Dead Presidents

Comic Book Reagan

It’s only fitting that some one who completely mangles American history, world geography, and the English language gets to deliver yet another eulogy on Reagan.  We come not to bury Caesar, but to completely reinvent the guy into something we want him to be because we have no better narrative.  Many liberal sites are rightly pointing out that we knew Ronald Reagan and he was not the Ronald Reagan we’re hearing about now.  Here’s a good list of  ‘10 Things Conservatives Don’t Want you to now about Ronald Reagan’.  I’ll hit the top four because,well, I’m an economist and these four things resonate with me the most.

1. Reagan was a serial tax raiser. As governor of California, Reagan “signed into law the largest tax increase in the history of any state up till then.” Meanwhile, state spending nearly doubled. As president, Reagan “raised taxes in seven of his eight years in office,” including four times in just two years. As former GOP Senator Alan Simpson, who called Reagan “a dear friend,” told NPR, “Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times in his administration — I was there.” “Reagan was never afraid to raise taxes,” said historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited Reagan’s memoir. Reagan the anti-tax zealot is “false mythology,” Brinkley said.

2. Reagan nearly tripled the federal budget deficit. During the Reagan years, the debt increased to nearly $3 trillion, “roughly three times as much as the first 80 years of the century had done altogether.” Reagan enacted a major tax cut his first year in office and government revenue dropped off precipitously. Despite the conservative myth that tax cuts somehow increase revenue, the government went deeper into debt and Reagan had to raise taxes just a year after he enacted his tax cut. Despite ten more tax hikes on everything from gasoline to corporate income, Reagan was never able to get the deficit under control.

3. Unemployment soared after Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts. Unemployment jumped to 10.8 percent after Reagan enacted his much-touted tax cut, and it took years for the rate to get back down to its previous level. Meanwhile, income inequality exploded. Despite the myth that Reagan presided over an era of unmatched economic boom for all Americans, Reagan disproportionately taxed the poor and middle class, but the economic growth of the 1980′s did little help them. “Since 1980, median household income has risen only 30 percent, adjusted for inflation, while average incomes at the top have tripled or quadrupled,” the New York Times’ David Leonhardt noted.

4. Reagan grew the size of the federal government tremendously. Reagan promised “to move boldly, decisively, and quickly to control the runaway growth of federal spending,” but federal spending “ballooned” under Reagan. He bailed out Social Security in 1983 after attempting to privatize it, and set up a progressive taxation system to keep it funded into the future. He promised to cut government agencies like the Department of Energy and Education but ended up adding one of the largest — the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which today has a budget of nearly $90 billion and close to 300,000 employees. He also hiked defense spending by over $100 billion a year to a level not seen since the height of the Vietnam war.

So, in the real world, Ronald Reagan was the archetype for the Republican much hated “tax and spend Keynesian”  if there ever was one.  Reagan’s former Budget Director David Stockman has said as much. His former economic adviser Bruce Bartlett has changed his tiger stripes too.    Now, compare that to this tripe in a speech completely missing the facts and the history. Oh, and it’s kind’ve stolen from the Gipper yet heavily revised to meet today’s modern propaganda needs.

“He saw our nation at a critical turning point. We could choose one direction or the other. Socialism or freedom and free markets. Collectivism or individualism. In his words, we can choose ‘the swamp’ or ‘the stars.'”

Take a quick look at the source of the cribbed statement and notice the difference.  It seems that not one of our political spokesmodels can originate thoughts these days.  We have a rip-it-off-then-mangle-it pol culture these days.

“We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it has been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening,” Reagan said.

The most dangerous enemy we have ever faced is ignorance.  The face of ignorance is the modern day Know Nothing Wing of the Republican Party.  The old Known Nothing party was rooted in nativism and anti-Catholicism.  This one is rooted in similar phobias and bigotry.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote:  “All history becomes subjective; in other words there is properly no history, only biography”.

