From the Left: The end of Reaganism
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
Ronald Reagan single-handedly presided over the attempted pulverization of the working class. Under his watch, economic productivity increased by a noteworthy 45 percent, but it came at a terrible cost. Wages for working families remained frozen, while the tax rate for the richest one percent of earners was cut in half; household credit debt exploded, spiking to be over 110 percent of the nation’s GDP as workers lost their economic purchasing power; middle-class bankruptcies escalated 610 percent; the prison-industrial complex privatized countless prisons and incarcerations jumped 355 percent; and the usage of high-dosage anti-depressants skyrocketed 305 percent as working people succumbed to the economic stress, straining the health care system and increasing their costs by nearly 80 percent. Despite the damage to working households that Reagan caused, the DOW Jones exploded nearly 1,400 percent and the ratio of employee-to-CEO pay grew to 1:649 as wealth was redistributed upwards.
Reagan did not preside over a period of economic growth; he set the stage for a corporate re-structuring of our financial system and padded the pockets of the ultra-rich at the expense of the working class.
This is not all that categorized the Reagan Era. The social conservatism that reigned during that the time was little more than cultural backwardness. The “traditional values” that were held on so dearly were merely philosophically justified bigotry. At the time, same-sex couples were considered abnormal. Marijuana usage was considered to be on the same level as hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. Us libertarian socialists were equated with the authoritarianism of Marxist-Leninism, and any critique of domestic policy was indicative of Sino-Soviet sympathy. It was an era that was fiercely anti-progressive and anti-equality and riddled with elements of overt nationalism.
History progresses dialectically. As time goes on, policies become increasingly progressive. American culture moves slowly and surely to the left, and acceptance of ethnic and sexual minorities is all but certain. But just because the arc of history bends inexorably toward justice, as Martin Luther King famously said, does not mean that it will occur with a full consensus. Even though Reagan’s presidency is (thankfully) in the past, elements of the zealous devotion to unfettered capitalism that his oligarchy spawned still exist today.
The Tea Party views Ronald Reagan as if he were a god, as if he were the patron deity of prosperity and freedom. Any legitimate analysis of his tenure proves only the opposite, but he hid the immiseration he caused by speaking endlessly of liberty, evoking patriotic sentiments that caught the populace up in a wave of mindless America-obsession and made them refuse to question anything that it did.
Despite the overwhelmingly moderate reform that President Barack Obama tried to pass in the first two years of his presidency, the ultra-rich — angered that his legislation would run counter to their economic interests — funded a political movement in the hopes that it would restore the rampant nationalism of Reagan so that they could get Obama out of office and replace him with yet another corporate puppet. It’s very name — the “Tea Party” — drips with overt hyper-patriotism.
Rupert Murdoch and David and Charles Koch have poured billions of dollars into a faux “grassroots” movement that reeks of the toxic filth of nationalism and free-market fetishism, all hidden behind the thin veil of “patriotism” and “liberty.” There is nothing organic or spontaneous about the Tea Party — from its conception to its electoral victory in the 2010 midterm elections, it was flooded with money by the same people who financed the pro-Romney super-PACs.
Yet despite its unrealistic and backwards agenda — from the abolition of corporate regulation to the full regulation of all civil liberties - the country presses onwards. When the United States elected an African American as its president, the far-right recoiled and hardened its views; when Obama’s health care reform passed and was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court, it radicalized even further; and when the next presidential election came, it tried to oust the so-called communist by reaffirming its conservatism by rejecting immigration reform and obsessively adhering to the cultural norm of the Industrial Revolution.
Despite all of this, the United States has pressed on. The nation voted for Al Gore to be president in 2000 and gave him the popular vote, and even though the State preserved its tyranny by unconstitutionally declaring George Bush president, it declares its desire to push forward and enter cultural modernity by electing Obama for a second term. Health care reform (despite the final bill being only a shadow of a compromise) passed, cannabis legalization has begun and same-sex marriage will be nationally recognized after the Supreme Court hears cases for its constitutionality in late March.
Barack Obama’s re-election, despite what conservative political commentators and pundits say, will not herald the collapse of our Republic, nor will he usher in an era of Soviet-style authoritarianism. In reality, it is the pronouncement that the United States will finally join the rest of the industrialized world in actually promoting tolerance and social equality and finally recognizing economic logic by leaving fanatical neoliberalism behind. Obama does not represent the death of America— he represents the end of bigotry, the end of economic backwardness, and the end of cultural intolerance. He represents the fortunate end to Reaganism.