the Reagan Administration officials
had been investigated, indicted, or convicted for misconduct and/or
criminal activities, mostly relating to the Iran/Contra operations.
One defense of Reagan was that nobody told him. I have always thought
the captain of a ship was somehow responsible for knowing what was
going on with his crew. The excuse that the President didn't know
that all the hanky-panky going on below decks while he was on the
bridge never quite cut it for me. If he knew, he was among the guilty.
If he didn't, he was criminally incompetent. Which was it?
was another rallying cry for the Reaganites. This means that the
government was going to turn over the hen house guard duty to the
foxes. The results of pulling the government watchdogs off the back
of the Savings and Loan industry cost us billions of dollars when
the deregulated thieves looted their businesses and got taxpayers
to foot the bill!
today why so many Americans worship Reagan. Personally, I think
they worship the image, and never look to see the man behind the
curtain. General Electric Corporation, one of our biggest war contractors
and corporate criminals put Reagan under contract for eight years,
paying him to host their TV playhouse show and to give anticommunist
speeches at the dinners of rich businessmen (the "mashed potato
circuit"). GE now owns three of the four major TV networks,
which are giving surprisingly little negative coverage of the Reagan
years. Another Reagan masterpiece was to deregulate the media, which
allowed just a few big rich corporations to gain control over most
of what we read, watch, and listen to. Goodbye informed voters.
(Thank God for the Internet and the Tule Times, which they do not
leaders chosen from industry to subvert the government agencies
that were supposed to regulate those industries. Anti-environmentalists
were selected protect the environment. Lumber industry people were
given control of the national forests, and so on. America was up
for sale, and it was the American people who wound up paying for
it in the long run.
It would take
a lot more space than I have here to finish off the list of Reagan
disasters, from the appointment of extreme right judges, to support
for white supremacy in the American South and Apartheid in South
Let us hope
that Americans will learn a lesson from the Reagan years. Right
now, "image" is everything. Californians even elected
a Viennese weight lifter governor based on his image alone! He did
not have to take a stand on anything. We go for the appearances,
not substance. If we never learn to look behind the curtain in the
Emerald City and see what is REALLY going on, we are going to be
played for suckers by good-looking, smooth-talking con men until
there is nothing left to save of this great country. I hope that
we can start informing ourselves and judging our leaders by what
they DO instead of what they SAY! I hope history will remember Reagan
for what he did, not just for his fatherly "nice old man"
image on the TV.
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