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Reagan was no hero but he played one in a movie

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Bush leaves in his wake a divided GOP, reduced to summoning up the corpse of Ronald Reagan about whom his party will tell you the same old lies, the same old GOP propaganda. This is to be expected from a party that regurgitates the same failed policies, the same old formulae. Whomever gets the GOP nod will use Reagan's name a lot. Short on results, short on heroes, short on truth, the GOP noise and propaganda machine can be counted to invoke Reagan's ghost as Giuliani summoned up the specter of 911. Give these poor schmucks a break! A glossed-over, revisionist memory of Reagan is all this miserable, morally bankrupt party has left. The truth is Reagan failed this nation in three significant areas --the economy, the prospects for world peace, and a case of treason: Iran-Contra. The origins of the biggest myth about Ronald Reagan are most certainly found in Reagan's words when he accepted the party's nomination in 1980.
We need rebirth of the American tradition of leadership at every level of government and in private life as well. The United States of America is unique in world history because it has a genius for leaders -- many leaders -- on many levels. But, back in 1976, Mr. Carter said, "Trust me." And a lot of people did. Now, many of those people are out of work.

--Ronald Reagan, Acceptance Speech at the 1980 Republican Convention

A promise never kept. Here's the truth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Job Growth Per Year Under Most Recent Presidents 8 Johnson 3.8% Carter 3.1 Clinton 2.4 Kennedy 2.3 Nixon 2.3 Reagan 2.1 Bush 0.6 --Steve Kangas, quoting Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics Survey
The Reagan economy never equaled the Carter economy. The job creation rate under Reagan never equaled that of the GOPs demon du jour --Jimmy Carter. Carter is still unfairly libeled and reviled by the extremists and liars of the GOP mainstream.In the following chart, notice that the 1979 unemployment rate was not recovered until 1988.
Unemployment Rate 5 1960 5.5% 1965 4.5 1970 5.0 1975 8.5 1976 7.7 1977 7.1 1978 6.1 1979 5.9 1980 7.2 1981 7.6 1982 9.7 1983 9.6 1984 7.5 1985 7.2 1986 7.0 1987 6.2 1988 5.5 1989 5.3 1990 5.5 1991 6.7 1992 7.4
In fairness, it must be pointed out that many Reagan policies originated with the Carter administration; notably, Carter actually increased defense spending. If the policies worked, Reagan could take credit for them. If they didn't work, Reagan and the GOP noise machine always had Carter to blame! The GOP still bad-mouths Carter though there is not a Republican who can carry Carter's water.
When I talk of tax cuts, I am reminded that every major tax cut in this century has strengthened the economy, generated renewed productivity and ended up yielding new revenues for the government by creating new investment, new jobs and more commerce among our people.

--Ronald Reagan, Acceptance Speech at the 1980 Republican Convention

That's a famous Reagan half-truth. Keynesian, Democratic tax cuts, indeed, stimulate economies but only under Democratic regimes --not under GOP regimes. The reason: Democratic tax cuts are egalitarian, benefiting all income groups and classes. GOP tax cuts, by contrast, are deliberately inequitable, benefiting only rich cronies, the corporate establishment, the Military/Industrial complex and other corporate supporters of the GOP establishment. GOP tax cuts are a payoff, just as were the no-bid contracts to Halliburton, Blackwater et al! I've got the stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, and the BEA to prove it. Despite his over-blown, high sounding rhetoric, Reagan's "trickle down" tax cut of 1982 was quickly followed by a depression lasting some two years --the longest and deepest depression since Herbert Hoover's "Great Depression". At the end of two years of hardship, Americans were no better off. The GDP growth rate of some three percent was no better at the end of two years of hardship than it had been before the Reagan crash. Nothing had been gained. The Reagan years can be summed up briefly. He doubled the size of the Federal Bureaucracy and tripled the national deficit. The most pernicious effect of GOP economic policy is the effect of declining opportunity, a corollary of decline in wealth among all but the very rich.

