The Myth of Ronald Reagan

While today's conservative talk radio hosts mock President Obama by calling him "the Messiah", they actually worship a Republican demagogue, the late Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of these United States of America.

To hear Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and others wax nostalgic of the good old days of the 1980s when Reagan was, in their eyes, the "father of modern conservatism", you would think he saved the country from big government, single-handedly destroyed Communism, cut taxes and restored peace and prosperity.

Let's take a closer look at Reaganomics. The tenets of fiscal conservatism are cutting taxes, slashing spending, balancing the budget, building a strong defense, and creating smaller government. The truth is President Reagan cut taxes, but mostly for the very rich, and reduced spending on domestic programs while increasing the military budget 39% during a period of peace, thus creating a bigger government with huge deficits the likes of which we had never seen until President George W. Bush came along.

Reagan also deregulated big business, eased up on environmental restrictions, and fired the striking air traffic controllers, effectively busting their union and creating unsafe skies. This deregulation precipitated the financial situation we find our economy in today where greed and selfishness have run amok with the Enron scandal, a mortgage crisis and failing banks.

The exodus of American manufacturing to foreign countries began during the Reagan era chronicled by Michael Moore in his movie Roger and Me which follows the demise of General Motors in Flint, Michigan after GM CEO Roger Smith moves his automobile factory to Mexico.

Eerily, the Moore movie interviews laid-off auto workers as their homes are foreclosed on and boarded up before they move to other towns seeking work. Today, we have that same scenario playing again all over our nation.

One could argue that the selling of American businesses to overseas' markets began under Ronald Reagan. With no government interference, corporations were free to seek profits wherever the labor was cheapest. Some call the '80s a golden age. It depends on who you talk to. It created golden parachutes for CEOs and corporate executives but with tax breaks for the wealthy and business deregulation, the rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and the middle class shrank. It's still shrinking.

As for foreign policy, the "gipper" may have put up a good front. After all he was an actor, and playing the Commander in Chief was his greatest role. He may have contributed to ending the Cold War, but "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this war (in Berlin)" not withstanding, the USSR's communist economy basically collapsed from within.

Reagan also covertly supported Afghanistan in their battle against the Soviet Union (as shown in the move "Charlie Wilson's War"), but those we helped to arm later became the Taliban, a militant religious group that are now our enemy in the war against terrorism.

A similar backlash has occurred in Iraq. President Reagan backed then Iragi leader Saddam Hussein by sending him weapons to battle Iran in their eight year war. Later Hussein invaded Kuwait and Iraq became our enemy forcing Reagan's successor, George H.W. Bush to begin the Gulf War in 1991. President George W. Bush used the terrorist attacks of 9/11 as an excuse to finish his father's business and drive Saddam Hussein out of power in the Iraq war in 2003.

We are still waging war in both countries which is ironic because the father of conservatism armed both of our now enemy nations. Maybe that is why President George W. Bush was sure that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. President Reagan had sold them to him. Where they ended up is anyone's guess.

Reagan may have been the "great communicator" who knew how to negotiate with the opposing party to get his agenda passed. I'm just not sure his agenda was good for the nation. In truth, the only modern president who cut taxes for the middle class, balanced the budget, created a surplus, cut the size of government, reformed welfare, created jobs, and presided over the nation during a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity was a Democrat, President Bill Clinton. He did this after inheriting a recession with record deficits.

Wouldn't it make sense to follow Clinton's example, rather than glorifing the myth of conservative icon Ronald Reagan?