Sources for the following article came from
truth-out.org, salon.com, wallstreetjournal.com, huffingtonpost.com, and wikipedia.com
Republicans Fail the Reagan Litmus Test
Posted: 06 Jul 2011 04:00 PM PDT
On July 4,
U.S. officials, foreign dignitaries and conservative luminaries gathered
outside the American embassy in London to unveil a $1 million
statue of Ronald Reagan.
As it turns out, the timing was more than a little ironic. Because even as
the Gipper was honored in Britain, it's increasingly clear he would have no
place in today's Republican Party.
Grover Norquist's anti-tax promise
and the Republican Study Committee's
"cut, cap and balance" pledge
draconian anti-abortion oath
of the Susan B. Anthony List, hardline conservative litmus tests are
proliferating at a dizzying pace. And Ronald Reagan would have failed
reanimated Ronald Reagan suddenly appeared in 2011, there is little question
his GOP descendants would brand him a Republican In Name Only (RINO) and
cast off him off into the wilderness. (As California Rep.
Duncan Hunter put it,
"a more moderate/former liberal like Ronald Reagan...would never be elected
today in my opinion.") Here's why:
Reagan tripled the national debt
Reagan raised taxes 11 times
Reagan expanded the size of government
Reagan supported the "socialist" Earned Income Tax
Reagan negotiated with terrorists in Tehran
Reagan sought to eliminate nuclear weapons
Reagan gave amnesty to millions of illegal
Reagan approved protectionist trade barriers
Reagan signed abortion rights law in California
Reagan eventually debunked AIDS myths Republicans
continued to perpetuate
Reagan Tripled the National Debt
As most analysts predicted, Reagan's massive $749 billion
supply-side tax cuts in 1981
quickly produced even more massive annual budget deficits. Combined with his
rapid increase in defense spending, Reagan delivered not the balanced
budgets he promised, but record-settings deficits. Even his
OMB alchemist David Stockman
could not obscure the disaster with his famous "rosy scenarios."
Forced to raise taxes twice
to avert financial catastrophe, the Gipper nonetheless
presided over a tripling of the American national debt
to nearly $3 trillion. By the time he left office in 1989, Ronald Reagan
more than equaled the entire debt burden produced by the previous 200 years
of American history. It's no wonder
Stockman lamented last year:
"[The] debt explosion has
resulted not from big spending by the Democrats, but instead the
Republican Party's embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious
doctrine that deficits don't matter if they result from tax cuts."
would be a big problem for
Utah Senator Mike Lee
and the Republican Study Committee now pushing the government-gutting "cut,
cap and balance" plan. With its draconian limit on federal spending at 18%
President Reagan would have broken that promise
every year he was in office. And the supposed great tax-cutter
would have been in violation of the Constitution's new balanced budget
amendment eight years running.
Raised Taxes 11 Times
the inedible image of Ronald Reagan the tax cutter is "false mythology." (It
is also worth noting that it was
President Obama and
not Reagan who delivered the
largest two year tax cut
in American history.) While Governor Reagan doubled California's state
spending and signed the biggest tax hike up to that point, as President he
raised taxes in seven of his eight years in office. 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."
hagiographer Grover Norquist may be the man behind the
Ronald Reagan Legacy Project
to "to encourage the naming of landmarks, buildings, roads, etc. after the
Gipper." But as he did with Oklahoma reactionary Tom Coburn, Norquist would
have to conclude that the tax-raising Reagan "lied
his way into office."
3. Reagan Expanded the Size of Government
Marking Reagan's 100th birthday earlier this year,
Sarah Palin told the
Reaganauts assembled by the Young Americans for Freedom, "We need to stop
spending and cut government back down to size." If that's the case, her role
model should be
Democrat Bill Clinton and not Republican Ronald Reagan.
USA Today pointed out
five years ago, measured as a percentage of gross domestic product, average
annual federal spending dropped far more under Bill Clinton (-1.8%) than
Ronald Reagan (-0.6%). And as
Slate's Michael Kinsley
explained ten years ago in marking Reagan's 90th birthday:
Federal government spending was a
quarter higher in real terms when Reagan left office than when he
entered. As a share of GDP, the federal government shrank from 22.2
percent to 21.2 percent--a whopping one percentage point. The federal
civilian work force increased from 2.8 million to 3 million. (Yes, it
increased even if you exclude Defense Department civilians. And, no,
assuming a year or two of lag time for a president's policies to take
effect didn't materially change any of these results.)
Under eight years of Big Government Bill Clinton, to choose
another president at random, the federal civilian work force went down
from 2.9 million to 2.68 million. Federal spending grew by 11 percent in
real terms--less than half as much as under Reagan. As a share of GDP,
federal spending shrank from 21.5 percent to 18.3 percent--more than
double Reagan's reduction, ending up with a federal government share of
the economy about a tenth smaller than Reagan left behind.
