So, after reading all the comments on my initial diary about Reagan, found here, I realized that to take out Reagan's image is a serious challenge. Reading comments by conservatives on the Internet, Reagan is the unifying force behind the conservative message. He is almost their George Washington. Well, I like cutting down cherry trees and I like a challenge. Let's start chopping.
In this diary, I will examine each of Reagan's claims to fame and why conservatives like him so much, and I'll tear those apart. Let's start at the beginning of his campaign. One of the things that made Reagan so popular as he was campaigning was his ability to speak in terms of unification for the party. Let's look at this quote from when he accepted his party's nomination:
“More than anything else, I want my candidacy to unify our country, to renew the American spirit and sense of purpose. I want to carry our message to every American, regardless of party affiliation, who is a member of this community of shared values... For those who have abandoned hope, we’ll restore hope and we’ll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again!”That quote right there is the beginning of his divisiveness of the American public into "them" and "us". Confused? Let me explain. What I take away from this quote is that the past Presidents had failed at making America great. Sadly, that was not the case. Nixon may have had plenty of problems, we all know that, but he did do some good for this country as well. He helped create the Environmental Protection Agency, he opened the way to communist China, as well as creating the U.S. policy of detente with the Soviet Union, which was a big plan on how to bring the Cold War to an end. Ford continued these policies after Nixon resigned until the Republican Right forced him to abandon detente to appease them. Carter put more emphasis on human rights into U.S. foreign policy, which helped bring about an end to the Soviet Union. He also warned America that their growing dependence on foreign oil was a national security threat. He created a comprehensive energy policy for the country, which would have led us to making hard choices but becoming more independent. Sadly, national corporate interests sabotaged these plans and ushered in Ronald Reagan.
Ronald Reagan taught us that our biggest fears were from African-American welfare queens (mentioned in my previous diary), threats from Central America, Moscow's evil empire "expanding", and the government being too large. Some of these threats are still believed today. Let's break down each of these threats and examine them for reality below the orange Cheeto.
First threat, African-American welfare queens: As mentioned in my previous diary, yes, this incident did occur truthfully. If you are interested, you can find out more on Linda Taylor, the "welfare queen", here, in this article from Slate, by Josh Levin. One thing everyone should know, is that he did not coin the phrase "welfare queen". He just popularized the term from the Tribune when they reported on Linda Taylor. However, this was hardly a rampant case of massive welfare fraud throughout the country. It was rather, an isolated incident. Due to Reagan trumpeting this out every time he made a speech, however, this became the common perception of people on welfare, which enabled him to cut the budget for welfare and food stamps throughout his Presidency. How was he so successful in brainwashing a country into believing things like this? Simple. He used broad generalities, which sounded good, but had no specific outline for plans, nor data to back these plans up. Example:
"We must revise or replace programs enacted in the name of compassion that degrade the moral worth of work, encourage family breakups and drive entire communities into a bleak and heartless dependency."This is a direct quote from him to Congress when telling them to cut the programs that many depended on. There was no data backing him up when he said that these programs encourage family breakups or drive entire communities into a bleak and heartless dependency. In fact, welfare has been proven to do the opposite. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program has been historically aimed at helping single-mother families. Food stamps and Medicaid traditionally help single-mother families more than dual-parent families. What this says to me, is that it encourages families to break up so they can receive benefits they would not normally qualify for, if they were together. I would like to see data that being on welfare encourages families to break up. If you have that data, I would be happy to add it here, in the interest of fairness. The beliefs about the welfare queen persist to this day and stereotype every meaningful discourse on social programs. More can be read in a Harvard report,here.
Second threat, Central America: In his zeal to protect Central America from communist forces that were, let's face it, no big threat to us, he ended up supporting dictators that led bloodbaths. There is more blood on Ronald Reagan's head than most Presidents ever got before that time. During Carter's Presidency, he created an economic embargo against Guatemala for its military violating human rights. However, during Reagan's time in office, he reversed that policy and encouraged the sale of arms to Guatemala, even though he knew that people were being massacred by the Army. According to a report by the Historical Clarification Commission, they claim that
"the conflict claimed the lives of some 200,000 people with the most savage bloodletting occurring in the 1980s."When the panel reviewed only 20% of the dead civilians, they found that the army was responsible for 93% of the killings and the leftist guerrillas could only be blamed for three percent. Yup. Just three percent. So, with this knowledge, you would think that Reagan would have helped the people avoid the massacres or, at the very least, tell the army to back off on massacring the people. Sadly, no. He actively suppressed journalists from reporting on these massacres as well as encouraging tamed journalists by rewarding them with more access. He also gave more military hardware to them as well. Central America was a complete debacle. An interesting story about Reagan during this time can be found here, at Consortium News. Most of what I have said can be found here and backed up in the comments section by people who actually lived in Guatemala during that time.
