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The Price of Reaganism

Friday, March 27th, 2009


Thank you, Time Magazine and

Thank you, Time Magazine and for the picture!

post mortem of sorts here. Even for those who have been avoiding the news lately it has become hard to get through a week without some commentator exclaiming that “Reaganism is Dead!” That may well be the case but I wonder if we can’t take this further.

Yes, the President elected in 1980 proclaiming that “Government isn’t the solution; Government is the problem“, created a mantra of tax cuts and deregulation which, over time took America into the stratosphere of mismanagement and corruption. 

Those who inherited the Reagan ideals practically turned his vision into a caricature of the right-wing. Somewhere along the way, the Republicans in power forgot that regulations are actually needed to keep the economic playing field level, fair, and scrupulous while taxes serve to ensure domestic peace, public order and good government.

The America Ronald Reagan wanted United States to become is in tatters: from family-life to the CIA, it’s underlying institutions that gave it strength are crippled while its industrial might, financial empire, and foreign credibility, are virtually destroyed.

For those who are true Conservatives, it must be a real disappointment to find that their hero’s initial vision has been so badly squandered and the ideal America they hoped for lies in ashes, it’s fate nothing more than hopelessly awaiting resuscitation by none other than a bunch of liberal Democrats… again… just as it was after the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Somehow (and the reasons why I won’t get into here- many others speak to this point better than I), thanks to tax breaks and deregulation household incomes dropped while corporate CEOs became the newfound aristocracy. The rich got rich, the middle class got poorer, while the poor became destitute.

These guardians of the Reagan vision became so ungrounded in the reality of the Real World that despite tax-cuts to the ungrateful masses, when Wal*Mart got to be too expensive there was always another tax cut and the local ‘dollar store’ to help make ends meet. Indeed, only since the 1980s have food banks become prominent community ‘projects’ in a couple of the richest countries on the planet. If the population couldn’t eat bread, there was always cake!

And so, with yet another Trillion dollars on the table to buy up bad debt on the books of the very institutions that profited most by Reagan’s “Get Government out of the Way” stance, it is becoming very clear that the money that is being spent is the badly needed investment in American society that has been for so long put off.

Short term thinking always leads to long-term pain. Well it took 20 some-odd years but here we are. Multi-TRILLION dollar debts that will take not only our lifetime, but certainly the lifetime of our children and quite possibly the lifetime of their children to pay off. All of this for what?

Gluttony, greed, corruption for those who benefited from Reagan’s legacies and personal debt, poverty, and hopelessness for those who did not. If ever there was a time to remind us of the days of Charles Dickens, it is now- now that we can see the damage that has been done. If only the lesson weren’t so expensive!

Canada, right next door to the vortex of this illogical thinking- endless tax breaks and deregulation, has had a really hard time matching the focussed mantra streaming from Washington D.C. Following more closely to the European model of social support for its citizens, Canada has struggled with providing tax-cuts while still providing services, such as health care, that US policy makers have heretofore considered anathema to their goals and objectives.

So while the Bush-league supporters like Rush Limbaugh and the entire Fox News propaganda team struggle to keep their dream alive of an emasculated government and an ideological pathology that rewards the rich and punishes the poor, it is clear that world events have pushed the leadership of the United States government back toward a pragmatic course of reasonable regulation and fiscal responsibility (real revenue through taxation for the government to exist and be effective).

It’s unfortunate that the price-tag of this new-found pragmatism might even be seen to be so high with the enormous debt and emergency measures being undertaken. The real scandal is that those who pushed for and profiteered from the deregulation and now receiving the bailout money are just unwilling to see how it was really they who caused this mess. The sad part is that they are not going to have to make any sacrifices to right the ship.

Somehow we must understand and learn for all time though, that this debt is actually the price the United States must pay for its past- trying to get “government out of the way” and believing that “government was a problem” at all.

The measures being undertaken now by the leadership of the United States is a catch-up. It is the price to pay for delinquence built into the Reagan way. They are finally making up for crucial, valuable, and inevitable investments into its economy, society, and citizens, it neglected to do for almost thirty years.