Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Reagan the false idol

I grew up with Ronald Reagan for president. I remember the hope, the optimism and the charges against the liberals. I was conservative then. I really believed that Reagan was going to clean things up. But then there was the Savings and Loan Scandal. People got killed over that, but you didn't see that in the mainstream news. To learn about that, you had to read a book. There was Iran-Contra and many more. Reagan even put the unions on a slide to oblivion, a move that was disastrous for the middle class. So Reagan was far from perfect and maybe he was starting to slide into dementia towards the end of his term. But there are some on the right who want to idolize him. I don't.

Some say that we experienced the greatest economic boom ever under Reagan. Actually, we didn't. Reagan wasn't the greatest job creator. That was Clinton. Even President Carter was a better job creator than Reagan. Obama is having a tough time, but that is because he has a Tea Party faction in Congress that is defying him at every opportunity rather than working with him. Why? They idolize Reagan.

They sincerely believe that Reagan was the bomb, that Reagan did for our country what no other president could do. But they refuse to admit the truth: the conservative agenda is not about free markets. It's about economic policy that drives money up to the top, rather than allowing everyone to participate in a prosperous economy.

Economists are going over the history and they are seeing the failure of neoliberalism, the economic policies that support the wealthy and leave everyone else out to dry. Under Carter and Clinton, we were creating jobs. Historians and economists have documented an interesting trend: Democrat presidents are far better at creating jobs than Republicans. This has held true pretty much since the Great Depression.

Why is this? I see the Republican Party, as of now, as the party of the wealthy. Wealthy people hold capital and capital does not like labor. Labor is expensive because they're humans and employees need insurance. But if assets can be rented, borrowed, consumed, well, capital loves that. Much of that borrowing and using can be tracked by computers, and all we really need is customer service, right?

A look at the fastest growing jobs shows that there is very little building going on and lots of service. God forbid us from investing in infrastructure say the Republicans in Congress (In my state, at least, Republicans believe in infrastructure). We have crumbling bridges and roads all over our country and yet, hardly anyone in Congress is talking about rebuilding our bridges and roads. Remember Hurricane Katrina? Most of the damage was caused by inadequate care of the levees. Had the levees been maintained properly under Bush, New Orleans would not have been flooded.

See the difference in priorities? Conservatives are very busy taking profits out of the country and will put profits before infrastructure. They seem more concerned with what has been taken away in taxes than with what they have been given by work, luck and circumstance.

Reagan was not a god, and much of what is said about him and his policies is myth, unsupported by a thorough economic analysis. Remember that the next time you are confronted with the prospect of voting for a candidate who idolizes Reagan.
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