American Middle East policy was notably uneven under Reagan, supporting Sharon ‘s illegal settlement campaign and saying nothing when the Israeli Army committed atrocities against Palestinian civilians. Israel has a right to defend itself and must do so. But expanding the settlements into Palestinian territory, pirating water and agricultural resources and collective punishment do not serve Israel ‘s interests. Reagan supported these counter-productive policies more than any other American administration.
One lasting memory shall always be seeing Reagan running for a helicopter with his hand cupped to his ear, pretending to strain to hear a reporter’s question. He would then shake his head dismissively; flash a big smile and exit to the parade wave. He might as well have been saying, “I’d like to help you, son, but you’re too young to vote.”
For various reasons, I took Reagan’s agenda very personally. My completing a Master’s degree at the University of Michigan coincided with Reagan’s taking office in 1981. In those first 3 months:
The job I had been offered through the (CETA) Comprehensive Employment and Training Act was eliminated because Reagan ended the program as “wasteful, liberal spending.”
My access to legal counsel to fight an unscrupulous landlord was suddenly ended when Reagan cut the budget for the Legal Aid Corporation by 90%.
My access to medical care ended because the clinic I had gone to in Ann Arbor closed due to a cut in Federal funding.
My access to government assistance with staggering utility bills was eliminated.
I was punished by Reagan for having just finished grad school without a trust fund or job to fall back on. I actually had secured a job, but that was eliminated a week before I was scheduled to start, when Reagan de-funded the CETA program. In the meantime, billions were spent on weapons programs that were obsolete before any actual hardware was produced.
Before Reagan, there really WAS a compassionate brand of conservatism. There was also a Ripon Party, a “liberal” wing of the Republican Party that advocated a balanced budget and fiscal responsibility. They got kicked out of the Republican “big tent” under Reagan to make room for Falwell and the Moral Majority.
Indeed, children died from widespread malnutrition engendered by Reagan’s policies. People froze to death because they could no longer get help to pay huge bills that had suddenly spiked. People were wrongfully evicted from their homes because they couldn’t find the legal resources to fight bad landlords. Morning in America ? It was mourning for many people.
Reagan cut off the disability allowances for 1000′s of Americans in need, and left “Centers for Independent Living” to struggle. He also “de-institutionalized” 1000′s of mentally disabled Americans; thus planting the seeds for the current explosion of the homeless population. The gifts of the Reagan legacy keep on giving.
Oh my gosh! I almost forgot to mention the Savings & Loan scandal and Reagan’s de-regulation of the banking and securities industries. Oh yes, those little gifts to the geriatric millionaires in Tiburon and Malibu who served as Reagan’s “informal circle of advisers.” What did they wrought? This opened the door for merger upon merger upon mega-merger, de-regulation of de-regulations, and the financial catastrophe of 2008-10.
Reagan’s deregulation stripped away the barriers of both vertical and horizontal integration, enabling companies to buy companies they know nothing about, only to break them up, sell off the parts and wreck thousands of careers, lives and dreams. It has allowed companies to buy up entire sectors of a production, distribution and marketing process. Anti-trust laws used to prevent such things, but Reagan decided it was good.
Merger upon merger limits consumer choices and gives corporations undue power to control the marketplace. Don’t like the increasingly limited programming choices in the radio market? Thank Reagan. Don’t like the dwindling number of mom and pop businesses that were run out by Starbucks, Barnes & Noble and the like? Thank Reagan.
Reagan introduced the notion that the corporation knows what’s best for the rest of the world, and that what’s good for them is good for everybody. That’s how we got here.
Most notably, Reagan paved the way for the mendacity, secrecy, wrongful claims of executive privilege and mean spirit of both Bush Administrations. Let us remember the Reagan legacy more clearly than they want us to. Let us remember that both Bush presidencies, and the framework of the Tea Party is a twisted evolution of ideas that began by throwing bones to the religious right, and evolved to letting the inmates run the asylum.
H. Scott Prosterman
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