When watching the Republican debates for the last several presidential election cycles, I was struck by the religious-like reverence the candidates have for Ronald Reagan, and to be honest this scares the holy hell out of me. It also tells me more than I need to know.
Reagan’s legacy disgusts me, and I hate to think that any of these Reagan admirers would try to imitate him when in office. Keep in mind this is not just liberal scree of Reagan bashing. I find there are plenty of reasons why Conservatives, libertarians and small government types of all stripes, not to mention liberals, and progressives should want to demolish the cult of Reagan and should be highly distrusting of Reagan’s self-proclaimed followers and disciples. His legacy, is one of massive government intervention, hypocrisy, the promotion of superstition, scandal and mass murder.
So where to begin first off for a president who ran on “getting government off our backs” and on the notion that government is the problem rather than the solution he certainly did a lot to expand the role of the U.S. government both domestically and internationally. The supposed deregulation of oil and gas industry, as well as airline deregulation and deregulation of trucking as well as the abolition of the Civil Aeronautics Board, that Reagan fans credit him for actually took place under Carter. As, far as free trade goes, Reagan’s administration, at the time was the most protectionist in history. His administration presided over an increase in tariff’s and import quotas and actually encouraged the Japanese to impose export quotas on microchips and cars. In addition to this he increased price supports (at a great cost to the American tax payer) and production quotas for agricultural products. Whether you agree with any these policies or not, it is quite apparent that none of this is consistent with reducing government, and much of it is more consistent with turning the country into a welfare state for the already rich. Such policies strike me as highly hypocritical.
This is not to mention his highly interventionist and extremely expensive war on drugs or his politicizing of the religious right, which are in many ways the most pro-big unambiguously big-government part of the conservative movement. Reagan’s administration was happy to made sure that the big bad government would consistently remain on the backs of people wishing to smoke a joint, have an abortion, or marry a member of the same sex (all things I think should be basic human freedoms, which the government should stay out of.
Then there is Reagan’s hypocritical fiscal policy. eagan called for reduced government spending and balanced budgets, and of course accomplished neither. Hs administration, in fact, became the least fiscally conservative US, presidential administration, that was ever seen at the time. His administration transformed the United States,from the worlds largest creditor nation to the worlds largest debtor n He essentially tppled the national debt. He turned a roughly900 billion dollar deficit to a $2.85 trillion deficit. I personally, have trouble dismissing the notion that this irresponsible spending was done intentionally, as a means of fighting the expansion of the welfare and regulatory aspects of the government, as well as a means of tying any future Democratic president or congress’ hands. In 1980 Reagan stated “John Anderson tells us that first we’ve got to reduce spending before we can reduce taxes. Well, if you’ve got a kid that’s extravagant, you can lecture him all you want to about his extravagance. Or you can cut his allowance and achieve the same end much quicker.” Indicating that it, defunding the liberal state through wasting money on redundant weapons, prisons spending, support for third world dictators, wars on drugs and agricultural subsidies, was a good idea.
This is one of the parts of the Reagan legacy that bother me most, as the country’s huge national debt, has greatly compromised the standing of this country around the world, probably our quality of life here as well. Furthermore it seems to me highly immoral to intentionally waste money that actually could be used for positive purposes.
Additionally, this seems to be one of the biggest aspects of Reaganism the Republican establishment currently adheres to. The last republican president George W. Bush engage in this tactic and referred to his increased spending with combined with cutting taxes for the rich as “a fiscal straight-jacket for Congress”. Whether, you want a smaller or larger government or not, it is generally recognized that such reckless wasteful spending as a means to getting it, as this is bad for the country and international stability as well.
Then there is his highly interventionist and highly immoral foreign policy. His administration removed Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi state from the official list of terrorist states so he could give it weapons and money. This likely includes the weapons used in the Genocidal Al Anfal Campaign in which 50,000 to 182,000 Kurdish people were murdered. He also, continued the Carter administration’s support of Mujahideen fighters in the Afghan civil, which included Osama Bin Laden. These fighters were deeply Islamist and authoritarian and U.S support for their activities set the stage for the Taliban takeover of that country in the 1990s.
Reagan also, lent his support the highly racist and authoritarian apartheid regime in South Africa as well as military dictatorships throughout the third world including Guatemala, Columbia, the Philippines, Argentina as well as death squads in Angola, Nicaragua and El Salvador. These dictatorships and death squads killed huge numbers of people and committed gross human rights abuses (Reagan’s administration even continued support of the latter after U.S. government backed death squads, raped and murdered four American nuns and a laywoman). In 1999 a U.N. Sponsored report found that t “the American training of the officer corps in counter-insurgency techniques”, under Reagan were a key factor in a “genocide”in which “entire Mayan villages were attacked and burned and their inhabitants were slaughtered in an effort to deny the guerrillas protection.”
These death squads burned over roughly 400 villages and murdered around 200,000 people. Reaganist support of death squads in Nicaragua led to the Iran-Contra Scandal, where it came to light that the Reagan Administration was secretly selling weapons to an enemy state (Iran), and funding the Contras who were known to favor “targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination; kidnapping civilians; torturing and executing civilians, including children, who were captured in combat; raping women; indiscriminately attacking civilians and civilian homes; seizing civilian property; and burning civilian houses in captured towns” according to human rights watch.
All and all Reagan’s was one of, if not the most scandal ridden presidential administrations ever and some 138 administration officials were investigated, indictment, and/or convicted. In many ways, I suspect the actor was largely a talking head representing an administration controlled by business and military elites and setting up a very large and expansive government that worked in their favor. This sort of big government crony-corporatism and deficit militarism is the opposite of the direction this country should go, and it disgust and frightens me that the republican establishment is soenamored with this man.