In 2019, Some People Seem Surprised That St. Reagan Was a Crappy, Racist President

In the last couple of weeks, an audio recording has been uncovered that seems to surprise a lot of people because it is all about a meeting between St. Ronald of Reagan and Richard Nixon. The surprise seems to revive around the fact that Reagan comes off as rather racist in the exchange.

I’m not sure why that would surprise anyone. After all, both Nixon and Reagan benefited from the “Southern Strategy,” which represents a conscious decision on the part of the Republican Party to cater to the racists and xenophobes in the country, so they would never lose an election the way they let in 1964. In other words, saying racist shit was part of the GOP game. In 1964, 80% of the Republican caucus in Congress voted for the Civil Rights Act, but by 1971, that was all part of the GOP was lost forever. The “Party of Lincoln” was working hard to become the “Party of George Lincoln Rockwell, a distinction that had, by then, been the sole domain of the Democratic Party.

The comment that finally brought some scrutiny to St. Reagan in the Age of Trump was this, which happened after a UN vote to expel Taiwan from the body, so that the red Chinese could take its place. it was a move that the US was against, if you can even imagine it. In his discussion with Nixon, St. Reagan said,

“To see those monkeys from those African countries, damn them,” Reagan said, to laughter from Nixon. “They are still uncomfortable wearing shoes.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/31/us/politics/ronald-reagan-richard-nixon-racist.html

It’s puzzling, really, that anyone should be surprised. This was, after all the Ronald Reagan who, just 8-9 years later, while he was running for president, slammed the very concept of “welfare” and Food Stamps by invoking the image of a fat black mother with 5-6 kids in tow buying an range with a 5-dollar Food Stamp and using the change to buy a pint of vodka. Apparently, in the world of white privilege, implying that all people on welfare are ripping off taxpayers by having too many children and using taxpayer money to buy booze is only a little racist, but referring to the leaders of “black countries” in Africa as “monkeys” is just too blunt, and too difficult to pretend isn’t racist. Or something…

WhI’ve always wondered why Saint Reagan has become such a matinee idol? And not just by Republicans? I mean, sure; Republicans talk about him like he was a demigod whose name should be spoken with reverence, with heads bowed and hands folded in prayer, but a lot of Democrats also think he was a political genius, especially the professional left. Even they speak of him as if he was a breath of fresh air on a spring day. The fact is, while he wasn’t as racist as Trump and he was more competent to hold the job than Trump, the fact of the matter is, he made the election of Donald Trump possible. St. Reagan’s election certainly marked the rise of current version of the Republican Party and started off what has easily been the second worst political period in our history. 

It’s time to tell the whole truth about Saint Reagan, starting with the fact that he was no saint. Besides being decidedly racist, he was also an incompetent president. Perhaps he was marginally more competent than Bush, Jr. and trump, but they are the substandard that all others bad presidents will be compared with. Let’s look at some of the most persistent Reagan myths and correct them.

Ronald Reagan did NOT cut taxes for most people.

Like George W. Bush and Donald Trump, Reagan reduced taxes only on the very rich. Unlike either Trump or Bush, though, he actually raised them on everyone else. When Reagan took office, the top tax rate was 50%. When he left, the top tax rate was 28%. Meanwhile, the middle class got screwed, as he had to raise payroll taxes to save Social Security and to mitigate the huge deficits his tax cuts caused. Here’s proof that St. Reagan reduced taxes only on the wealthy and made everyone else pay more:

The Congressional Budget Office (“Congressional Study: Tax Progressivity and Income Distribution,” 26 March 1990. CIS#H782-11), demonstrates how effective tax rates changed for various families during the Reagan years.

Quintile198019851990% Change – 1980-1990
Lowest 20%8.410.69.716.1
Second 20%15.716.116.76
Third 20%2019.320.31.2
Fourth 20%2321.722.5-2.2
Highest 20%27.32425.8-5.5
Top 1%31.824.927.2-14.4

With the Tax “Reform” Act of 1986, everyone’s income taxes went down slightly. Unfortunately, payroll taxes skyrocketed, and the income tax cuts didn’t come close to offsetting that. The initial intent of this tax “reform,” which was proposed by Democrat Bill Bradley, was to make the tax code simpler and fairer. We got the “simpler,” to a certain extent, but the “fairer” never happened. This is the effective income (NOT payroll) tax rate, when Reagan oversaw tax “reform.” Again, look who saw the most benefit under St. Reagan.

Income BracketSize of Tax CutSavings per Tax Return
Under $10,00011%$37
10-20,000669
20-30,00011300
30-40,00011467
40-50,000161,000
50-75,000161,523
75-100,000183,034
100-200,000227,203
200-500,0002724,603
500,000 – 1 million3486,084
1 million+31281,033

Really, if you’re making $20,000 per year, what would you do with an extra $69, which comes to less than $6 per month? Granted, $6 was worth more then than now, but still… To his credit, Reagan did expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helped the poor, but while the poor got a few extra bucks, the middle class got enough to pay for cable tv.

