When I worked for Rock the Vote during the 2008 election, I covered the election from the youth perspective, for the youth perspective. I attended both the Democratic National Convention in Denver and the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. After the parties and adventures of the DNC, it was weird moving into a conference that had a significantly lower excitement level.
Most days were spent in workshops, training, meetings, fundraisers, etc. The evenings were what you saw on television. The lead up to the cameras showing the speeches featured little films to help warm up the crowd. One video was, of course, the "Ronald Reagan is an American hero" montage. I walked around the half-full grand conference hall and grown men were crying at the story of St. Reagan while the music swelled.
These days it seems the legend of The Reagan has lived on well past the reality. But what is the reality? Conservatives want to worship, but if President Obama did the same things President Reagan did he would be in prison. While there are likely more, here are the top nine reasons Ronald Reagan was one of the worst presidents ever:
1. Trickle Down Economics is BS and will always be BS.
The press named it "Reaganomics" but today we know it as trickle-down-economics. Whatever you want to call it the policy failed and continues to fail. Last year, even the Wall Street banksters at JP Morgan admitted that the trickle-down theory has completely failed.
2. The HIV/AIDS crisis was ignored.
What happens when over 10,000 people in America die from the same disease? President Reagan pretended it wasn't really a concern. To put that into prospective, that's about one third of the deaths caused each year by influenza, which we have a vaccine for. In 1986 he asked his surgeon general for a report on AIDS "but on the same day he proposed reducing spending for AIDS research and care programs." This is what they call a compassionate conservative.
3. Air traffic controllers got the shaft for a lifetime.
Before being elected President, Reagan said that being a member of a union was a "basic right" all workers deserved. But oh how Washington corrupts. The air traffic controllers went on strike when salary negotiations failed. If they didn't return to work, Reagan said they would be fired. Of those workers striking 11,345 were officially fired and banned from working for the federal government for life. His arrogance not only hurt families it also caused airline problems for several years to find and train new air traffic controllers. According to Michael Nolan's book Fundamentals of Air Traffic Control, the FAA assured Washington the problems would be solved in just two years, but it took nearly ten years for staffing of air traffic control to return to normal. In 1993 President Bill Clinton lifted the federal service ban.
4. Mental health and mental illness got the knife.
Every time we have another mass shooting and the conversation turns to mental health I wish someone would bring up President Reagan's significant cuts to mental health services and institutionalization. According to the depressing book American Psychosis, the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980 was signed by President Carter. It would, at the very least, continue federal community mental health centers programs but partially share the financial burden with state funding. One would think being shot by a schizophrenic man would help persuade President Reagan to support securing institutions where violent people could get the help they need. But no.
> "During the 1980s, an additional 40,000 beds in state mental hospitals were shut down. The patients being sent to community facilities were no longer those who were moderately well-functioning or elderly; rather, they included the more difficult, chronic patients from the hospitals' back wards. These patients were often younger than patients previously discharged, less likely to respond to medication, and less likely to be aware of their need for medication" (American Psychosis).
And then he passed the buck. Classy.
5. The national debt tripled.
If there's one thing the GOP hates, it is debt. One would think all that money they're getting from Wall Street banksters would make them love credit cards, but we'd be hard pressed these days to find a member of the Grand Old Party who supports going into debt. Unless, of course, if it means a tax cut. Like George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan's trickle-down-economics gave tax cuts to the rich on the assumption that it would mean creating more jobs and businesses. But just like with W. it cost our country a lot. When President Reagan took office in 1981 the national debt was $900 billion. When he left office in the national debt had tripled to $2.8 trillion. That's what the internet would call a FAIL.
6. Bankrolling al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.
The chickens came home to roost on 9/11 when al-Qaeda trained terrorists followed Osama Bin Laden's anti-American jihad straight into the World Trade Center. _The Soviet-Afghan War_ by Lester Grau outlines the depressing American government crusade against the Soviets that lead to this deal with the devil. The United States literally spent billions in weapons, training, whatever it took in order to grow the Taliban to fight the Soviets in the 1980s. At least we were well acquainted with the weapons they were using on us in the 2000s.
7. Raiding the Social Security Trust Fund.
When I was in high school my grandfather and I would talk about politics and he lived in a constant state of fear politicians would come after his Social Security. At that point,I'd only been through the first half of American history (up to the 1960s) and since I was an infant in the 1980s, I missed out on seniors getting hosed by President Reagan's trickle-down desperation. When you cut that much out money coming into the government and don't offset it somewhere else, you run up deficits (see number 6.)
Social Security wasn't going bankrupt or adding to the deficit; Reagan said so himself. So the idea of "saving it" was nonsense. Instead, it was doing so well, and the deficit was doing so poorly, Alan Greenspan and other advisers encouraged President Reagan to borrow from Social Security and replace it with IOUs, then raise the retirement age so it would all work out in the end.
It's all fun and games to go after President Obama for trying to stop a nuclear war with Iran, but what happens if you overtly try and sell Iran weapons to funnel money to the Contras to fight the Soviets in Nicaragua? Well, you'd be St. Reagan. As the song above tells us, this is technically treason.
In the end, it's easy to create a myth and a legend so many years after the fact that an entire generation of people who were alive are now dead. Maybe this is why the GOP hates funding education. If you keep telling a story like this enough the lie can become the truth. Hopefully this will help you wade through the tall tales, and you can pass on the dose of reality to others who need a reality check.
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