It is amazing to me how people get a selective memory when speaking about those that have passed away. Case in point, President Reagan. He passed away this week, and from news reports, you would think that the man was Mother Teresa. I'll concede the fact that he's responsible for scaring the bejesus out of Gorbachev and ending the cold war, and he was a good public speaker, but he wasn't a saint! Since it seems that the media outlets and the Republican spin machine will continue talking about the "good" of Reagan, let's talk a little about the bad and the ugly, shall we?
The Bad: Reaganomics. This so-called economic concept of Ronald Reagan was that if you cut taxes you would increase Federal Revenues since economic activity would increase. The increase in economic activity would bring with it increased Federal tax revenues. In other words the tax cut would be self liquidating and self paying since any lost revenues for the moment would almost immediately be made up by increased revenues in the future. It didn't cost anything, therefore, to lower taxes and the economy would be stimulated to new heights.
In truth, Reaganomics was a smoke screen for a hidden agenda. Taxes were cut, only in the first year of his presidency, to keep the American public happy while a plan to increase the national debt by $2.5 trillion was being concocted. What for? The United States systematically overspent on national defense to crush the Soviet Union since it was obvious they couldn't keep up. It took Reaganomics only 8 years to increase the national debt from $1 trillion to about $3.5 trillion!
Reaganomics Key Points:
- The national debt when Ronald Reagan took office was about $1 trillion. That included in it all the debt run up for the Revolutionary war, the Spanish-American war, the Civil war, World War I, World War II, the Korean war, the Vietnam war and all the Social wars of the 1930's and subsequent years. In other words it took the United States from 1776 until 1980 or more than 200 years to accumulate a national debt of $1 trillion.
- Ronald Reagan left us a national debt of about $3.5 trillion or $3,500 billion.
- Given the spending habits established by the legacy of Ronald Reagan the national debt is now a little over $7 trillion!
- The interest cost on the national debt now runs about $318 billion a year! When Ronald Reagan took office they were about $53 billion a year.
So, feel free to give Reagan props for ending the Cold War, but don't perpetuate the myth of fabulous Reaganomics. The end of the Cold War came with a $2.5 trillion price tag attached to it, don't try and tell us that it was free!
The Ugly: the closing of mental health hospitals in California and across the United States. Is it any wonder that California seems to have all of the crazy homeless people? State mental hospitals were taken away by Governor Reagan in the seventies, and federal mental health programs were later taken away by President Reagan in the eighties.
When Ronald Reagan was governor of California he systematically began closing down mental hospitals, later as president he would cut aid for federally-funded community mental health programs. It is not a coincidence that the homeless populations in the state of California grew in the seventies and eighties. The people were put out on the street when mental hospitals started to close all over the state.
Seeing an increase in crime, and brutal murders by Herb Mullin, a mental hospital patient, the state legislature passed a law that would stop Reagan from closing even more state-funded mental health hospitals. But Reagan would not be outdone. In 1980, congress proposed new legislation (PL 96-398) called the community mental health systems act (crafted by Ted Kennedy), but the program was killed by newly-elected President Ronald Reagan. This action ended the federal community mental health centers (see timeline on this link) program and its funding.
In closing, the next time you pass by a homeless person in downtown San Francisco screaming to themselves at the top of their lungs, remember Reagan. And if your kids need to go out and get jobs at age 9 to pay down the national debt, be sure to tell them that they can thank Ronald Reagan, and now President Bush, for their misfortune.