The Reagan that Never Was

Republicans worship the legacy of Ronald Reagan. His name is mentioned frequently as the ideal conservative (sometimes by Democrats). Anti-tax advocate, Grover Norquist, has successfully promoted the Reagan legacy as something worthy of numerous big-city streets being named after the former president; and he has pushed for coins and Mount Rushmore engravings on top of this. Nevermind the recessions, illegal negotiating for arms with Iran (using this money to fund contra rebels in Nicaragua), illegal intervention in soverign Central American states, using “social issues” to polarize and divide the country, and his severe mishandling of the economy.

Reagan pledged during his 1980 campaign for president to balance the federal budget, but never submitted a balanced budget in his eight years in office. In 1981, the deficit was $79 billion and, in 1986, at the peak of his deficit spending, it stood at $221 billion. The federal debt was $994 billion when he took office in 1981 and grew to $2.9 trillion when his second term ended in 1989. [source] Reagan also added more trade barriers than any other president since Hoover in 1930. US imports that were subject to some form of trade restraint increased from 12% in 1980 to 23% in 1988. [Source] (source:

The truth is that Reagan was not what conservatives imagine he was. He was an actor, a puppet, and a tool for powerful interests.

Incomes under Reagan from MotherJones Magazine 10.14.2011

George Carlin:
“This is the Ronald Reagan administrant we are talking about. These are the law and order people. These are the people who are against street crime. They want to put the street criminals in jail to make life safer for the business criminals. They’re against street crime, providing that street isn’t Wall Street.”

Books on the (real) Reagan legacy:

Reagan: Morning After in America

See also:

  • What’s the Matter with Kansas? Thomas Frank
  • The Wrecking Crew, Thomas Frank