Those who have declared or are apparently on the verge of running for president in 2008 are the most obvious in their love of all things Reagan.
At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference Rudy Giuliani, the new front runner for the Republican presidential nomination, ranted on about his admiration for Reagan, Reagan's legacy and Reagan's vision to fight the spread of communism.
The Republican Party "must return to the common sense Republican ideals of fighting for hardworking Americans," said Mitt Romney, the retired Massachusetts governor.
Arizona Sen. John McCain says Reagan provided the kind of leadership the GOP needs. "We can do it again if we lead and inspire as he did," McCain claims. Even age isn't a problem for the 70-year-old McCain who said, "Ronald Reagan wasn't" too old to be president.
And Sam Brownback, the Kansas senator, labels himself "a full-scale Ronald Reagan conservative." On his recent announcement to enter the 2008 race he reiterated his love for all things Reagan.
At the Republican debate Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., the 2008 hopefuls literally gushed over Reagan, calling his name 19 times in the 90-minute debate. "Ronald Reagan was a president of strength," Romney opined. "Ronald Reagan used to say, we spend money like a drunken sailor," said McCain. Former New York City Mayor Giuliani praised "that Ronald Reagan optimism."
As the campaigning heats up, expect repeated love for Reagan, repeated praise of his greatness and genius, repeated fawning over his memory. Expect Reagan, Reagan, Reagan ad infinitum over the next 18 months.
But, can the nation afford another Reagan, whose presidency set the nation on the disastrous course now followed by Bush, the president numerous Republicans cut and run from daily?
Examine the true Reagan legacy to see where these men might lead the nation should any of them succeed to the presidency.
Reagan compiled one of the worst legacies in modern America politics and did nothing to better the United States. Bush only made matters worse while traveling the very path that Reagan laid out.
A list of Reagan "accomplishments" has to include economic disaster, subversion, explosion of crime, misuse of the military, wasted resources, paranoia, and a general anti-democracy and un-America agenda. Those are just his domestic accomplishments. In foreign policy, Reagan left a bloody trail of mass murder and genocide through his support, training and arming of Latin American dictators who slaughtered hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of their people just to keep a few privileged right-wing elites in seats of power and lives of luxury while the majority lived in abject poverty and misery.
Let's start with economic disaster.
Reagan mismanaged the economy so badly that he presided over the worst recession in America since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unemployment hit 10.8% under Reagan, the highest since 1940 when the world was still in the Depression.
Reagan increased a national debt of less one one trillion dollars ~ much of it refinanced costs from World War II ~ and ran it to more than five trillion with his tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations while increasing military spending. The debt went from 33.5% of the Gross Domestic Product to 75% under Reagan. Poverty, that hit the historic low of 11.4% under Jimmy Carter, rose about 33%. Homelessness exploded and Reagan's deregulation and willingness to look the other way while savings-and-loan executives looted their institutions saddled the nation with a $500 billion bill. Regulations exist to address evils that are present in the system, and when those regulations are removed the evils return, and they returned with a vengeance in the savings-and-loan industry, just as they returned later in deregulation of the electric utility industry. None of this benefited "hardworking Americans," as claimed by Romney.
Right wingers claim (and even the most-trusted man in America, Walter Cronkite, repeated as fact) that Reagan's tax cuts resulted in an explosion of tax receipts because of economic growth. Not true. Tax receipts went up 82 percent in the 12 years of the Reagan-George H. W. Bush regime; but they increased 177 percent in the 12 years preceding the Reagan-Bush rule. During the Reagan-Bush years, population increased 12 percent and inflation increased 70 percent ~ 12 plus 70 equals 82. That means there was not a cent of increased tax collection generated because of the Reagan tax cuts. But, the rich and corporations paid billions of dollars less in taxes, and that had to be made up with tax increases on working-class Americans. The payroll tax was increased dramatically ~ with its surpluses used to camouflage the Reagan-inflated deficit ~ and many deductions historically available to middle-class consumers were eliminated. Those tax increases on working Americans were not "fighting for hardworking Americans", as Romney claimed, they were the beginning of the class warfare being waged by the elite on the lower classes. And placing hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars into the economy, then immediately taxing them also helped increase tax receipts.