We continue to see efforts to completely rewrite our History through the insertion of propaganda and falsehoods in textbooks and by speechifiers with continual access to the Fox News platform.    More things they’d like to gloss over about Reagan include:

  • Reagan did little to fight a woman’s right to chose. As governor of California in 1967, Reagan signed a bill to liberalize the state’s abortion laws that “resulted in more than a million abortions.”
  • Reagan was a “bellicose peacenik.” He wrote in his memoirs that “[m]y dream…became a world free of nuclear weapons.”
  • Reagan gave amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants. Reagan signed into law a bill that made any immigrant who had entered the country before 1982 eligible for amnesty.
  • Reagan illegally funneled weapons to Iran. Reagan and other senior U.S. officials secretly sold arms to officials in Iran, which was subject to an arms embargo at the time, in exchange for American hostages. Some funds from the illegal arms sales also went to fund anti-Communist rebels in Nicaragua — something Congress had already prohibited the administration from doing.
  • Reagan vetoed a comprehensive anti-Apartheid act. which placed sanctions on South Africa and cut off all American trade with the country. Reagan’s veto was overridden by the Republican-controlled Senate.
  • Reagan helped create the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. Reagan fought a proxy war with the Soviet Union by training, arming, equipping, and funding Islamist mujahidin fighters in Afghanistan. Reagan funneled billions of dollars, along with top-secret intelligence and sophisticated weaponry to these fighters through the Pakistani intelligence service. The Talbian and Osama Bin Laden — a prominent mujahidin commander — emerged from these mujahidin groups Reagan helped create, and U.S. policy towards Pakistan remains strained because of the intelligence services’ close relations to these fighters.

There’s a vast gap in what the true believer thinks Ronald Reagan did and what he actually did.  There is a vast gap in what the true believers heard in the speeches of Ronald Reagan and what he did.  This vast gap group is rewriting history.  There is little wonder in my mind why our current president likes that particular state of affairs and would like to repeat it.  It’s amazing to me that so many people just don’t seem to get it or want to get it.   For there rest of us, there are primary documents and alternative media until the Kill Switch is thrown.  I sure hope  that somebody is storing up the real documents somewhere.

Just as a refresher, here’s some other history rewrites desired by the Texas State School Board.

• Questioning the doctrine of “Church and State”

• Removing Thomas Jefferson (who coined the term above) from the list of colonial revolutionaries.

• A greater emphasis on the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s (with emphasis on the NRA, the Heritage Foundation, and Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America).

• A reduced scope on Latino and Mexican culture.

• Changes in terminology, such as replacing “capitalism” with “free-market enterprise” and American “imperialism” with expansionism.

• A more positive spin on the Cold War anti-Communist “Red Scare.”

• Listing Great Society programs such as equal gender access to education and Affirmative Action as having “unintended consequences.”

• A recommendation to include country and western music as one of the nation’s key cultural movements.

• That global warming needs more proof to be determined if mankind is responsible.

• That the theory of evolution needs to be scrutinized more before being taken as factual.

• Removal of third party candidates from the curriculum such as Ross Perot and Ralph Nader.

• Emphasizing figures like Confederate General Stonewall Jackson as a role model for effective leadership, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, medieval Catholic philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas, Puritan theologian John Calvin and conservative British law scholar William Blackstone.

• Stressing on the Founding Fathers having been guided by strict Christian beliefs.

Yup, it’s a new day for the Know Nothings.

19 Comments on “Dead Presidents”

  1. boogieman7167 says:

    and if you listen to these wingnuts talk about him its almost in a god like .

  2. Moko Jono says:

  3. Outis says:

    This is a great piece and cannot be stressed enough. It seems like the only way liberals can hit back against the madness is not only NOT letting the right define the terms of debate but NOT letting falsehoods go unchecked. And it is the rewriting of the sources, such as deleting one of this country’s greatest thinkers, Thomas Jefferson, that is entirely intended to keep people ignorant so the oligarchy can go on looting.

    As Walter Sobchack would say, “Dude. I’m talking about drawing a line in the sand, Dude. Across this line, you DO NOT…Also, Dude, chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.”

