During the Reagan administration the American people made the mistake of becoming more enamored with an individual than they were the laws of this land. As a result, America failed to act decisively to curb Reagan’s criminal behavior in office. Now, over twenty-five years later, that failure has come back to haunt us. America now finds itself on the brink of disaster, and badly in need of a moral compass, but what we’re left with is a status quo that was set with criminal intent, and a new norm that says the average citizen is unimportant.
But in spite of that legacy, once again, Republican candidates are falling all over one another trying to demonstrate that they’re the most Reaganesque candidate for president. But what does that mean? What did Reagan really do of significance? The fact is, he did absolutely nothing. Well, let me take that back. He did do one thing—he effectively demonstrated that the American people could be conned into believing that cutting off their nose was in the best interest of their face. And since the very viability of the GOP is dependant upon convincing the American people to undermine their own best interest, that act alone was of immeasurable value to Republicans everywhere.
When you closely examine the Reagan administration, it becomes clear that he did much more to hurt America than any other president in the history of this country—at least, until Bush. First, he got us to buy into Reaganomics, where we accepted the proposition that if we sacrificed ourselves for the benefit of the rich, in the end, their wealth would “trickle down” upon us. Secondly, he committed the treasonous act of selling arms to Iran to fund his misadventure in Nicaragua. And finally, in order to support his private war, he flooded the inner city with crack cocaine, and came close to effectively wiping out an generation of young Black people (Yeah, I know, Nancy—they could have just said no. That attempt at moral justification is probably where the slogan came from).
The Reagan administration’s Supply-Side Economics was a scheme hatch by U.S.C. economist Arthur Laffer and the Reagan crowd which was supposed to cut the deficit and balance the budget. The theory behind Reaganomics was ostensibly, if you cut taxes for business and people in the upper tax brackets, and then deregulated business of such nuisances as safety regulations and environmental safeguards, the beneficiaries would invest their savings into creating new jobs. In that way the money would eventually “trickle down” to the rest of us. The resulting broadened tax base would not only help to bring down the deficit, but also subsidize the tremendously high defense budget. When the plan was first floated, even George Bush, Reagan’s vice president to be, called it “voodoo economics.”
Actually, Reaganomics, for the most part, sought to undo many of the safeguards put into place during the Roosevelt era and create a business environment similar to that which was in place during the Coolidge Administration. What actually took place, however, was even more like the Coolidge era than planed. Instead of taking the money and investing it into creating new jobs, the money was used in wild schemes and stock market speculation. One of those schemes, the leveraged buy out, involved buying up large companies with borrowed funds secured by the company’s assets, then paying off the loan by selling off the assets of the purchased company. This practice destroyed many corporations and cost the citizens of this country an untold number of jobs. In addition, the bottom fell out of the stock market. On Monday, October 19, 1987 the Dow-Jones Average fell 508.32 points. It was the greatest one-day decline in the stock market since 1914—fifteen years before the Great Depression. But far worse, and what we didn’t realize at the time was, it defined the beginning of the end of America as an industrial leader in the world.
In addition, the Reagan administration set a precedent for violating the laws of the land, and the will of the people, by selling arms to Iran in order to fund a Contra rebellion against the sovereign state of Nicaragua. Not only was this action previously made illegal by the Boland Amendment in the United States Congress, but some of those very arms may be killing our troops in Iraq today. And beyond that, in addition to selling arms to an avowed enemy of the United States to fund an illegal war, there is evidence that the administration turned a blind eye, and may have very well have been complicit, in the flooding the inner cities of the United States with drugs, also in pursuit of their efforts in Nicaragua.
The full extent of the horrors committed by the Reagan administration are still shrouded in mystery, since many of the documents were destroyed, and people involved, like Oliver North, were pardoned (sound familiar?). But while America can run from such acts by refusing to acknowledge them, we can’t hide. We’re now paying a severe price for being thoughtless followers instead of engaged citizens. Our parents left us a thriving industrial colossus, but now, we’re leaving our children the hamburger capitol of the world. The bullets that we once sold in secret, are now being pulled from the bodies of our dead troops. And the drugs that we put into our inner cities, may have quite possibly killed the very mind that held the cure for cancer, AIDS, or the salvation of this land.
Yes, we’ve set a new norm in America. The nation that was once widely accepted as the leader of the free world, and that shining light on the hill, is now known for concentration camps, torture, and corruption. The only thing that has trickled down from the Reagan administration, is the attitude that the citizens of this country don’t count. Think about that the next time you hear a Republican say, “I’m a Reagan conservative.” Then ask yourself, is this the America I want to leave my child?
Eric L. Wattree
Eric L. Wattree, Sr. n can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.