Lou Cannon aptly
summed it up, "Reagan was no Tea Partier."
4. Reagan Supported the "Socialist" Earned
Income Tax Credit
during and after the 2008 presidential campaign,
Republican candidates and commentators blasted Barack Obama's proposals to
expanded tax credits
as "socialism", "welfare" and worse. If so, they should also be directing
their ire at Ronald Reagan.
virtually all working Americans pay the Social Security and Medicare payroll
increased by President Reagan), many don't
pay federal income tax thanks to the
Earned Income Tax Credit
(EITC). As the
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
noted in 2005, the EITC was not only very successful in lowering poverty,
the provision "has enjoyed substantial bipartisan support. President Reagan,
President George H. W. Bush, and President Clinton all praised it and
proposed expansions in it."
of his conservative heirs now express
disdain for the working poor,
Reagan championed the
refundable Earned Income Tax Credit. As the
recalled in 2006:
Almost 20 years ago, as he signed
into law the tax bill expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, President
Ronald Reagan hailed it as "the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family,
the best job creation measure to come out of Congress."
5. Reagan Negotiated with
Terrorists in Tehran.
Criticizing President Obama as weak on Iran,
Sarah Palin declared in December
that "just as Ronald Reagan once denounced an 'evil empire' and looked
forward to a time when communism was left on the 'ash heap of history,' we
should look forward to a future where the twisted ideology and aggressive
will to dominate of Khomeini and his successors are consigned to history's
That would be the same Ronald Reagan
whose policy consisted of giving the mullahs in Iran a cake, a Bible - and
as you'll recall,
almost laid waste to
the Reagan presidency. Desperate to free U.S. hostages held by Iranian
proxies in Lebanon, President Reagan provided weapons Tehran badly needed in
its long war with Saddam Hussein (who, of course, was backed by the United
States). In a clumsy and illegal attempt to skirt U.S. law, the proceeds of
those sales were then funneled to the contras fighting the Sandinistas in
Nicaragua. And as the
New York Times
recalled, Reagan's fiasco started with an emissary bearing gifts from the
Gipper himself, including "a Bible with a handwritten verse from President
Reagan for Iranian leaders" and "and a key-shaped cake to symbolize the
anticipated ''opening'' to Iran.'"
The rest, as
they say, is history. After his initial denials, President Reagan was forced
to address the nation on
March 4, 1987 and
acknowledge he indeed swapped arms for hostages (video
"A few months ago I told the
American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best
intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence
tell me it is not. As the Tower board reported, what began as a
strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into
trading arms for hostages."
6. Reagan Sought to Eliminate
In late 2010, hard-line Republicans opposed President Obama's new START
treaty calling for joint reductions in the American and Russian nuclear
stockpiles. Sadly for GOP hawks,
it was Ronald Reagan
and not Barack Obama who declared, "my dream is that we become a world free of
And as the
recalled in 2003, Reagan's idealism startled and shocked his advisers and
Driven by this dream, Reagan
embraced Mikhail Gorbachev and initiated a series of negotiations that
ultimately alarmed everyone in his administration. Hardliners like
Patrick Buchanan, Richard Perle, and Caspar Weinberger reacted in horror
to the very idea of engaging the Soviets in such talks, warning against
the "grand illusion" of peace. "Reagan is a weakened president, weakened
in spirit as well as clout," echoed New Right leader Paul Weyrich in The
Washington Post. Administration pragmatists like George Shultz and
Robert McFarlane, who supported negotiations but believed in deterrence,
were shocked by how far Reagan took them. At the Reykjavik summit, he
and Gorbachev almost agreed to the "zero option" to eliminate both
sides' thermonuclear arms. Reagan's unwillingness to give up his
cherished missile-defense program doomed the agreement, though the talks
did yield the signature arms-reduction pact of his presidency, the 1987
7. Reagan Gave Amnesty to Millions
of Illegal Immigrants
Codifying the growing xenophobia within the Republican Party,
the 2008 GOP platform
helpfully highlighted, conservatives are now so eager to hush up RINO
Reagan's history on immigration:
"We oppose amnesty. The rule of
law suffers if government policies encourage or reward illegal activity.
The American people's rejection of en masse legalizations is especially
appropriate given the federal government's past failures to enforce the
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 Approved Protectionist
Ronald Reagan believed in free markets and free trade. Except when he
In 2004, Alan
Tonelson praised what he called
Reagan's "trade realism":
But it was
Reagan's decisive intervention to save legendary American motorcycle maker
Harley Davidson which
drew the ire of conservatives at the time, if not now. The libertarian Cato
Institute groused about the 49.4% import tariff on foreign motorcycles
Reagan authorized in 1983:
Reagan's tactics were flexible.
