Is there a Cult of Ronald Reagan?by Don Lacey on Mar. 29, 2012, under AZ Politics, Campaign 2012, Conservatism vs. Liberalism, Critical Thinking, Government, History, Libertarianism, Middle Class, Separation of Church & State, Supreme Court
Here’s the latest from Jim Wilson:
“Ronald Reagan is doing to the country what he can no longer do to his wife. —
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation, 1982
Fearing the cult of Ronald Reagan
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. This is scary! Reagan’s legacy is disgusting, and I shudder at the thought 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 (you’ll note I was mostly quite positive in my recent piece on Barry Goldwater). I find there are plenty of reasons why Conservatives, Libertarians and small government types, not to mention liberals, and progressives should want to demolish the cult of Reagan and should be highly distrusting of Reagan’s disciples. His legacy is one of massive government intervention, hypocrisy, the promotion of superstition, scandal, and mass murder.
Remember, Reagan ran on the promise of “getting government off our backs” and on the notion that government is the problem rather than the solution. However, he actually expanded the role of the government domestically and abroad. He started the deregulation of oil and gas industry, the airline industry, and the trucking industry. While he was credited with the abolishment of the Civil Aeronautics Board, that 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 resided over increases in tariff’s and import quotas and encouraged the Japanese to impose export quotas on microchips and cars. In addition, he increased price supports (at a great cost to the American tax payer) and production quotas for agricultural products. It is apparent that his actions were inconsistent with reducing government whether you agree with any these policies or not. His actions were more consistent with turning the country into a welfare state for the already rich. Such policies strike me as highly hypocritical.
Let’s not forget his highly interventionist and extremely expensive war on drugs or his politicizing of the religious right. Reagan’s administration was happy to made sure that the big 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 (these things should be basic human freedoms, immune to government intervention.)
Reagan called for reduced government spending and balanced budgets, and of course accomplished neither. His 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 world’s largest creditor nation to the world’s largest debtor nation. He tripled the national debt and turned a roughly 900 billion dollar deficit to a $2.85 trillion deficit. This irresponsible spending may have been 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 he believed that, defunding the liberal state by wasting money on redundant weapons, prisons spending, support for third world dictators, wars on drugs, and agricultural subsidies, was a good idea.
The most damaging part of the Reagan legacy was his contribution to the country’s huge national debt. It has greatly compromised the standing of this country around the world, probably our quality of life here as well. Furthermore it is highly immoral to intentionally waste money that actually could be used for positive purposes and this seems to be one of the biggest aspects of Reaganism that the current batch of Republican candidates will most-likely imitate. I expect that any of the current Republican candidates for president (except for Ron Paul) will greatly increase the deficit. The last Republican president, George W. Bush, engaged in this tactic and referred to his increased spending with combined with cutting taxes for the rich as “a fiscal strait-jacket for Congress”. Whether, you want a smaller or larger government or not, I do not approve of reckless wasteful spending as a means to getting it, as this is bad for the country and international stability as well.
President Regan removed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq from the official list of terrorist states so he could supply 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.
President Reagan supported the highly racist and authoritarian apartheid regime in South Africa as well as military dictatorships throughout the third world including Guatemala, Columbia, the Philippines, and 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. The Reagan’s administration continued support the death squads even after they raped and murdered four American nuns and a laywoman. In 1999 a U.N. Sponsored report found that, “the American training of the officer corps in counter-insurgency techniques”, under President Reagan were a key factor in genocide in which, “entire Mayan villages were attacked and burned and their inhabitants 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 Iran—an enemy state—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, raping women; indiscriminately attacking civilians and civilian homes; seizing civilian property; and burning civilian houses in captured towns” according to human rights watch.
President Ronald Reagan led one of the most scandal ridden presidential administrations known with some 138 officials being investigated, indictment, and/or convicted. Perhaps he was not responsible for all that happened. He was, after all, simply a retired actor. He may have been the personable face and being led by business and military elites. He may have used his charisma and quick wit to distract us from his henchmen while they set 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 so enamored with this man. Here’s another Libertarian’s video on the subject: www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4M8e34CJfE