Happy Birthday, Ronnie!

In celebration of the 100th birthday of former President Ronald Reagan, he who hath sowed so much love amongst todays conservatives Think Progress has presented a little expose’ of the Great Communicator’s heritage. Funny thing is these facts have been common knowledge among those of us intelligent enough to realize it. So…to refresh our conservative and teabagger friend’s here’s a history lesson:

“Tomorrow will mark the 100th anniversary of President Reagan’s birth, and all week, conservatives have been trying to outdo each others’ remembrances of the great conservative icon. Senate Republicans spent much of Thursday singing Reagan’s praise from the Senate floor, while conservative publications have been running non-stop commemorations. Meanwhile the Republican National Committee and former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich are hoping to make few bucks off the Gipper’s centennial.

But Reagan was not the man conservatives claim he was. This image of Reagan as a conservative superhero is myth, created to untie the various factions of the right behind a common leader. In reality, Reagan was no conservative ideologue or flawless commander-in-chief. Reagan regularly strayed from conservative dogma — he raised taxes eleven times as president while tripling the deficit — and he often ended up on the wrong side of history, like when he vetoed an Anti-Apartheid bill.”

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.

5. 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.” When Reagan ran for president, he advocated a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited all abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother, but once in office, he “never seriously pursued” curbing choice.

6. Reagan was a “bellicose peacenik.” He wrote in his memoirs that “[m]y dream…became a world free of nuclear weapons.” “This vision stemmed from the president’s belief that the biblical account of Armageddon prophesied nuclear war — and that apocalypse could be averted if everyone, especially the Soviets, eliminated nuclear weapons,” the Washington Monthly noted. And Reagan’s military buildup was meant to crush the Soviet Union, but “also to put the United States in a stronger position from which to establish effective arms control” for the the entire world — a vision acted out by Regean’s vice president, George H.W. Bush, when he became president.

7. 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. The bill was sold as a crackdown, but its tough sanctions on employers who hired undocumented immigrants were removed before final passage. The bill helped 3 million people and millions more family members gain American residency. It has since become a source of major embarrassment for conservatives.

8. Reagan illegally funneled weapons to Iran. Reagan and other senior U.S. officials secretly sold arms to officials in Iran, which was subject to a 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. When the deals went public, the Iran-Contra Affair, as it came to be know, was an enormous political scandal that forced several senior administration officials to resign.

9. 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 responded by saying “I deeply regret that Congress has seen fit to override my veto,” saying that the law “will not solve the serious problems that plague that country.”

10. 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. In fact, Reagan’s decision to continue the proxy war after the Soviets were willing to retreat played a direct role in Bin Laden’s ascendency.

“Conservatives seem to be in such denial about the less flattering aspects of Reagan; it sometimes appears as if they genuinely don’t know the truth of his legacy. Yesterday, when liberal activist Mike Stark challenged hate radio host Rush Limbaugh on why Reagan remains a conservative hero despite raising taxes so many times, Limbaugh flew into a tirade and demanded, Where did you get this silly notion that Reagan raised taxes?


7 responses »

  1. I’ve noted many times on the muche both the innaccuracy and outright fraud of Think Progress, so since you cribbed your blog from one of their articles, I imagine much of this is just wrong. For example you (or actually Think Progress!) blames the Reagan tax cuts for unemployment going up? Although I would love to hear the economic theory in which reducing tax burdens increase unemployment, the statement just can’t be true even on it’s own merits.

    Reagans tax cuts were phased in over time. The 25% income tax cut went in with only 5% of it effective in 1981, 10% in 1982, and then 10% in 1983. Unemployment was already at it’s peak at the beginning of 83 and declined thereafter. Too late for tax cuts to have caused the increase in unemploymnent, unless you are putting the entire blame on the first 5% tax cut. But in that case, why didn’t the subsequent tax cuts make unemployment worse?

    I bet you don’t even know why we were in a recession at that time. I’ll give you a hint: *cough* FED *cough*

    • Funny how you take one little line from a story to dispute…I guess you trust the accuracies of the remainder of the ThinkProgress piece, huh?

      If you had actually taken the time to look at the link*, you would have seen the comment was backed by a chart showing the comparison between unemployment and Reagan’s unpopularity at the time. With the comment:

      “It is not an exaggeration to say that the rise and fall of the unemployment rate more than any other factor shaped general public reaction to Reagan in his first term. As unemployment rose from 7.5 % at the start of 1981 to more than 8.6% by January 1982, his job disapproval rating rose from 18% to 40% over this period.”

      So I’d be comfortable saying that’s neither an “inaccuracy or outright fraud” on the part of ThinkProgress.

      *Side note: When I went back to check the source of that link, I was pleasantly surprised to see it was ProCon.org. I actually found this site the other day and was impressed with it’s honest-to-goodness neutrality in addressing the issues of the day.

      • I’m not sure what the relevance of that chart is. Reagan’s popularity vs. Unemployment? The paragraph is called, “Unemployment soared after Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts.” The paragraph is about the relationship of unemployment to the tax cuts, and that’s what I replied about.

        Now here is what’s interesting. That link is in this sentence:”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. ”

        Nothing to do with Reagan’s popularity. So what Think Progress did was insert a link on the unemployment rate on a sentence proporting to show the relationship to the tax cuts, and instead of show only a link between unemployment to Reagan’s popularity.

        So having a link presented to show one thing but actually shows another is one very good example of “inaccuracy or outright fraud.”

        Of course you’re plagiarizing Think Progress’s work, so in a way, you’re more guilty of fraud then they are.

        So… as you should have learned by now, I do check links. And as I’ve already learned about you; you don’t. Of course, if you trust Think Progress to put together an accurate hit piece for you to steal, I guess why should you bother?

        That makes me think though, all those years on the muche when you constantly posted links that were either irrelevant to your point or outright contradicted it, I thought you were just being lazy and didn’t bother to read them past the title. Now I’m thinking you might have stolen them from someone who was just being lazy!

      • Whoa there, Nellie! First: I credited Think Progress for their piece and provided a link. Accusing me of theft and plagarism might just get you in trouble, ya know…Perhaps it would be wise to apologize for your comment?

        As far as the table: How can a paragraph be “called” something? The first sentence refers to an explanation accompanying the table:

        Unemployment jumped to 10.8 percent after Reagan enacted his much-touted tax cut

        That sentence says (and I quoted it before):

        “It is not an exaggeration to say that the rise and fall of the unemployment rate more than any other factor shaped general public reaction to Reagan in his first term. As unemployment rose from 7.5 % at the start of 1981 to more than 8.6% by January 1982, his job disapproval rating rose from 18% to 40% over this period.”

  2. I am anything but an admirer of Ronald Reagan, but facts are facts. In arming the mujaheddin he was continuing a policy put in place by Carter and Brzezinski.

    • Thanks for your reply. I believe it’s been established that Carter did not funnel money directly to the Mujahideen. Carter funneled money to Pakistan, who in turn decided to funnel the money to the most radical groups of Afghan rebels.

      Reagan, after taking office, opted for a more straight forward role and funneled the money directly to the Mujahideen along with supplying Stinger missiles and CIA agents on the ground to help train Mujahideen fighters. The same ones he called “freedom fighters”.

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