Remembering Ronald Reagan

The 40th president of the United States has passed away. His supporters claim he was the greatest president of the past century. They want to carve his head on Mt. Rushmore and put him on the ten-dollar bill – displacing the hapless non-presidential Alexander Hamilton. But the truth is Reagan was a horrible president. Consider some of the following 'accomplishments' of the late president.

Two of his favorite projects were trying to deprive women, especially poor women, of their rights to control their own bodies by banning abortions and trying to remove as many restrictions as possible to the dispersal of guns of all kinds to whomever wanted them. Since the Supreme Court stood in the way of banning abortions, Reagan had to content himself with trying to prevent federal money being used for abortions needed by poor women. It is a great legacy to discriminate against and try to undermine the health of poor women.

He also opposed gun control. How allowing a flood of handguns to engulf the country squares with respect to 'the right of life' is hard to see.

Similar to the current Republican disaster in the White House, Reagan’s 'voodoo economics' was based on cutting taxes for the rich and increasing the budget of the military machine.

As for the poor – the New York Times reports that Reagan 'had some successes' with his economic policies such as 1) he got rid of a federal program that gave employment and training to over 300,000 people in poverty; 2) he was able cut food stamps so that more people could go to bed hungry; 3) he succeeded in cutting many children off of welfare (to make up for that extra Pentagon money); 4) and by 'trimming' the Medicaid roles he was able to swell the ranks of people with no health insurance.

A really nice man, he was concerned with the health and well being of America’s school children. His Agriculture Department wanted to count ketchup as a vegetable when providing school lunches for poor children. Another 'success' was eliminating 300,000 people from Social Security disability payments. Tax cuts for the rich, suffering and degradation for the poor. And what of the homeless whose numbers mushroomed under his watch? He suggested that many of them might be homeless 'by choice.'

His creature at the Federal Reserve Bank, Alan Greenspan, thought that Reagan had many positive achievements such as, according to the Times, slowing down programs to help the poor and disadvantaged- 'social benefit programs.' If you are going to increase federal spending for the military and cut taxes – someone has to pay. Reagan wanted the poorest and weakest elements of our society to shoulder the burden his millionaire backers would never assume.

He also worked against the civil rights movement. Worried about the oppression of upper class white folk, Reagan’s Attorney General fought against many antidiscrimination plans. The NAACP claimed, the Times wrote, that Reagan 'showed a clear hostility to civil rights aspirations.' No one would accuse Reagan of wanting to be the president of 'all the people.'

Who can forget Iran-Contra and Reagan’s support of policies that led to the murder of thousands of peasants (mostly children and women - as usual) throughout Central America.

The leaders of the terrorist death squads Reagan said were 'the moral equivalent of our founding fathers.'

According to the Times, the historian C. Vann Woodword observed that he had never seen any administration with such a 'magnitude of irresponsibility and incompetence.'

Former Speaker of the House Thomas O’Neill thought that of the eight presidents he had known Reagan was 'the worst' and that it was 'sinful' he became president!

I don’t want to end on a negative note. O’Neill didn’t live long enough to know the current president of the US. Had he, he might not have thought of Ronald Reagan as the 'worst' president he ever knew.

--Thomas Riggins is book review editor of Political Affairs.

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