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It is merely rhetorical to ask: why does the GOP seem to repeat ad nauseum utterly failed strategies that have never been shown to work? Reagan's Budget Director, David Stockman called Reaganomics a 'Trojan Horse'. He understood that the purpose of the tax was not really intended to trickle down. Rather, the tax cuts always do precisely what the GOP insiders know they will do: they enrich the GOP base! Here is how someone who lived through the Reagan nightmare remembers it:

I was in the automotive field at the time, and dozens and dozens of established tool manufacturers, unionized shops, producing high quality tools, small companies with deep roots and real a commitment to the towns they were in all across the Midwest and the local communities, went out of business. Why? Because with deregulation any hustler could get virtually unlimited financing and set up manufacturing plants overseas producing exact copies of American made tools and flood the US market with them with no fear of the Reagan administration enforcing any laws against them. It also became easier, and far less risky, to get financing to set up a thousand junky identical chain outlets than it did for small local businesses to get credit or tax relief - restaurants, auto parts stores, hardware stores, grocery stores, florists - thousands and thousands of small businesses chewed up and destroyed. We have a younger generation of people who have no personal experience with so many things - local businesses and tight knit communities, affordable, convenient and efficient public transportation, wages that allowed one person in a household enough income to support the family, homes that were homes, not investments, easy access to public recreation, confidence in the safety of food and other consumer items, all regulated and inspected for the public welfare, freedom from the relentless intrusion of corporations into our lives, and on and on and on. Reagan destroyed the country, and if we try to gloss over that (which at the very least Obama's remarks have done) or if we buy into the dishonest rationales and excuses and obfuscations that the Reagan administration used to disguise their agenda and to sell it to the public, we surrender any chance at real change, we bury the coffin forever into which the right wingers have put the left - and by extension, the majority of the American people, and we condemn ourselves to living in this ongoing nightmare of destruction and human suffering. It is not time to make nice with the Reagan legacy propagandists, even by implication or omission. It is time to relentlessly and fearlessly point out that the crisis the country is in is best described and analyzed as the chickens coming home to roost from the Reagan era. It is time to fight. It is not time to heal or move on-no matter how attractive and appealing this may be-it is not time to paper over the profound divide in the country, it is not time to accommodate or apologize for

--Found on the Democratic Underground

Let's take a look at the history before it gets re-written:
  • Any Democratic President has presided over greater economic growth and job creation than any Republican President since World War II.
  • When Bush Jr took office, job creation was worst under a Republican, Bush Sr, at 0.6% per year; best under a Democrat, Johnson, at 3.8% per year.
  • Economic growth under President Carter was far greater than under Reagan or Bush Sr. In fact, economic growth in general was greater under Johnson, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton than under Reagan or Bush.
  • The job creation rate under Clinton was 2.4% significantly higher Ronald Reagan's 2.1% per year.
  • The "top performing Presidents" by this standard, in order from best down, were Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Kennedy. The "worst" were Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Bush being worst with Reagan in the middle.
  • Half of jobs created under Reagan were in the public sector--some 2 million jobs added to the Federal Bureaucracy. Hadn't he promised to reduce that bureaucracy?
  • Reagan, though promising to reduce government and spending, tripled the national debt and left huge deficits to his successor.
  • By contrast, most of the jobs created on Clinton's watch were in the private sector.
  • Put another way: Any Democratic President beats any Republican President since World War II.
Along the way, Reagan made up a whopper --his story about a Cadillac driving welfare gran'ma. It became his administration's rationalization for cutting back social programs. Then there was the attack and invasion of tiny Grenada. Does anyone remember how Grenada became an imminent threat to US security such that a war of aggression against it was necessitated or justified under international law? One of the most harmful myths coughed up by the cult of Reagan is the myth of Reykjavik about which it is believed that Ronald Reagan put total nuclear disarmament on the table. In fact, it was Mikhai l Gorbachev who raised the stakes. It was Reagan who folded, blinked and turned down what might have been our last chance to rid the world of nukes. If the world should wink out in a nuclear winter, you will have Ronald Reagan and the GOP to blame.
If, that is, the ensuing "Great Society," to borrow a term from JFK's successor, Lyndon Johnson, were laid low by a nuclear attack on an American city (or seven, if al Qaeda had its way).This is the territory into which Gorbachev launched his most daring raids. First, in 1985, he announced that the Soviet Union would no longer deploy intermediate-range nuclear forces (INFs) in Eastern Europe. Later that year, he proposed that both his country and the US slice their nuclear arsenals in half.The next year, at the memorable Reykjavik summit, Gorbachev got Ronald Reagan to agree in principle to his plan for removal of all INFs from Europe, as well as to draw them down worldwide. Caught up in Gorbachev's enthusiasm, Reagan expressed a willingness to join Russia in eliminating all nuclear weapons in 10 years.In the end, though, Reagan clung to his blankie, the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). Gorbachev feared SDI would lead to nukes in space, not to mention leave the Soviet defense establishment with the impression he'd been played. Their dreams of saving the world came crashing back down to earth.