Third threat, Moscow's evil empire expanding: Most people believe that Reagan was the president solely responsible for taking down the Soviet Union. In fact, that's not true. Nixon was the one responsible for helping create the policy of detente, which is what helped bring about the downfall of the Soviet Union. Also, in the 70's, it was widely known by America's intelligence agencies that the Soviet Union was failing because the economic model had failed trying to keep up with our technology race in the West. Even spies within the Soviet Union have supported this view that the Soviet Union was heading toward collapse. This was all laid out, to Nixon, by the CIA's analytical division, which is why the policy of detente was created in the first place. Ronald Reagan had nothing to do with it. He is not a hero for "vanquishing the evil empire!" He didn't do anything but ride the coat tails of people who actually did all the work. Enough said.
Fourth threat, too-large government: Here are some of his quotes for government.
"The size of the federal budget is not an appropriate barometer of social conscience or charitable concern."or this one...
"Government growing beyond our consent had become a lumbering giant, slamming shut the gates of opportunity, threatening to crush the very roots of our freedom. What brought America back? The American people brought us back -- with quiet courage and common sense; with undying faith that in this nation under God the future will be ours, for the future belongs to the free."I find all these quotes ironic, considering he increased the defense budget from 23.2 percent to 32.6 percent. If you are trying to reduce government, you reduce the budget. How do you do that? Hmm... how about cutting military expenditures? In a quote by the New York Times, in 1986, reporter Robert Pear outlines his proposal for government reduction:
"* Federal loans to build rental housing for the elderly and handicapped, which total $490 million this year, would decline to $385 million next year and to $74 million in 1991.What I noticed in these listings is that the military is being increased, energy programs are being reduce, communities are being denied aid more and more, pollution control programs are being reduced, but hazardous waste management is up! Also, to those who mention that the budget for food stamps and child nutritional programs was increased by 1991 also fail to notice that population increased at that time, so the budget would increase. Even Reagan wouldn't be that crazy.
* Federal spending for training and employment programs, $5.2 billion this year, would be reduced to $4.5 billion next year and $4.3 billion in 1991.
* Spending for pollution control, conservation, national parks and water resources, which totals $12.9 billion this year, would decline to $12 billion next year and to $10.7 billion in 1991. The budget for cleaning up hazardous waste sites, $471 million this year, would rise to $771 million next year and $1.1 billion in 1991.
* Federal grants for construction of sewage treatment plants, which amount to $2.8 billion this year, would decline to $2.4 billion next year and $1.3 billion in 1991.
* The budget for the National Institutes of Health would be reduced from $4.9 billion this year to $4.8 billion next year. The number of Federal grants for biomedical research would be reduced from 18,700 in this year to 18,000 next year. The grants average $140,000 to $150,000 a year.
* There would also be a reduction in Federal spending for the education and training of health-care workers, from $455 million this year to $360 million next year and $290 million in 1991.
* Spending on food stamps would be reduced from $12.6 billion this year to $12.3 billion next year. The figure would rise gradually to $13.3 billion in 1991.
* Spending on child nutrition programs would be cut by $704 million next year, leaving $5.8 billion. That would rise gradually to $7 billion in 1991.
* Spending for the main welfare program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and the child-support enforcement program, would decline from $9.7 billion this year to $8.9 billion next year. It would rise gradually to $10.4 billion 1991. Mr. Reagan is again proposing what he calls ''a strong but flexible work requirement'' for welfare recipients.
* Spending on subsidized housing, now projected at $10.6 billion, would be reduced to $9.9 billion this year and to $8.9 billion next year. It would rise to $10.6 billion in 1991.
* The budget drops an earlier proposal to sell the Federal Housing Administration to private investors. Instead, the President proposes to increase premiums charged by the agency for mortgage insurance. These premiums would reduce the deficit by roughly $2 billion a year from 1987 through 1991.
* The community development block grant program, which is providing $3.6 billion of Federal aid to cities and counties this year, would be cut to $3.1 billion next year and to $2.9 billion in 1991.
* Federal spending for energy programs, $4.4 billion this year, would be reduced to $4 billion next year and $3.9 billion in 1991.
* The budget of the Army Corps of Engineers, $2.9 billion this year, would rise to $3.3 billion next year and to $4.1 billion in 1991.
* The budget projects an increase in military retirement costs, from $17.6 billion this year to $18 billion next year and $22.1 billion in 1991, even after cutbacks being proposed by the President. The cutbacks, which are subject to approval by Congress, would save $500 million in 1987 and $820 million in 1991.
* Civil Service retirement costs would also grow, from $24.3 billion this year to $25 billion next year and $29.4 billion in 1991, even assuming that Congress approves cutbacks proposed by the President. The cutbacks would save $674 million this year and $3.2 billion in 1991."
Next diary, the pitfalls of supply-side economics, the damage to the environment, and deregulation!!!
Thank you all for your kind words supporting the creation of my podcast, as mentioned in my previous diary. I wanted to let you know that plans are being formulated as we speak, and the funding will begin soon on Kickstarter!!