Ronald Reagan was a socialist. I didn’t say it. Bill O’Reilly got permission from Republican Party policy chief Rush Limbaugh to explain, on the air, the economic logic that drives the Republican Party to now condemn Reagan as a socialist.
As O’Reilly explained Republican policy, anyone who wants our wealthiest citizens to pay as little as 39% of their income as income tax is a socialist. George Bush lowered the tax rate for billionaires to 35%, which the Party now thinks is too high. President Obama has called for the top tax rate to rise again to 39%. And Limbaugh had O’Reilly explain that under his control, the Republican Party defines this as socialism.
So where does Reagan fit in? During Reagan’s first term, the top tax rate on our wealthiest citizens was 50%, 11% higher than the Republican threshold for being a socialist. Reagan was clearly well beyond the threshold, thus equally clearly a socialist.
What’s even worse is that Reagan was a tax-and-spend socialist. Even with a 50% tax rate on billionaires, he spent us into a huge deficit. But even so, he was far from the worst.
During Nixon’s presidency, the top tax rate was 70%. And Nixon not only taxed at almost double the socialism threshold, he also went to China and did deals with the Chinese. Beyond socialism, Nixon was clearly flirting with being an outright Commie.
But there is a traitor in our recent presidential history who was beyond socialism, beyond flirting with communism, a man who clearly was a redistributionist communist to his very core. That president had the top tax rate at 91%. He dealt with commies regularly, even helping the Russkies plan and coordinate military operations. As president, he hosted commie leaders who came to the U.S. to study how to infiltrate and overcome our freedoms. And he threw billions of our tax dollars into designing and building a road system the commies could use to move their troops and tanks through America when they finally invaded. That treasonous, craven, commie Quizling was, of course, Dwight David Eisenhower.
How stupid does this sound? Remember, every fact is true. It’s the spin put on them which makes them seem sinister. Looking at the spin can help us understand different values and points of view.
It is true that Eisenhower worked with the Russians to coordinate military operations. He did that in an effort to defeat the German armies to which Prescott Bush (George’s grandfather) was selling oil and financial services. It’s true that Eisenhower spent lots of tax dollars to build a road system -– we call it the interstate highway system today.
Eisenhower was a Republican who believed in spending tax dollars to build things to make the nation better, more modern, more competitive in a complex world. What Republican today believes in such things? Today’s Republicans see any spending for the public good as evil, as socialism. They don’t care about being competitive. They don’t need to, so long as they can live on uncompetitive no-bid contracts.
Eisenhower earned his living by serving the nation, after being educated at publicly funded schools. If you like what Ike –, and Generals George Patton and Omar Bradley — planned and executed in Europe, remember that they learned their skills in schools adequately funded by tax dollars. When you listen to your favorite music on CD, remember that the technology for CDs was developed in a Europe rebuilt by U.S. tax dollars spent on the Marshal Plan. When you take your children to the doctor, think about how much of the medical knowledge we have today was researched and developed by men who were educated on the tax funded G.I. Bill.
Nixon was also educated in public schools and on scholarship (another service odious to today’s Republicans). Though best remembered as the first beneficiary of the Republican’s overtly racist “Southern Strategy” and for dragging out the Vietnam War, Nixon should certainly spring to mind each time we buy products made in China, or seafood farmed in Vietnam.
After Eisenhower and Bradley and other public school heroes closed the door on Hitler’s dreams, Nixon opened the door to worldwide commerce and the cut-rate prices that make it possible for any worker in America to go into Walmart, buy a Chinese made computer, and come home to write blogs about how they hate that China seems to be taking over our economy.
There’s a pattern here. It may seem inconsistent for Republicans to reject their own former heroes. But there is an internal guiding principle that mandates this course –- avarice. Short-term greed for profits now with no attention to the future. Their greed is understandable, everyone wants more than we have. It is their willingness, even eagerness to sacrifice their own and everyone else’s future which makes their consistent policies so dangerous.
Today, we have a health care crisis in the U.S. We’ve been talking about it for a couple of decades. But Republicans have been working to create it for longer than I’ve been alive. In 1947, a Republican-controlled Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act to break the ability of unions to organize workers to demand living wages and decent conditions. Health care was always one of the unions’ main concerns for their workers and one of the things Republicans wanted to guarantee that workers could not effectively demand.
While fighting against union health care, Republicans also consistently opposed any form of public health care reform or regulation. They fought against health care for our school children and regulation to ensure safe nursing homes for our elderly parents.
Today, we import our doctors and nurses and computer scientists and convenience store managers from foreign countries. We do this because Republicans have fought for decades against modernizing our school systems. Now we have schools that teach our children that the world is flat and only 4,000 years old. But these same schools also teach the very profitable lessons that students should believe what they’re told, not question authority, and grow up to be obedient workers who don’t make trouble for management.
Think of names like Altec, Ampex, Oldsmobile, Plymouth, RCA, Sunbeam, and dozens of other brands destroyed in recent decades as U.S. businesses turned their backs on being competitive while opening their arms to defense contracts. So we drive German, Japanese, and Korean cars, which are cheaper than U.S. cars, but are made by workers who have better health care and retirement benefits than our own auto workers, and whose children go to better schools than our children.
What the German, Japanese and Korean auto companies don’t have is top-level managers raking off billions of corporate dollars before investing any in product development, new technologies, or the welfare of their workers.
Republicans abandon past heroes like Eisenhower, Nixon, and now even Reagan because they no longer generate profits. What’s done is done. What they look for now is what will deliver the most short-term cash. As our economic and health care systems are in crisis, while our schools fall into shambles and our prisons swell without reducing crime, all the Republican’s can think of is “how much money can we get this year from more tax cuts?”
So today Reagan is a socialist and the new hero is Joe the Plumber. Joe has the advantage of being too ignorant to understand how quickly he will be abandoned once he stops being profitable to talk radio. But being ignorant of the pattern and of the underlying policy driving Republicans is no advantage to the rest of us, who are its victims. The pattern will continue, so long as anyone continues to vote for Republican policies.