In autos, machine tools, and steel, his administration subjected foreign
producers to so-called voluntary export restraints. In semiconductors,
Reagan officials negotiated an agreement to secure a specific share of
the Japanese market for U.S. companies, and then imposed tariffs on
Japanese electronics imports when Tokyo briefly refused to keep a
promise to halt semiconductor dumping.
Last spring, the import duties on
large motorcycles were raised drastically. By any economic criterion,
the new tariff is counterproductive, and the Reagan administration was
fully aware of it. The decision is thus an interesting case study in the
political economy of protectionism.
9. Reagan Signed Abortion Rights
Law in California
Despite his paeans to the pro-life crowd, RINO Reagan did very little to
advance their radical anti-abortion agenda. As ThinkProgress summarized his
record on reproductive rights:
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.
Remember that Reagan put Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, who
in Planned Parenthood v. Casey advocated the "undue burden"
standard for protecting women's access to abortion services. For the folks
at the Susan B. Anthony List now waging war on reproductive rights, Reagan
would have been beyond the pale.
10. Reagan Eventually Debunked AIDS
Myths Republicans Continued to Perpetuate
Not wanting to anger his allies on the Christian right when it came to what
they deemed the "gay plague," Reagan remained silent on
the exploding AIDS epidemic
throughout most of his presidency. And when he did speak up in 1985 (as he
did at the urging of staffer and future Supreme Court Chief Justice
John Roberts), Reagan
ignored both basic science and basic compassion in setting back the cause of
truth and public health:
day, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and the chief scientists at
the National Institutes of Health called a news conference to
correct President Reagan's tragic error
and confirm that AIDS was a blood-borne sexually transmitted disease not
spread by casual contact. In what would be the first high-impact celebrity
intervention among Republicans, it took a plea from Elizabeth Taylor to get
Ronald Reagan to deliver
a speech at the 1987 meeting of amfAR,
the American Foundation for AIDS Research:
"I'm glad I'm not faced with that
problem today [sending children to school where another student has
AIDS] and I can well understand the plight of the parents and how they
feel about it...And yet medicine has not come forth unequivocally and
said 'This we know for a fact, that it is safe.' And until they do I
think we have to do the best we can with this problem. I can understand
both sides of it."
years later, then Senate Majority Leader and physician
Bill Frist declined
to say whether he thought HIV-AIDS could be transmitted through tears or
sweat, as a disputed federal education program championed by some
conservative groups had suggested.
And so it
goes. Reviewing the state of the Republican Party, conservative columnist
David Brooks lamented
today that "the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party" which "has
been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a
practical, governing alternative." Given its required pledges and
near-sacred oaths, the Washington Post's
Richard Cohen aptly
called the GOP simply the "Grand Old Cult."
As dangerous and deadly as AIDS
is, many of the fears surrounding it are unfounded. These fears are
based on ignorance... The Public Health Service has stated that there's
no medical reason for barring a person with the virus from any routine
school or work activity. There's no reason for those who carry the AIDS
virus to wear a scarlet A. AIDS is not a casually contagious disease.
We're still learning about how AIDS is transmitted, but experts tell us
you don't get it from telephones or swimming pools or drinking
fountains. You don't get it from shaking hands or sitting on a bus or
anywhere else, for that matter. And most important, you don't get AIDS
by donating blood. Education is critical to clearing up the fears.
Education is also crucial to stopping the transmission of the disease.
A cult, it turns out, that would eject
its former icon, Ronald Reagan. And by so doing, today's Republicans would
fail the Reagan Litmus Test.
more debunking of the right-wing mythology surrounding Ronald Reagan, see
these recent articles from the
CBS. For the
definitive account of the conservative revisionist history project, see Will
Bunch's excellent book,
Tear Down This Myth.)
Ronald Reagan's first budget director
talks about the long-term fiscal consequences of the 1980s
Former President Reagan signs the
Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981
It is difficult to think of any
single person more qualified to trace the roots of today's massive
budget deficits, Republican tax cut fundamentalism, and overall
dysfunctional government than David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's first
Stockman arrived at the
White House in 1981, part of a new administration ferociously
determined to cut taxes and cut spending in pursuit of the "Reagan
revolution's" primal goal of smaller government. But as reported in
William Greider's legendary 1981 Atlantic magazine profile,
"The Education of David Stockman,"
nothing quite proceeded according to plan. Reagan cut taxes while
boosting spending, and we've been living with the consequences ever
Stockman is currently working
on a book about the financial crisis, and on Thursday he spoke with
Salon about what happened in the 1980s, and how the economic
decisions made during the Reagan era connect directly with where we
are today. To provide some context for the interview, he also
provided his own short written analysis of the Reagan economic
record, which is including here in abridged form.