Which leads us to another Reagan myth:

Supply-side economics did NOT increase revenues under Ronald Reagan.

Reagan’s initial tax cuts for the rich were based on the concept of “supply-side economics,” or “trickle-down.” This theory suggests that the less taxes everyone pays, the more they will spend to create jobs and income opportunities for everyone else.

Unfortunately, this only works when it comes to people with little or no disposable income. The family in the chart above making $30-40,000 per year would likely use their $467 to make a mortgage payment, or perhaps put a down payment on a car, or pay some utility bills, all of which bring economic benefit to many. But the millionaire family saving $281,033 won’t likely “create jobs” with it. In fact; they’re more likely to buy Treasury Bonds and finance the debt Republicans create with this nonsense. Look at the numbers. This is the revenue our Treasury took in during each year of the Reagan era (The “Constant” figures are in 1987 dollars):

FYActualConstant
1980517.1728.1
1981599.3766.6
1982617.8738.2
1983600.6684.3
1984666.6730.4
1985734.1776.6
1986769.1790
1987854.1854.1
1988909877.3
1989990.7916.2
19901031.3914.1

As you can see, in inflation-adjusted dollars, revenues didn’t increase significantly until Reagan raised taxes on most of us in 1986.

Which leads us to the next Reagan myth:

There was NO economic boom under Saint Reagan.

The average unemployment rate in 1980 was 7.2%, but that skyrocketed to 11% by 1982.  The unemployment rate was still 7.4% when Reagan was reelected in a landslide in 1984. Unemployment didn’t actually drop below 7% until he raised taxes for most people in 1986. The lowest unemployment rate during his presidency was 5.2% in January 1989, as he was leaving office. Not bad, but Obama more than surpassed that, even after he was handed an economy heading straight into depression. And Obama did that in the face of record Republican obstruction, whereas St. Reagan had no such thing. Reagan Republicans tried to convince everyone that a 5% unemployment rate constituted “full employment,” which was absurd, given that we were less than 20 years removed from sub-4% unemployment at the time.

Among all dozen post-war presidents, in fact, St. Reagan’s job numbers rank as the third-worst. His job creation numbers were also the third worst, after the Bush father and son. The number of jobs grew by 2.1% per year under Reagan, which was less than half the job growth rate under Eisenhower, just above half the rate under Johnson and Clinton, and way under the job growth rate under Obama. In fact, St. Reagan’s job growth was a full percentage point below the job growth rate under Jimmy Carter, who Republicans consider to be the “worst president ever.” 

Also, along those same lines, St. Reagan also deserves no credit for getting a handle on inflation. Carter and Paul Volcker started that process. Yes, folks, It was Carter who hired Volcker, not Reagan. In fact, Reagan essentially “fired” Volcker by denying him a third term, and put Alan Greenspan in charge. Wasn’t that a great move?

St. Reagan certainly wasn’t even great for business. According to figures by Dun & Bradstreet, the number of failed businesses soared under Reagan, and was more than FOUR TIMES the number seen under Carter.

Year# FailuresRate
197010,74844
197511,43243
198011,74242
198116,79461
198224,90888
198331,334110
198452,078107
198557,078115
198661,116120
198761,111102
198857,09898
198950,36165
199060,74774

When Saint Reagan was president, we experienced historically high unemployment, job creation numbers that are barely better than either Bush, and a record number of business failures. Yes, he was saner and more competent than Donald Trump, but that’s like saying a sewer smells worse than a septic tank. Under Reagan, the economy did not boom.

In fact, it was under St. Reagan when we started to lose the middle class. This is also when te government reverted to shipping our jobs overseas. The following chart demonstrates how much incomes grew during the post-war period, and how much they stopped growing once Reagan took over:

Quintile1950-19781979-1993
Lowest 20%138%-15%
Second 20%98-7
Third 20%106-3
Fourth 20%1115
Highest 20%9918

St. Reagan did NOT reduce the size of government.

While Reagan slashed and burned nearly every program designed to help the poor and working class, the enormous increases in “Defense” spending more than offset the cuts and, as noted, his tax cuts also reduced revenues. The federal government was actually about 25% larger in 1989 than when Reagan took office in 1981. The federal civilian workforce actually grew from 2.8 million to 3 million during the Reagan years.

While Saint Reagan’s admirers talk big about “limited government,” but their hero didn’t live by that concept. As a percent of GDP, federal government spending increased from 33.8% in FY 1981, Carter’s last budget, to 34.9% in 1989, Reagan’s last. Spending topped 35% of GDP five times and, overall, . federal government spending under Reagan increased by 80%.

Saint Reagan is responsible for starting the “culture of debt” mentality that dominates the GOP these days.

From 1946 through 1980, when Democrats ran the show, the national debt shrunk from 120% of GDP to just under 33% of GDP.  During the Reagan years, the debt tripled in raw numbers, and constituted 56% of GDP by the time he left office. In dollars, the debt was 650% higher when he left than when he was elected.

