Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Let's bury the Reagan myth once and for all

"Obama is now trying to imitate President Reagan," said the cabbie. "That was a great president!" I asked why. "Well, he balanced the budget, for one." This is an exact misremembrance about Reagan, the president who added more to the national debt than all his predecessors combined and never balanced a budget.

"Actually, no," I told the cabbie.

"But what about his foreign policy?"

"OK, what about it?"

"Well, he defeated the Soviet Union."

"Actually, no, again. The Soviet Union collapsed from the weight of its own internal corruption, which started long before Reagan was ever president," I said.

I was recalling what had been whispered to me in the 1970s about Russian "partner-socialism" between workers trading what they skimmed off their workplaces. The last two decades of Soviet government had been rife with dishonesty and theft from the public till, from top to bottom.

"Oh," the cabbie insisted. "But Reagan gave me a green card."

He was referring to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which Reagan dragged his heels on for four long years. Reagan was no friend of the immigrant.

But wasn't the economy better?

Not if you recall the 1982 recession, which led to mass layoffs in manufacturing and the beginning of the off-shoring of millions of jobs. Nor if you recall the 1986 stock market crash. Nor if you recall the hundreds of billions of deficit spending proposed and pushed through each of eight years by Reagan.

Wasn't he the Great Communicator?

Reagan was a good reader of scripts. He was an actor, after all.

But his material included lots of lies. The "welfare queen" he cited as proof that public aid induced fraud never existed. The "freedom fighters" he encouraged in Nicaragua were accomplices of drug dealers. The "heroes" in his administration, whom he praised as such, lied to Congress and thereby to the people.

Reagan was easily one of the worst presidents in living memory. He pushed millions into poverty, took food from infants to pay for sweet deals with military contractors.

He was an evil and immoral man in every dimension of these words. Yet the propagandists and their media have developed a fantasy story that many good people of good faith are being convinced to believe was history.

All in order to enthrone and semi-deify the actor whose best role was that of president.