Revolution was a Lincoln Day Dinner speech. It never happened in
the real world of fiscal policy. During the 1980's, Big
Government got bigger and the Federal tax burden was just
shuffled, not reduced. The main fiscal legacy of the Reagan era
is that the Federal debt was raised from $1 trillion to $3
trillion. Unfortunately, when the economy rebounded after
Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker's conquest of runaway
inflation, Republicans embraced the dangerous shibboleth that
deficit-financed tax cuts are good for growth.
spending went up is that there was no reform of the big
entitlements like Social Security and Medicare and not a single
department or function of government was eliminated.... Further,
many of the initial cuts in discretionary programs were restored
over the years, and the cost of interest on the ballooning
Federal debt rose significantly.
The tax burden
rose during the Reagan era as well. Specifically, when Reagan
left office Federal taxes accounted for 18.4 percent of GDP -- a
figure slightly higher than the 1960-80 average of 18.0 percent.
More importantly, nearly half of the massive 1981 tax reduction
-- festooned as it was with every manner of special interest tax
breaks that K-Street lobbyists could conjure -- was recouped
during the next four years in a series of annual deficit
reduction bills that a bi-partisan majority was able to persuade
the President to sign.
At the end of the
day, during the 1980s income tax rates were lowered, the tax
base was broadened through loop-hole closing and the 1986 tax
reform act and the payroll tax was raised by a full percentage
point of GDP as part of the 1982 Social Security rescue plan. On
net, however, there was no reduction in the total Federal tax
burden during the Reagan era. What survived was an anti-tax
religious catechism which has left the country with two free
lunch parties and no prospect of responsible fiscal governance.
I wasn't sure what a
"Lincoln Day Dinner" was so I
did some Googling
and discovered that it is an annual Republican event that in some
regions has now been renamed Reagan Day. The rebranding
seems to fit nicely into your metaphor: Reagan is remembered as the
president who said government was the problem, and he pledged to cut
both taxes and spending, but at the end of his term government was
bigger, and the national debt had exploded. Given the facts, what
explains the persistence of Reagan's legacy?
Political rhetoric can last
for decades, notwithstanding a dramatic change in the underlying
facts. To go to the other party, there are a lot of Democrats who
are still talking about the glories of the New Deal or the Great
Society, and neither of those rhetorical formulations are relevant
to 2011 or the decade ahead either. It's only when there is some
dramatic change in circumstances that a new formulation or a new
creed appears. That hasn't happened yet but it will, because I think
the next decade is going to be about continuous fiscal crises and
it's going to be about a continuous effort to raise taxes to close
this gap, which will be highly uncomfortable for both parties but
soon will be unavoidable.
Unavoidable? How so?
Except for one short period during the Clinton administration,
Congress and the White House have been very successful at avoiding
any such reckoning -- a habit that dates at least as far back as the
Reagan administration. What makes the present any different?
One of these days, the
global bond market is going to react pretty negatively to the
continued fiscal excesses in the United States. When that happens
the market vigilantes will impose the same discipline as the state
level constitutions that require balanced budgets are imposing today
at the local level.
But why hasn't that
happened yet? Economists like Paul Krugman argue that the bond
market is more worried about the slow economy than it is about the
debt, so it makes sense to take advantage of low borrowing costs and
stimulate the economy in the short term.
I think that is sheer
dreaming. The reason that the crisis has not yet come is that the
Fed's policy for the last two or three decades has been to stimulate
U.S. consumption beyond what we could pay for in our production and
earnings. That created an equal and opposite imbalance among the
mercantilist Asian exporters, who wanted to rapidly grow their
economies by building up their export industries. We had nothing to
pay for their shipments with, and so they loaned us the money. The
fact that China today has $2.9 trillion worth of reserves is just a
measure of how sick and distorted the system is.
At some point that system is
going to break down, and I think it's near that point now. In fact
the largest owner of U.S. debt is no longer China, it is the Federal
Reserve, which now owns 11 percent of all Treasury debt -- about
$1.1 trillion worth. To stimulate the economy the Fed is buying $8
billion or $10 billion of Treasury debt every business day -- that's
as much as is being issued -- and it is keeping interest rates
inordinately low. The negative thing about all this is that it has
given a terrible signal to the politicians, who believe that new
debt is essentially free. Why are you going to make any tough,
painful choices when it seems like you can just fund the government
like that, and it's not going to cost anything? I think that's an
illusory signal and a prescription for disaster. When the debt costs
start rising, the cost of carrying all the debt you've accumulated
starts to soar, and and we're walking right into the trap.
You keep making
references to a time scale of "two or three decades." In an Op-Ed
you wrote for the New York Times last year, you called the easy
money era "a 30-year period of phony prosperity." You've also said
that the "insidious doctrine that deficits don't matter if they
result from tax cuts" dates back three decades. Doesn't that place
responsibility for the political failure to balance our books and
pursue a responsible monetary policy squarely within the eight years
of the Reagan administration?
