Former President Ronald Reagan was the front man for the resurgent Predatory 1 Percent in 1980, when it began the long process of replacing our representative democracy with today’s plutocracy.
The professional actor was the standard bearer for the “greed is good” crowd of robber barons and toxic corporate trusts. The same crew of sheltered County Club Commandos which set the stage for The Great Depression during The Gilded Age and is now in control of The White House and U.S. Congress.
Reagan was the first spokesmodel president. He is remembered today by the Wingnuts of the far right as “The Great Communicator.” A kind grandfatherly figure who brought the folksy wisdom of western icon John Wayne to Washington, D.C.
However, the Machiavellian political consultants who make a living misleading working class Americans cherish Reagan for being the modern snake oil salesman he really was. For being a homophobic class traitor with the ability to sell the masses on elitist policies which redistributed our society’s wealth and tax burdens, enriching the Predatory 1 Percent at the expense of the middle class.
Chief among those policies was the euphemistically entitled “Trickle Down Economics.” A simple money grab built around Reagan’s demonstrated ability to lie convincingly and the knowing fiction that wide-based economic growth can be stimulated by making the rich even richer.
The underlying premise of Trickle Down was that if the federal government lavished tax breaks on the rich they would spend the additional dollars on goods and services that would create jobs for the rest of it.
George H. Bush – Geedub’s daddy – dismissed this knowing lie as “voodoo economics” when he ran unsuccessfully against Reagan for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination.
The painful truth is that giving more money to the super rich is actually the single most ineffective way to stimulate economic growth via consumer spending.
Because the rich already have everything money can buy. They want for nothing.
Rich people don’t run out and buy cars and homes, or pay off debt, when presented with a windfall. Instead, they typically save the money or invest it.
Hence the “voodoo” in voodoo economics.
By contrast, poor people put money to work almost immediately. They make long delayed purchases of consumer goods and services, enroll in college, take long delayed trips, and pay off their credit cards and phone bills before they save and invest.
Those expenditures put other Americans to work. They also increase the velocity of money in our economy – aka the speed with which dollars change hands.
Which is why our economy boomed under The New Deal social safety net erected by the labor/progressive coalition after The Great Depression.
The same social safety net the far right is now busily dismantling thanks to Reagan.
It all began with his 1981 federal income tax cuts.
The cuts were the beginning of the greatest transfer of wealth, not just in American history, but in HUMAN HISTORY. For the first time in people’s lifetimes, tax dollars actually began to move from the poor and middle class to the wealthiest Americans.
The well off became wealthy, the wealthy became super rich, and the super rich became billionaires.
Meanwhile, many of the middle class slipped downward into the ranks of the working poor. The already impoverished became destitute.
When the far right reduced the ability of the poor and middle class to consume, it kicked out one of the pillars of our economy. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the $18 trillion U.S. economy.
Workers can’t be consumers without decent paying jobs. It’s that simple.
Reagan’s ability to convince people otherwise enabled the right’s political insiders to put a kindly face on their sadistic attacks on the social policies of the old Democratic Party/FDR New Deal/labor/progressive coalition. The policies which had humanized America from 1932 to 1980, ended the apartheid of the Old South, and moved our society closer to the representative democracy we claim to be.
Reagan has been sanitized over the years by the far right as some kind of a conservative hero who single-handedly won The Cold War. Despite the fact that the Soviet Union imploded from within after the Russian masses lost faith in their own sheltered 1 Percent.
He’s worshiped as a fiscal conservative, even though he tripled the deficit from $997 billion to $2.85 trillion.
Reagan is also lauded for serving in uniform during World War II, even though he studiously avoided combat. The opportunistic young man actually made films for the military. Stateside.
When support for Russia, Communism and Socialism were high in the U.S. after World War II, Reagan became head of the Screen Actors Guild – a left leaning union in Hollywood. Years later, when such principles fell out of favor the opportunistic climber served as a paid informer for the FBI. Decades later, he would break the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization union in one of his first acts as president.
Reagan’s military record as commander-in-chief was mixed.
On the positive side of the ledger was the successful made for TV invasion of the tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada. The negatives include seeding the MS-13 street gang in Nicaragua and the Al Quaeda terror group in Afghanistan. He also got 220 U.S. Marines killed in Beirut in 1983 after placing them in an indefensible position in the middle of the Lebanese civil war. It was the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since World War II.
Intellectually, Reagan was a hollow tree.
The son of an Illinois salesman, he was neither particularly smart nor introspective. He insisted that his speeches be scripted by professional writers. and ordered staffers to distill each policy issue down to a paragraph or two that would fit on a single index card. Like the “hot coffee hot” warning on the side of a McDonald’s coffee cup.
Those qualities made Reagan effectively a human “cardboard cutout.” A Potemkin Village of a man who could mouth the lines from a script with perfect delivery with almost no interest in what they really meant. This made him a very useful tool for the unelected monied interests who control our society from behind the scenes.
For the entirety of his presidency, and especially during his descent into senility from Alzheimer’s Disease, Reagan was closely managed by his Republican Party handlers. “The Committee” managed him like executive producers of a hit TV show.
Reagan was the talent. Not the brains. The public face of a White House regime guided by the monied interests who employed him.
And that was OK with him.
Reagan was content to pretend to be a leader, rather than shoulder the daunting burden of actually leading by example. He was proud to be the believable con artist selling knowing lies, half truths and sins of omission to the American people. Con Artist-in-Chief was quite literally the role of a lifetime in his estimation.
Reagan’s limited intellectual horsepower was easy to hide most of the time, but could be terribly embarrassing when circumstances forced him to think for himself. The White House actually had to issue a letter correcting its own president in 1986 after he agreed to a ban on all tactical nukes in Europe during a private meeting with Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Genius didn’t realize such a ban would put our smaller conventional military forces there at a disadvantage.
Domestically, Reagan was an even bigger disaster.
The portrayal of Reagan as a kindly grandpa is equally facetious.
He turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the AIDS crisis, which began to unfold in the U,S. in 1981. By the time he gave his first speech on the epidemic six years into his presidency 36,058 Americans had been diagnosed with AIDS and 20,849 had died of it. By the time he left office in 1989, 115,786 people had been diagnosed with AIDS and more than 70,000 had died.
The crisis apparently waned in importance beside the Predatory 1 Percent money grab.
Since 1981, their share of America’s wealth has grown from 23 percent to over 40 percent. The Plutocrats haven’t controlled that large a slice of the communal money pie since 1929 – the first year of The Great Depression.
Effectively, the Predatory 1 Percent has clawed back to itself all of the wealth it gave up to the middle class and poor during the New Deal and the post-WWII prosperity.
Ultimately, the current travails of the faltering middle class Reagan once belonged to are his true legacy.
His former paymasters in the Plutocracy now control both the Democratic and Republican parties. It’s shifted the American social compact to the right, even as the electorate has moved to the left.
Under the Predatory 1 Percent, today’s Democratic Party policies are a carbon copy of those of the Republican Party of the 1970s and 80s. Meanwhile, the GOP is now flirting openly with fascism.
The Democratic Party has been taken over by the Democratic Leadership Conference and other “Third Way” Democrats, such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. It has tossed the average working people of America to the curb to curry favor with the wealthy and professional classes.
Perhaps the only hope for a political party and federal government that again represents the middle class and poor, the average working people of America, lies in a major political realignment of working families away from the Democrats to a social democratic third party.