They began by privatizing the student loan program. No more would students apply by mail and receive checks from some faceless bureaucrat at the Treasury Department at the prime interest rate. Now with your burden lifted you could go to a private bank and apply for the student loan at the prevailing interest rate and the banks would keep the difference even though the government still guaranteed the loan.
The message sent from Washington was loud and clear, we are the government and we have no interest in your wellbeing whatsoever. They did everything from declaring ketchup a vegetable so as to cheat hungry children out of a decent school lunch to opening up old growth forests to commercial logging at prices that didn't even cover the cost of the government-built roads.
Air traffic controllers were fired not because they demanded higher wages but because of safety concerns caused by short staffing. It was the beginning of the Reagan Republican rout, the high handed, the backhanded and the underhanded. In Reagan world the rich were smarter and worked harder than you did so they deserved a tax break more than you did. By working to deregulate the Savings & Loan industry they fueled America's first banking crisis in fifty years and destroyed the Savings & Loan as an industry.
When the economy began to sag in the rust belt, Reagan told Americans to move! Don't look for government help; just pack your bags and be gone from here. There was a surrealness to it all, a government that has as its core principle that the government is not supposed to help its people. You're on your own now, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps because that's what successful people do.
By 1980 West Germany and Japan had completely rebuilt their industrial base with state-of-the-art factories and it was a time when the US needed to retool to stay competitive. Instead the Republicans chose to deregulate major industries. The airlines once had government-assigned departure times, but thanks to deregulation everyone could now have a flight scheduled to leave LaGuardia at nine AM.
Big business was in full control of the American government and it was sold to the people as some dawning of a great new era. The end of big government meant freedom for the working class! Freedom from labor protection, freedom from tax deductions and freedom from government programs designed to protect them. Freedom to raise fees at national parks and monuments and then to squander the proceeds and not even make the necessary repairs to the parks.
This uncaging of the financial tigers at a time when the country needed reinvestment had a double negative effect. It was faster and easier to speculate in the market than it was to lend to manufacturing. Instead of rebuilding our industrial base they dismantled it in a game call arbitrage. Splitting apart companies and selling their components for a profit and leaving the carcass to rot.
The list goes on forever, but the most successful attribute of their program was that they convinced a generation of Americans that the government is not supposed to be there to help them. I ask you plain, what other purpose is there for a government? A ruling body to divvy up the spoils to corporate interests? A big white building to call our headquarters to fly the flag from?
The Republicans spent billions on plastic airplanes and missiles that were just as likely to hit Moscow, Idaho as Moscow, Russia. The Star Wars missile defense shield is the greatest fiasco in military procurement history. After spending tens of billions of dollars it has never successfully hit a missile without being told where it was first.
But the money to fund Reagan's aggressive military programs came from American banks buying Treasury notes. That is not true today; today we are dependent on other nations, primarily the Chinese, to buy our Treasury notes. The right holds Reagan as some demigod when he traded away our financial security for military dominance.
The old expression goes, "You never hear the bullet that's got your name on it." The Reagan Revolution collapsed on the field and died, not in combat but in the winds of hurricane Katrina. A clueless President playing air guitar while people were drowning woke this country up. The name-calling and finger pointing by the federal government woke people up as a nation collectively called out, "Do something, for God sakes!"
We have two hugely expensive and unnecessary wars, with $75 billion just for covert intelligence defense spending making up 40% of the total budget. That and a trade policy that is absolute suicide, and a tax policy, which is its twin, brought Barack Obama to the White House. Change we can believe in!
I voted for Mr. Obama. His support of the Employee Free Choice Act made me cheer, but I didn't read the fine print. Obama said, "If it crosses my desk, I'll sign it." The bill wasn't killed in the Senate; it was castrated by Blue Dog Democratic Senators from Wal-Mart. I supported Obama's plan for the bank rescue and was buoyed by his plan to assist struggling homeowners.
Problem is the bailout to the banks was a direct government rescue plan. The plan to assist homeowners is indirect. It is left to the banks to decide who will be rescued. The plan is a muddled mess where homeowners are told they can't be helped if they are current on their mortgage and to stop paying, and then told they don't qualify because they are too deep in debt.
When General Motors began to have its own financial problems, the Republicans in Congress screamed for bankruptcy. It was the few liberals in Congress that realized a GM bankruptcy would hurt the economy in the long run by allowing the company to arbitrarily void contracts. The President established his car czars and what did they decide? Which side did they come down on? The President himself later countered Republican criticism by saying, "GM is free to open factories anywhere they want or any time they want."