The wrong lesson was
taken from the 1980s. We didn't cut back government at all;
government got bigger. We didn't reduce the tax burden, we just
avoided increases. But the conclusion was drawn that there was a
great prosperity in the 1980s due to the Reagan tax cut. I don't
believe that at all. I believe that the expansion that we had for a
few years was due to the fact that Paul Volcker's Fed crushed
inflation. Had we stayed on a disciplined monetary track, the
subsequent decades might have turned out better. But instead in
1985, we had the
in which we trashed the dollar to boost our own exports. I think
that was a purely unilateral nationalistic policy designed to
stimulate the U.S. economy, regardless of the impact on the world
monetary system or on our trading partners. It began a process that
lasted for 25 years. The Fed became the underwriter of prosperity
that wasn't real.
Who do you blame for
that? The White House? Congress?
I blame the White House in
the mid-'80s. Volcker was running decent monetary policy, but he was
forced into backing the Plaza Accord.
Reagan deserve any of the blame?
Well, I don't think so,
really. To the extent that Reagan focused on monetary policy, he
believed in the gold standard, if anything. So I can't fault him for
easy money. But I can say that his advisors, particularly James
Baker, when he went to Treasury, had sort of a Texas attitude toward
money, and that is you can never have low enough interest rates.
I was in college
during Reagan's first term, and coming from a very liberal family I
was predisposed to be critical, and I was driven a little crazy by
the gap between Reagan's rhetoric and the political reality on the
ground. But looking at Congress today ...?
That was a small gap
compared to today. Rhetoric has become utterly detached from the
facts and reality. Republicans think they can solve the $1.5
trillion deficit problem with spending cuts when they can't even
come up with $50 billion in cuts that they are willing to make.
And you think the
only cure for this detachment from reality will come from the bond
I think there will be
massive dislocations. There won't be just one. It will be chronic.
The world bond market will become increasingly unstable, and there
will be a persistent trend toward higher and higher interest rates.
There will be crises from time to time that will require emergency
fiscal action. Congress will paper together grudging measures to
restrain spending and raise new revenue, but it will never be
enough, and another episode will follow. That's baked into the cake
for the next 10 years.
You've written that
the Wall Street bailout "in essence repudiated the entire Reagan
revolution." What do you think about the thesis that the
deregulatory impulses that received such a huge boost under Reagan
contributed to Wall Street's recklessness ... and laid the
groundwork for the financial crisis?
The only thing that was
seriously deregulated during the Reagan era was banks, and that was
the wrong thing to deregulate. Surface transport deregulation was
started by Carter and we finished it, airline deregulation was
already done by the time we came in. And those were the right things
to do. But in the case of financial institutions, banks are not free
enterprise businesses, they are wards of states, they have the right
to create money out of thin air. They have to be regulated, and they
have to be kept out of the speculative use of deposits that are
guaranteed by the taxpayer, by the FDIC. And in the '90s, the
Clinton administration joined in on this, with the elimination of
Glass-Steagall and all of the other remaining restraints on the
banking system. That was a tragic, terrible error; it was a
confusion of the free market with a set of institutions that are
inherently dangerous. And as a result of bad monetary policy
interacting with the deregulation of depository banking you created
a witches' brew that ended up predictably in the meltdown of 2008.
Sounds like we've
just stumbled on the thesis of the book you are writing about the
What do you think
about the comparisons that pundits like to make between Obama and
I think it's inappropriate.
Reagan was an optimist by nature, it was built into his temperament.
But he also was a man of deep conviction, who had built up certain
fundamental beliefs about public policy over decades, going all the
way back to his college days in the 1920s. If there was any fault,
it was an unwillingness to recognize that these great convictions
were not being implemented. And that's very different from Obama. I
can't see the man has a single principle. I think he is an utter
opportunist, a pragmatist. The only change you can believe in is
that he changes his mind every day and every week. If he believes
that the upper 5 percent has way too much income and wealth --
which, frankly, I agree with -- then he should have dug in his heels
and said, "I am not going to sign a bill to extend the tax cuts for
the top tax bracket." What did he do? He folded like a lawn chair
within two days. So I don't think there's any comparison at all. I
thought his State of the Union speech was dreadful -- I called it a
"ponderous procession of pieties and platitudes." He didn't ask the
American public for one sacrifice, didn't warn us of one dark cloud
on the horizon, and simply gave a lot of cheerleading hoopla that
had almost no connection with the real choices that, unfortunately,
Ronald Reagan grew up in Dixon, Illinois. His father was a
alcoholic, and his mother a enabler. His first job was that of a lifeguard, on the Rock River. Over the course of seven summers, Reagan was credited with saving 77 lives, only 66,923 less than were murdered in El Salvador and Honduras by death squads he supported during his Presidency. Granted, some of those people
also had it coming.
