By any objective measure, Reagan’s trickle-down economics has been a disaster for America’s economy … but there’s one facet of Reaganomics that, while it has cost America her industrial base and perhaps millions of jobs, has benefited my family and me in a way I didn’t expect. Unfortunately, few Americans have the opportunity I do.
When I first went overseas in the Navy, the poverty I saw reinforced what I’d always been taught: “America is the best place to live in the world.” This was what I learned at home and at school and in all the media I had access to, and outside of America I saw rampant poverty. Why would I want to live anywhere else? I wondered.
I think my first wake-up call was in Hong Kong in the mid-eighties. All of a sudden I saw a place in Asia that was as prosperous, as clean, and frankly safer than any place in America. At the time I thought it was only because Hong Kong was still under English rule. But then came Singapore and Dubai and Nagasaki and Perth and Bangkok, and I began to think that maybe, just maybe people live quite well in these places, too. Even downtown Nairobi, Kenya was comparable to downtown Seattle.
More recently I’ve put down earnest money on a condo in Taguig, a suburb of Manila. Now why would I want to live there? Because this planned city is at least as nice and clean and safe as almost anywhere on the West Coast and bears a strong resemblance to Honolulu … for less than $200K U.S. I realize that very few of us have that on hand, but don’t get the idea I’m rich — anything but! I’ve got a house in foreclosure and some hard choices to make — either keep the house here and work my butt off another 30 years to pay it off, or let it go and instead have a nicer place for less than half the price and work only when I wanted to. My decision? The Chinese rightly say that great opportunity is found in the midst of disaster. Two weeks from now – if all goes well financially – I go to Manila to sign the papers. I’ll still live in America for the time being, but – God willing – I’ll have a nice place to retire to.
What does this all have to do with Reaganomics? Well, think back – in the fifties and sixties the world’s economy revolved around America. This began to slip somewhat in the seventies, but when Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush took a chainsaw to the financial regulations that had kept America’s economy strong since the end of the Depression, our manufacturing base died a not-so-slow death and our national infrastructure was left to rot. Our industries – and the jobs that went with them – mostly went overseas, and though we’ll probably recover no later than next year, our economy may well be relegated to second place after China within a decade.
There was a time that our educational system was the envy of the world. Our colleges still are, but our K-12 system is a joke. Our infrastructure is dying on the vine. Our lack of social services has left our national life expectancy to lag behind those of Jordan and Bosnia. And HERE is why: we sat on our laurels. We were on top of the world and as long as our military was the biggest, we didn’t think we needed to compete any more. But now we’re being left behind – not just by Europe, but even by third-world countries like the Philippines.
I love America and I always will, but I have found that, thanks to Reaganomics and massive deregulation of our economy, there are now many better places to live. I wonder how many in the developing world’s new and burgeoning middle class realize the price the American people inadvertantly paid for Reagan’s misguided economic leadership, and the benefit the developing world has received as a result.
But macroeconomics is not always a zero-sum game. Perhaps those selfsame benefits reaped by the developing world will come back to benefit us, and perhaps they already have since the surest way to stabilize a nation is to make its economy strong. And it’s even better when this is applied to nearly all of east Asia. A better economy for the Third World as a whole means fewer wars, fewer rebellions, less drugs being manufactured — in other words, a safer, more peaceful world.
In the Navy there’s a saying: “If you’ve just got to f*** up, then at least f*** up in the right direction!” I think maybe Reagan did just that. Deregulation was meant to help America’s economy and instead dealt our economy a crippling blow, but unexpectedly benefited much of the developing world to a greater extent than anyone might have believed possible. Hopefully a few of the readers of this article can find an opportunity to share some of the same benefits that I’ve found, and all thanks to the man who began the destruction of the strongest economy the world has ever seen.