Friday, June 11, 2004

The Real Reagan

Tired of the endless adulation of the late President, here are some alternate views:

Nathan Newman, "In Memoriam: Reagan's Victims"

It is indeed a solemn day, when we should reflect on the murder and blood on the hands of Ronald Wilson Reagan.

From those murdered by US-aligned death squads in Central America to the massacres in Lebanon to the funding of Bin Laden and other fundamentalists in Afghanistan to the continued support for war in Angola, Reagan was a busy man fomenting murder and terrorism around the world.

Harold Meyerson, "Class Warrior" Washington Post June 9

however much Reagan helped wind down the Cold War abroad, he absolutely revived class war here at home. Slashing taxes on the rich, refusing to raise the minimum wage and declaring war on unions by firing air traffic controllers during their 1981 strike, Reagan took aim at the New Deal's proudest creation: a secure and decently paid working class. Broadly shared prosperity was out; plutocracy was dug up from the boneyard of bad ideas. The share of the nation's wealth held by the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans rose by 5 percent during Reagan's presidency, while virtually everyone else's declined.

The Nation editorializes:

Reagan once malapropped, "Facts are stupid things." He meant "stubborn," and we hope that they are, and that the facts of Reagan's presidency survive the hagiography now being written. His life, as the cliché-soaked commentators note incessantly, may have been an "American life." But his presidency was no morning in America; it empowered and enabled some of the worst elements of public life in our country: greed, arrogance, neglect and hypocrisy. This Reagan legacy, unfortunately, survives its namesake, and, worse, it has been enhanced by the son of his Vice President.

Marc Cooper in LA Weekly "Reagan Without Tears"

Indeed, none of us know for sure when Reagan came down with Alzheimer’s, but we have certainly experienced the collective amnesia of the American media in these last few days.

Cooper looks at Reagan's criminal policies in Central America and his legacy to the US

What Reagan did accomplish, however, should not be underestimated. While his own actions were not necessarily consistent, he firmly established a new tone and ethos in national politics. The mask of equanimity was ripped off American politics, and the winners in our society were finally given permission to publicly gloat. All of a sudden it was socially acceptable to denounce the poor, to blame the victims, to celebrate and even promote inequality. It was hip to be mean. The golf shirt, martini and cigar replaced the lunch bucket and a cool Bud as the icons of American workaday culture. Reagan’s legacy is best embodied not by the mistaken notion of him as a Strangelovian, bomb-dropping cowboy, but rather as the obedient radio and TV pitchman for General Electric. Fifty years from now, Reagan will be remembered not for lobbing a few missiles at Qaddafi or for funding the contras, but rather for presiding over the most radical transfer of wealth, upward, in the 20th century.

Jonathon Schell says that Reagan should not be credited with ending the cold war. Michael Tomasky in The American Prospect reminds us that Eastern Europeans had something to do with overthrowing Stalinism. He cites historian John Patrick Diggins

"the Eastern European forces of freedom that courageously took to the streets to overthrow communism... represented the three great antagonists of conservatism: the youth culture, the intellectuals of the '60s generation, and the laboring classes that still favored Solidarity over individualism."

Max Sawicky

"Reaganomics" cannot be associated with superior economic performance. The wonders of Reagan's tax cuts are mythic, not real. In no indicator below does the business cycle associated with Reagan and Bush (1980-90) compare favorably to others since 1960....Growth in GDP and productivity were clearly worse in the 80s than before or after. Unemployment was no better than the 70s, worse otherwise

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