Conservatives this week have been on a lying love-fest to commemorate the 100th birthday of Republicans’ man-turned-god, Ronald Reagan. Everyone from Sarah Palin to Newt Gingrich to Republican Senators on the floor of the Senate have praised the addle-brained B-movie actor-turned-governor and then President as the ideal of conservatism. Although Reagan is touted as the ultimate conservative, his record as governor of California and President belies the neo-conservative narrative of low taxes and small government. What Reagan did accomplish was to usher in an era of business first, people second that has continued to 2011, and is singularly responsible for the ongoing destruction of the middle-class and elevation of corporatism and theocracy to the detriment of America.
Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times, nearly tripled the federal budget deficit, gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants and their families, increased the size of the federal government, and presided over an unemployment increase after cutting taxes for the rich but raising them for the middle class and the poor. Republicans and conservative groups are hard-pressed to admit to those aspects of the Reagan presidency, but regardless their efforts to rewrite history, the records are there for all to see.
During the Reagan presidency, he was responsible for helping to destroy unions for big business and is directly responsible for mining disasters in West Virginia where he assisted Don Blankenship of Massey Energy to prevent unions from protecting coal miners. Despite historical truth that union membership helped create the middle class in America starting after the Second World War, Republicans are continuing their narrative that unions are responsible for the economic woes the country is facing today.
The conservative notion that cutting taxes creates jobs and increases revenue is ongoing from the Reagan era and during his first year in office when he cut taxes, the government went deeper into debt and despite raising taxes 10 more times he was never able to rein in the federal deficit. His economic policies are still the stuff of legend for conservatives, but instead of helping American families, he was responsible for an income disparity that saw average incomes for the top wage earners triple or quadruple while the median income has risen only 30% (adjusted for inflation).
The rise of the religious right in America is in part due to Reagan’s deal with the devil (moral majority) by giving them a voice and a foothold in politics in exchange for their voting bloc. Reagan’s unholy alliance with the likes of Jerry Falwell has been a thorn in the side of women’s rights and religious freedom that continues to this day with Republicans making every attempt to restrict a woman’s right to choose in the 112th Congress.
What must be a source of embarrassment for Republicans and conservatives is Reagan’s creation of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. Reagan was responsible for funding, training, arming, and equipping the Islamist mujahidin in Afghanistan as a means of combatting the former Soviet Union. Reagan was responsible for channeling billions of dollars and sophisticated weapons through Pakistan’s intelligence agency that is still responsible for helping the Taliban to kill Americans in Afghanistan and the border region with Pakistan.
It is curious why Republicans have elevated Ronald Reagan to god-like status when history shows he presided over what is arguably a period of criminal activity and economic despair for millions of Americans. Reagan’s administration illegally sold arms to Iranian officials in exchange for American hostages despite an arms embargo in place at the time. If it wasn’t bad enough selling arms illegally, Reagan secretly used some of the proceeds to fund anti-Communist rebels in Nicaragua that was directly prohibited by Congress.
Ronald Reagan’s tenure as California governor does nothing to add to his mystique as a humanitarian because he committed one of the worst atrocities on mentally ill Californians that the State is still dealing with today. Reagan closed all of California’s State Hospitals that were the primary care mental health facilities, and put the patients on the streets without any care or safety nets. California’s streets are still the home for those mental patients who have not since died from lack of care or are not in prison. Besides putting the mentally ill on the streets, Reagan’s actions put thousands of health professionals out of a job further costing the state tax revenue.
Republicans can profess Ronald Reagan’s greatness as the epitome of conservative idealism but they are in denial of the truth about the man. His lack of political experience allowed his underlings and corporate masters to dictate policy that America is still suffering from in 2011. He was not a fiscal conservative and besides raising taxes, he increased the size of the federal government much like subsequent Republican administrations and it has cost the American people dearly.
Perhaps Republicans are not in denial and are counting on memory loss from those who lived through the Reagan years or the ignorance of young Republicans who worship the image of Reagan instead of his horrendous record. When one considers the damage that Reagan allowed his Cabinet to wreak on America because his brain had turned to mush, the man conservatives idolize is just a puppet for corporations and banks like Republicans today. Reagan’s legacy will forever be cemented in American lore as a bad president and destroyer of the American dream and no amount of revisionist history will change that.
The man is dead, but his record lives on for truth-seekers to refer to when looking for the origin of today’s conservative movement. History is supposed to be the great teacher so intelligent human beings do not repeat past mistakes, but like the addle-brained half-wit Ronald Reagan, Republicans in 2011 are not intelligent and are apt to repeat the same failed policies of their idol and it continues to be a source of shame for decent Americans. Republicans could certainly find a better leader to unite behind than a mentally challenged B-movie actor, but then again, Republicans are all just B-movie actors and bad for America.