Last, but not least, Reagan was NOT a “nice guy” as president.  

This one makes me crazy,. Yes, he was nicer than Lord Donny, but that’s not a high bar, since Donald Trump is easily the biggest asshole to ever be elected president, except Andrew Jackson, but times and conditions are different now. Even many progressives say Reagan was “nice” as if it’s fact. They don’t look at his record, which shows him as downright mean to the poor and working classes as president. He slashed virtually all government job training programs, including the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, or CETA, a direct descendant of the Works Progress Administration and an essential part of the New Deal, and replaced it with nothing. Many programs were dumped or gutted financially. He and the GOP also made severe cuts to AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). In constant 1987 dollars, the average AFDC payment per family dropped from $367 in 1981 to $276 in 1989, which means the very poor had to do more with less. a “nice guy” wouldn’t d that. The average Food Stamp benefit was $45 per person in 1981 and $46 in 1989.. St. Reagan is also the only post-war president who failed to propose or sign a minimum wage increase. Even Dubya signed one of those.

His treatment of Air Traffic Controllers set the stage for a wholesale dismantling of trade unions during the 1980s than continues to this day, resulting in depressed wages for most people. In fact, Reagan (who was, ironically, a former union leader) went far beyond PATCO when it came to undermining unions in this country. His nominees to the NLRB were so bad that a House subcommittee found they had abandoned their oversight responsibilities in what they referred to as “a betrayal of American workers.” In eight years, Reagan’s NLRB settled half as many complaints as Carter’s had in four, and they sided with employers in three-quarters of cases. By comparison, even Nixon’s NRLB only sided with employers a third of the time.

Reagan did not “support and defend the Constitution;” he undermined it.

There has been a trend during the last 30 years to place government power ahead of individual liberty, and you can thank St. Reagan for that mindset. Reagan didn’t care about your personal freedoms much more than. trump does, and it showed.

Take the “Drug War,” which accelerated under Reagan. The circumvention of individual rights in a vain attempt to keep drugs away from people and vice versa is Reagan’s legacy. Making drugs illegal and using draconian means to find them has made criminals filthy rich and turned average people into criminals, and Reagan led the charge. Saint Reagan led the drive to implement mandatory sentencing laws, while doing little or nothing about those who actually imported the drugs and made billions from them. It was under Saint Reagan’s Justice Department that profiling proliferated. Black men who were happily driving their luxury cars on major highways were being stopped because they were assumed to be drug dealers. Meanwhile, the clean-cut white kid with the buzz cut and the old, beat-up Honda could drive by with a few hundred pounds hidden under the back seat.

Under Reagan, in the guise of the “drug war,” which was already lost by 1981, police were encouraged to be corrupt. If they “suspected” someone of being a drug dealer, they got to keep whatever cash was confiscated, and it was up to the person accused to go to court and demand his money back. In other words, on St. Reagan’s watch, it became a crime for anyone to pay cash for an airline ticket or to carry cash onto a plane and they were essentially guilty until proven innocent.

By the way, you know that I-9 form you have to fill out every time you get a job? Reagan. Thank Saint Reagan for having to prove you’re NOT here illegally to get a job, which is largely the opposite of the Bill of Rights.

Ronald Reagan’s energy policies are why we’re screwed now.

When Saint Reagan took office, the energy policies in place were reducing our personal fossil fuel use by 5% per year. That meant a net decrease in our dependence on foreign oil. There was also massive investment in alternative fuels and clean energy. But Saint Reagan ditched them all. The short term effects were to drive gasoline prices to record lows for a few years, but the long term effects were to encourage the use of gas guzzlers and to abandon our research into oil replacements.

Look at all of this. Saint Reagan was a disaster as president. I didn’t even get into the criminals in his Administration or Iran-Contra, in which he armed both sides of the Iran-Iraq War and used the money to fund nun rapists in Central America…

Comments

In 2019, Some People Seem Surprised That St. Reagan Was a Crappy, Racist President — 2 Comments

  1. I had always thought Reagan was a lousy actor and a phony, but he sure fooled a lot of people. Thanks for providing the data. Going to keep to use when I hear someone praising Regan.

    I would have liked to learn your opinion on Iran-Contra. Rachel Maddow used the word “treason” in her book “Drift.”

  2. I never thought Reagan was anything but a complete piece of…well, you know. I worked in a homeless shelter when he closed down the institutions for the mentally ill. It was the worst thing he could have done. I remember my sadness at hearing he was elected, and I warned anyone who would listen that he would be our downfall, but no one listened. My Republican dad was convinced that he’d get rich selling real estate during the Reagan years, but that boom went bust pretty fast. Warned him about that too. Reagan used dog whistles all the time, most people just weren’t aware that’s what they were. But yeah, he was the beginning of the decline of the GOP.

    p.s. you might want to do a bit of proofing of your article