  4. Minkoff Minx says:

    Okay, I am really out of the loop…but I have to ask. I saw a thing on Youtube. Are they having some kind of Superbowl half-time tribute to Reagan? Or is that a joke or Onion News thing?

    • dakinikat says:

      I mute anything that has to do with the Superbowl. I wouldn’t know. That and Christmas are two ways to drain money from people whose money doesn’t need to be drained. It also keeps their minds off of stuff people need to think about. I’m a real spoiled sport about it.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        I don’t look at it either, but before you log into the google home page, they have a screen that has samples of how to personalize your home page, and I saw it on the youtube widget. As you can see, I did not click on it myself.

        I am going offline for a bit. To recharge. But I think the link colors and hover colors are nice. At least to these tired eyes. 😉

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Ronald Reagan named names to HUAC. He spied on other actors when he was President of the Film Actor’s Guild. He was a nasty mean-spirited bastard.

    He contributed to 9/11 not only by helping bin Laden but also by firing the air traffic controllers.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Back in the ’60s we laughed at the thought of Reagan as Governor of CA! These days wackos are the rule not the exception.

    • dakinikat says:

      Here’s some more evidence on the Reagan Legacy from C&L

      “Poisoning the well” is a fitting description for decades of Republican politics.

    • dakinikat says:

      Wow, this seems to be the topic of the day now:

      Five myths about Ronald Reagan’s Legacy from WAPO:

      1. Reagan was one of our most popular presidents.

      It’s true that Reagan is popular more than two decades after leaving office. A CNN/Opinion Research poll last month gave him the third-highest approval rating among presidents of the past 50 years, behind John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. But Reagan’s average approval rating during the eight years that he was in office was nothing spectacular – 52.8 percent, according to Gallup. That places the 40th president not just behind Kennedy, Clinton and Dwight Eisenhower, but also Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush, neither of whom are talked up as candidates for Mount Rushmore.

      During his presidency, Reagan’s popularity had high peaks – after the attempt on his life in 1981, for example – and huge valleys. In 1982, as the national unemployment rate spiked above 10 percent, Reagan’s approval rating fell to 35 percent. At the height of the Iran-Contra scandal, nearly one-third of Americans wanted him to resign.

      In the early 1990s, shortly after Reagan left office, several polls found even the much-maligned Jimmy Carter to be more popular. Only since Reagan’s 1994 disclosure that he had Alzheimer’s disease – along with lobbying efforts by conservatives, such as Grover Norquist’s Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, which pushed to rename Washington’s National Airport for the president – has his popularity steadily climbed.

  6. grayslady says:

    I remember watching an interview with Pierre Trudeau years ago in which Trudeau said he had constant private conversations with Reagan trying to talk him out of using nuclear weapons. He said that, under Reagan, the world came a lot closer to Armageddon than it ever knew. I can’t remember the program, but here’s a quote from PBS ( that talks to Reagan’s attitude toward nuclear weapons and the Soviet Union:

    STEPHEN CLARKSON: No, I think that’s right. I think for American viewers, probably if you blended Adlai Stevenson and al Gore, you would have something that would approximate Trudeau: Very intelligent, very committed to certain issues. And one of those was a tremendous concern about nuclear proliferation and nuclear war. And it’s on that issue that he got into a fight with President Reagan. It certainly wasn’t because he was anti-American. He just felt that in the first three years or so of Reagan’s presidency that he was dangerously escalating the tension with the Soviet Union. And at the summit in Williamsburg in May of 1983, he got into a big fight with both Margaret Thatcher and Reagan over the question of how the West was dealing with the Soviet Union, which he felt was in too provocative a way. And subsequently, the following fall, he went on a big mission around the world, including starting in the White House, trying to persuade Mr. Reagan that his peacefulness was being misinterpreted in Moscow, and he really needed to change his line. And it’s not to argue that he convinced Mr. Reagan of that, but two or three months later, Reagan did change his line and became much more accommodating with the Soviet Union, and ultimately that led to the deal with Gorbachev.