For many Americans, Ronald Reagan was a great president who reawakened and re-energized the nation as exemplified by the “Morning in America” commercials created by some of my friends. They even credit him for ending the Cold War. But the credit more accurately belongs to Gorbachev.
To me, Reagan will always be the person who used a hostage crisis to win election and who turned Americans against their own government by portraying it as the enemy. And that’s only the beginning of his negative impact on the US.
He famously ran up deficits and tripled the national debt. He flipped the economy upside-down with his Trickle Down theory of economics leading to extreme inequality in income, wealth and opportunity. Under Reagan, we saw the end of national usury laws making it possible for national banks to evade interest rate caps leading to interest rates of 18%, 30%, 40% and more. At the same time, Reagan took away the tax deductions for interest paid by middle class and poor Americans on auto loans, credit cards and other personal loans. One result, as evidenced by a new Institute for Policy Studies Inequality briefing paper by Bob Lord, is that the taxes paid by America’s billionaires have decreased 79 percent since 1980!
Known by some as the “Father of Globalization”, Reagan’s economic and trade decisions led to the offshoring of high-paying American jobs. As he embraced multinational corporations, he attacked the labor unions – the very organizations that created our middle class by fighting for living wages, healthcare benefits and safe working environments.
The Reagan administration supercharged the era of corporate consolidations and legalized stock buybacks for corporate executives. Those decisions led to multi-million-dollar annual compensation for corporate executives, inflated stock prices, and mass layoffs of workers.
And though Reagan criticized Carter for the capture of US embassy workers in Tehran, he was responsible for the deaths of 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers who were killed on his watch after he sent them to Beirut with no plan of engagement. He waged war on the island nation of Grenada – yes, Grenada – for aligning with Cuba. He also circumvented congressional oversight by creating a shadow government that illegally sold weapons to Iran in order to finance death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua.
And maybe Reagan’s worst decision of all was to call for the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine that led to the likes of Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and a host of others who have used hate, sensationalism and an avalanche of lies to divide us. I believe you can draw a direct line from that decision to Donald J. Trump and the most corrupt, conniving, inept and hateful administration in US history.