In 1948, Ronald Reagan divorced his Oscar-winning wife Jane Wyman, and replaced her with the less talented, but more pregnant Nancy Davis.
Reagan famously adored and depended on
his wife Nancy, but was somewhat less enamored of their children,
particularly Ron, Reagan’s namesake son.
Reagan started his show business career in radio. In the 1930’s, he was the announcer for the Chicago Cubs, bringing them the incredible good luck that would lead to championship after championship in the ensuing century.
After passing a Warner Brothers screen test, he enjoyed a B-movie career that,
if you were a film historian, you might describe as “David Spadey” or “Spadian.”
In November of 1941 after completing an Army home-study course, Ronald Reagan enlisted and was placed in active duty, but got disqualified for overseas service because of astigmatism, which can be faked by squinting really hard.
Instead he was moved into the Army Air Force 1st Motion Picture Unit” in Culver City, California.
Despite being America’s most famous conservative, Reagan actually began life as a New Deal Democrat. He began to turn away from the Democrats, however, when they aligned themselves with the burgeoning civil rights movement. "I didn't leave the Democratic Party", Reagan later claimed, "The party left me.” (Probably at a Whites Only water fountain.)
Reagan began his political
career as a liberal Democrat, admirer of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and
active supporter of New Deal policies, but in the early 1950s he shifted
to the right and, while remaining a Democrat, endorsed the presidential
candidacies of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 as well as Richard
Nixon in 1960. His many GE speeches—which
he wrote himself—were non-partisan but carried a conservative,
pro-business message; he was influenced by
a senior GE executive. Boulware, known for his tough stance against
unions and his innovative strategies to win over workers, championed the
core tenets of modern American conservatism: free markets,
anticommunism, lower taxes, and limited government. Eventually, the
ratings for Reagan's show fell off and GE dropped Reagan in 1962.
That year Reagan formally switched to the Republican Party, stating, "I
didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me."
Reagan opposed certain civil
rights legislation, saying "If an individual wants to discriminate
against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his
right to do so". He later reversed his
opposition to voting rights and fair housing laws. He strongly denied
having racist motives. When legislation
that would become Medicare was introduced in 1961, Reagan created a
recording for the American Medical Association warning that such
legislation would mean the end of freedom in America. Reagan said that
if his listeners did not write letters to prevent it, "we will awake to
find that we have socialism. And if you don't do this, and if I don't
do it, one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years
telling our children, and our children's children, what it once was like
in America when men were free."
Reagan endorsed the campaign
of conservative presidential contender Barry Goldwater in 1964. Speaking
for Goldwater, Reagan stressed his belief in the importance of smaller
government. He revealed his ideological motivation in a famed speech
delivered on October 27, 1964: "The Founding Fathers knew a government
can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when
a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to
achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing."
This "Time for Choosing" speech raised $1 million for Goldwater's
campaign and is considered the event that
launched Reagan's political career.
Reagan first began his civil service to famous, wealthy people as the president of the Screen Actors Guild in the 40’s and 50’s. Naturally, this made him a prime candidate for governor of California, which he won entirely on an anti-hippie, anti-hobo platform.
California Republicans were
impressed with Reagan's political views and charisma after his "Time for
nominated him for Governor of California in 1966. In Reagan's campaign,
he emphasized two main themes: "to send the welfare bums back to work,"
and in reference to burgeoning anti-war and anti-establishment student
protests at the University of California at Berkeley, "to clean up the
mess at Berkeley." He was elected,
defeating two-term governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, and was sworn in on
January 2, 1967. In his first term, he froze government hiring and
approved tax hikes to balance the budget.
Shortly after the beginning
of his term, Reagan tested the presidential waters in 1968 as part of a
"Stop Nixon" movement, hoping to cut into Nixon's Southern support
and be a compromise candidate if neither
Nixon nor second-place Nelson Rockefeller received enough delegates to
win on the first ballot at the Republican convention. However, by the
time of the convention Nixon had 692 delegate votes, 25 more than he
needed to secure the nomination, followed by Rockefeller with Reagan in
Reagan was involved in
high-profile conflicts with the protest movements of the era. On May 15,
1969, during the People's Park protests at UC Berkeley, Reagan sent the
California Highway Patrol and other officers to quell the protests, in
an incident that became known as "Bloody Thursday."
Reagan then called out 2,200 state National Guard troops to occupy the
city of Berkeley for two weeks in order to crack down on the protesters.
Symbionese Liberation Army
Patty Hearst in
Berkeley and demanded the distribution of food to the poor, Reagan
joked, "It's just too bad we can't have an epidemic of
Early in 1967, the national
debate on abortion was beginning. Democratic California state senator
introduced the "Therapeutic Abortion Act," in an effort to reduce the
number of "back-room abortions" performed in California.