--It's not a new JFK we need in Obama, but the next Gorbachev

Reagan was a typical Republican, that is, he said many things and did the opposite. That's because every Republican has two stories to tell: one they tell to their base via "code words" like "family values"; the other, they tell to the world. This second category often consists of lies and pure BS. In this case, Reagan had talked the talked ---world peace, nuclear disarmament, etc. When Gorbachev raised the stakes --total nuclear disarmament --Reagan suddenly recalled his base, the clique, the Military/Industrial complex, the moneyed class that "brung 'em"! He blinked! Here is what Reagan himself said about the threat of nuclear war.
The Russians sometimes kept submarines off our East Coast with nuclear missiles that could turn the White House into a pile of radioactive rubble within six or eight minutes. Six minutes to decide how to respond to a blip on a radarscope and decide whether to unleash Armageddon! How could anyone apply reason at a time like that? There were some people in the Pentagon who thought in terms of fighting and winning a nuclear war. To me it was simple common sense: A nuclear war couldn't be won by either side. It must never be fought. Advocates of the MAD policy believed it had served a purpose: The balance of terror it created had prevented nuclear war for decades. But as far as I was concerned, the MAD policy was madness.

--Ronald Reagan, The Official Site

So, if that's how Ronald Reagan really felt about nuclear madness, why did he blow what is perhaps our last chance at peace? The answer is simple. Reagan was not his own man. Iran/Contra almost gave the game away. Ronald Reagan, playing stupid and senile, beat a high treason rap. The source of this treason against the people of the US lay in GOP efforts to get the US government to fund the "Contras" in Nicaragua despite a US prohibition on such military assistance. In a convoluted scheme that involved what seemed like most of the Reagan administration, arms were sold to Iran --then on the State Department's list of enemy states. Then, in violation of US law, the proceeds were funneled to the 'Contra' rebels in Nicaragua . Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh concluded that the sale of arms to Iran violated the Arms Export Control Act, the Boland Amendment ban on aid to military activities in Nicaragua, and the entire procedure had been "fully reviewed and developed" at the very highest levels of the Reagan Administration. Walsh clearly believed Reagan himself complicit in this treasonous scheme.
The underlying facts of Iran/Contra are that, regardless of criminality, President Reagan, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and the director of central intelligence and their necessary assistants committed themselves, however reluctantly, to two programs contrary to congressional policy and contrary to national policy. They skirted the law, some of them broke the law, and almost all of them tried to cover up the President's willful activities .

-- Concluding Observations, Investigations and Prosecutions, Lawrence E. Walsh, Independent Counsel, Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters

The bolding is mine. Clearly --Walsh believed Reagan guilty. How did he escape indictment? The fix was in, of course, but who was behind it? Nevertheless, thirteen high level officials in the Reagan administration either pleaded guilty or were indicted, including Caspar Weinberger, Oliver North, and John Poindexter. Duane Claridge and Weinberger were pardoned! Ronald Reagan got off with a scolding paragraph at the end of Walsh's lengthy, detailed report, in which it is clear that Walsh thought Reagan, himself, personally involved with what many considered a treasonous act --that of arming an avowed "enemy" of the US. Now, Bush is credibly reported to have promised Israel that it will join an Israel nuclear attack on Iran, a nation that had been armed by the United States during yet another GOP administration. Does it get any more crooked than this? In addition to the panoply of lies and crap, Reagan, as Albert Speer said of Adolph Hitler, rallied the bigoted, the extremist, the fascist with his seemingly endless fussilade of meaningless platitudes, slogans, and high sounding catch phrases --"family values", for one. Reagan was, in fact, the leader of the "Cult of Reagan". His sorry minions themselves revealed the secret of his success: "He made us feel good about ourselves," they swooned. Maybe they should not have! These are the same folk who gave us Bush! An addendum: 20 things you have to believe to be a Republican today

1. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

2. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

3. Government should relax regulation of Big Business and Big Money but crack down on individuals who use marijuana to relieve the pain of illness.

4. "Standing Tall for America" means firing your workers and moving their jobs to India.

5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational corporations can make decisions affecting all humankind without regulation.

6. Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

7. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

8. Group sex and drug use are degenerate sins unless you someday run for governor of California as a Republican.

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Len Hart is a Houston based film/video producer specializing in shorts and full-length documentaries. He is a former major market and network correspondent; credits include CBS, ABC-TV and UPI. He maintains the progressive blog: The (more...)

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