The State Legislature sent the bill to Reagan's desk where, after many
days of indecision, he signed it. About two
million abortions would be performed as a result, most because of a
provision in the bill allowing abortions for the well-being of the
mother. Reagan had been in office for only
four months when he signed the bill, and stated that had he been more
experienced as governor, it would not have been signed. After he
recognized what he called the "consequences" of the bill, he announced
that he was pro-life.
He maintained that position later in his political career, writing extensively about abortion.
Despite an unsuccessful
attempt to recall him in 1968, Reagan was
re-elected in 1970, defeating "Big Daddy" Jesse Unruh. He
chose not to seek a third term in the following election cycle. One of
Reagan's greatest frustrations in office concerned capital punishment,
which he strongly supported. His efforts to
enforce the state's laws in this area were thwarted when the Supreme Court of California
People v. Anderson
decision, which invalidated all death sentences issued in California
prior to 1972, though the decision was later overturned by a
constitutional amendment. The only execution during Reagan's
governorship was on April 12, 1967, when
sentence was carried out by the state in
San Quentin's gas
In 1969, Reagan, as Governor,
signed the Family Law Act which was the first no fault divorce
legislation in the United States.
Reagan's terms as governor helped
to shape the policies he would pursue in his later political career as
president. By campaigning on a platform of sending "the welfare bums
back to work," he spoke out against the idea of the welfare state. He
also strongly advocated the Republican ideal of less government
regulation of the economy, including that of undue federal taxation.
Reagan did not seek
re-election to a third term as governor in 1974 and was succeeded by
Democratic California Secretary of State Jerry Brown on
January 6, 1975.
After losing Presidential
nominations in ’72 and ’76, Reagan finally beat rivals Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush to become his party’s candidate in 1980. He kicked off his campaign by giving a speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the place three civil rights workers had been famously murdered in the ’60’s, advocating “states' rights.” Instead of starting a riot, everyone just elected Reagan President. Times had changed.
Reagan’s campaign capitalized on his opponent Jimmy Carter’s perceived weaknesses (recession, unemployment, inflaon, soaring gas prices, hostages in Iran, Billy), and he won 91% of the electoral vote. At 69, Reagan became the
oldest person ever elected President.
As president, Reagan
implemented sweeping new political and economic initiatives. His
supply-side economic policies, dubbed "Reaganomics," advocated reducing
tax rates to spur economic growth, controlling the money supply to
reduce inflation, deregulation of the economy, and reducing government
spending. In his first term he survived an assassination
attempt, took a hard line against labor unions, and ordered military
actions in Grenada. He was reelected in a landslide in 1984, proclaiming
it was "Morning in America." His second term was primarily marked by
foreign matters, such as the ending of the Cold War, the bombing of
Libya, and the revelation of the Iran-air. Publicly describing
the Soviet Union as an "evil empire," he
supported anti-Communist movements worldwide and spent his first term
forgoing the strategy of détente by ordering a massive military buildup
in an arms race with the USSR. Reagan negotiated with Soviet General
Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, culminating in the INF Treaty and the
decrease of both countries' nuclear arsenals.
• Ronald Reagan appointed the Supreme Court’s most famous woman, Sandra Day O’Conner, and its most famous misogynist,
• He survived an assassination attempt in 1981, while Press secretary James Brady, got shot in the head.
• In 1984, Reagan controversially led Operation Urgent Fury where the United States invaded Grenada after he became concerned that the world’s second largest producer of nutmeg would fall into communist hands.
• In the early 80’s, President Reagan illegally sold arms to America’s once and future enemy, Iran. Reagan used the profits to fund the Contras, Nicaraguan rebels. They, in turn, used the money to kill more Nicaraguans. Reagan then pretended not to remember what he did. His role in this act inadvertently led to the worst show ever created: Equal Time with Paul Begala and Oliver North.
• He was nicknamed "The Great Communicator" for his uncanny and unique ability to communicate to the average person the need to kick single, black mothers off welfare.
His famed supply-side economic policies have been variously referred to as “Reaganomics,” “trickle down economics,” “voodoo economics” and “can you spare some change, sir?”
Reagan is also credited with ending the Cold War by people who don’t understand that he more or less showed up while it was already ending and shouted, “Everybody into the hot tub!”
His inaction during the early stages of
the AIDS epidemic also led to the “trickle down” of autoimmune disease.
Towards the end of his life, Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. While embryonic stem cell research promises to yield a cure for the deadly illness, it was de-funded by Reagan’s conservative heir, George Bush. Ironically, or not ironically, the former President died of Alzheimer’s complications before the Democrats took back Congress and re-funded stem cell research.
Reagan's personal diaries were published in May, 2007.
an article by William Rivers Pitt in Truth-out.org on Wednesday 09
We know we should
be immune to this by now, but we still find ourselves awestruck by the
incredibly detailed, insulated fantasy world that the American
conservative "movement" has created for themselves. No lie is too
big to be told, no fact is too firm to be bent around ideology, no
myth is too absurd to defend to the knife. The ability to spew
deliberate nonsense into the credulous ears of Fox-watching
right-bent voters - and to be utterly without shame while doing it -
is the core of this "movement's" political muscle, and has been for
a number of decades now.
president's 100th birthday opened the floodgates for an ocean of
nonsense to be dumped on the American people.
He was a great leader,
the conservative's conservative, a small-government hero who
deserves a place on Mt. Rushmore.
"supply side" economic model was the gateway drug that led
inexorably to the collapse of the American economy two years ago,
and yet his conservative acolytes - as well as far too many
Democrats who should know better - still cling to that economic
model as if it were holy writ.
raised taxes massively, and grew the federal government enormously,
while sending the country spiraling into a morass of debt we are
nowhere near recovering from, and yet his worshippers continue to
tout him as the perfect "small government" man.
and his people sold shiploads of weapons to Iran even as they
supported Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in his war against the Islamic
Republic. Ronald Reagan and his people basically created the
Taliban, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan as a means of
carrying on the Cold War fight against the Soviet Union, and yet
today his conservative followers cling to a "War on Terror" as their
sword and shield.
Didn't hear any
of this during the Reaganapallooza, did you? No surprise.
Why let the following facts:
a terrible president who bears a great deal of responsibility
for today's national problems.
president who exploded the debt and the size of government.
president who supported known terrorists and rogue nations with
money and materiel even as they were killing Americans.
Get in the way
of a perfectly good story line.
That's the kind
of comfort bubble these people live in, and it must be a nice place
to be, because they refuse to be budged out of it one centimeter.
The Reagan worship we witnessed is merely a iteration
of an ongoing phenomenon: the creation of a parallel story line -
nay, a parallel universe - to satisfy the already-calcified opinions
of the far-right GOP base.
example of this is the Tea Party "movement," which is nothing more
or less than a creation of the "news" media. There is no Tea Party;
the term is a re-branding of that same GOP base, and nothing more.
By way of vast corporate cash infusions from entities like the
these Tea Party dupes were fooled into believing they are a force
for the common man, for the worker, for truth and justice and the
American way, and even managed to get some of their so-called
representatives elected to Congress in 2010...but it didn't take
long for the mythology to start unraveling.
are bad" was the 2010 campaign refrain,
but the very breathing second these Tea Party House members hit
their seats in Congress, earmarks suddenly became no big deal, and
now they are hardly discussed outside of the cloak room.
creation?" Nah. The newly-minted GOP
House majority instead went to work trying to
redefine what rape is
in order to attack abortion rights, before backing off amid a storm
of outrage and protest.
"Push to repeal
the health care bill", which,
like the attack on abortion, is about throwing red meat to the base
instead of actually getting anything done.
Reality, the gulf between right-wing rhetoric and actual activity
has not gone unnoticed:
majority is bringing only a handful of bills to the floor, and none would be characterized as major legislation. Four
of the five measures will be considered under a procedure
generally reserved for non-controversial legislation; the fifth
is a resolution that merely instructs committees to review
federal regulations for their impact on job growth.
leaders contend it doesn't amount to much.
return Tuesday from a week and a half of recess for another
light legislative agenda in the House of Representatives,"
Kristie Greco, spokeswoman for the assistant Democratic leader,
Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), wrote in a note to reporters over the
weekend. "Perhaps if House Republicans had a jobs agenda, the
schedule would be more robust."
scoffed at the resolution on federal regulations, saying the GOP
planned to spend 10 hours debating a bill that "instruct[s]
oversight committees to conduct oversight."
the criticism, a group of 10 Democratic committee leaders on
Monday sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) denouncing
the resolution as superfluous and a waste of time.
floor schedule that the Republican majority has pursued and
intends to pursue this week will create no jobs," the
Democrats wrote. "Indeed, spending two days, and taxpayer
dollars, on a resolution calling on our committees to perform
oversight functions that they are already authorized to conduct
distracts from our efforts to create jobs."
everyone on the right is in love with the fiction that permeates and
props up the "movement." Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado
Republican Party, decided recently to abandon his re-election bid to
keep his post. Why? "I have tired," he
wrote in a memo
to party officials, "of those who are obsessed with seeing
conspiracies around every corner and who have terribly misguided
notions of what the role of the state party is while saying 'uniting
conservatives' is all that is needed to win competitive races across
the state." He was even more blunt with the Washington Post:
"I have loved being chairman, but I'm tired of the nuts who have no
grasp of what the state party's role is."
for the rest of us, people like Mr. Wadhams are the exception that
proves the rule. The rich fantasy life enjoyed by the right - Reagan
was great, the Tea Party is a "movement" for the little guy, and the
new GOP House majority will be a force for good - continues