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Ronald Reagan

Greg Palast says it for many of us:

Killer, Coward, Conman - Good Riddance, Ronnie Reagan: More proof only the good die young

You're not going to like this. You shouldn't speak ill of the dead. But in this case, someone's got to.

Ronald Reagan Ronald Reagan was a conman. Reagan was a coward. Reagan was a killer.

In 1987, I found myself stuck in a crappy little town in Nicaragua named Chaguitillo. The people were kind enough, though hungry, except for one surly young man. His wife had just died of tuberculosis.

People don't die of TB if they get some antibiotics. But Ronald Reagan, big hearted guy that he was, had put a lock-down embargo on medicine to Nicaragua because he didn't like the government that the people there had elected.

Ronnie grinned and cracked jokes while the young woman's lungs filled up and she stopped breathing. Reagan flashed that B-movie grin while they buried the mother of three.

And when Hezbollah terrorists struck and murdered hundreds of American marines in their sleep in Lebanon, the TV warrior ran away like a whipped dog ... then turned around and invaded Grenada. That little Club Med war was a murderous PR stunt so Ronnie could hold parades for gunning down Cubans building an airport.

I remember Nancy, a skull and crossbones prancing around in designer dresses, some of the "gifts" that flowed to the Reagans — from hats to million-dollar homes — from cronies well compensated with government loot. It used to be called bribery.

And all the while, Grandpa grinned, the grandfather who bleated on about "family values" but didn't bother to see his own grandchildren.

The New York Times today, in its canned obit, wrote that Reagan projected, "faith in small town America" and "old-time values." "Values" my ass. It was union busting and a declaration of war on the poor and anyone who couldn't buy designer dresses. It was the New Meanness, bringing starvation back to America so that every millionaire could get another million.

"Small town" values? From the movie star of the Pacific Palisades, the Malibu mogul? I want to throw up.

And all the while, in the White House basement, as his brain boiled away, his last conscious act was to condone a coup d'etat against our elected Congress. Reagan's Defense Secretary Casper the Ghost Weinberger with the crazed Colonel, Ollie North, plotted to give guns to the Monster of the Mideast, Ayatolla Khomeini.

Reagan's boys called Jimmy Carter a weanie and a wuss although Carter wouldn't give an inch to the Ayatolla. Reagan, with that film-fantasy tough-guy con in front of cameras, went begging like a coward cockroach to Khomeini pleading on bended knee for the release of our hostages.

Ollie North flew into Iran with a birthday cake for the maniac mullah — no kidding — in the shape of a key. The key to Ronnie's heart.

Then the Reagan roaches mixed their cowardice with crime: taking cash from the hostage-takers to buy guns for the "contras" - the drug-runners of Nicaragua posing as freedom fighters.

I remember as a student in Berkeley the words screeching out of the bullhorn, "The Governor of the State of California, Ronald Reagan, hereby orders this demonstration to disburse" ... and then came the teargas and the truncheons. And all the while, that fang-hiding grin from the Gipper.

In Chaguitillo, all night long, the farmers stayed awake to guard their kids from attack from Reagan's Contra terrorists. The farmers weren't even Sandinistas, those 'Commies' that our cracked-brained President told us were 'only a 48-hour drive from Texas.' What the hell would they want with Texas, anyway?

Nevertheless, the farmers, and their families, were Ronnie's targets.

In the deserted darkness of Chaguitillo, a TV blared. Weirdly, it was that third-rate gangster movie, "Brother Rat." Starring Ronald Reagan.

Well, my friends, you can rest easier tonight: the Rat is dead.

Killer, coward, conman. Ronald Reagan, good-bye and good riddance.


Ronald Reagan's Legacy

Ronald Reagan was a man who fought for what he believed in, and he changed the world more than probably any American in the twentieth century. He changed not only the conservative movement, the Republican party, his country and the world — but also his opponents, known as liberals. As a result of his achievements, the typical liberal Member of Congress today sits to the right of Richard Nixon on a number of economic issues, including tax policy.

The Great Communicator, as he was called, was capable of charming millions of Americans with his soothing, grandfatherly demeanor. In 1984 there were polls indicating that most of those who voted to re-elect him disagreed with him on the issues. In short, the "Reagan revolution" would probably never have happened without his unrivalled leadership skills.

His death has unleashed a torrent of commentary on the significance of this revolution, and so it is important to set the record straight. His economic policies were mostly a failure. Partly this was because he had promised something arithmetically impossible: to increase military spending, cut taxes, and balance the budget. He kept the first two promises, delivering the largest peacetime military build-up in American history, and cutting taxes massively, mostly for upper-income households.

But budget deficits soared to record heights. The national debt doubled, as a percentage of the economy, before Mr. Reagan's successors were able to bring it under control. This "military Keynesianism" did pull the economy out of the 1982 recession, but the 1980s still chalked up the slowest growth of any decade in the post-World War II era. And income was redistributed to the wealthy as never before: during the 1980s, most of the country's income gains went to the top 1% or 2% of households.

Mr. Reagan also helped redistribute American income and wealth with a bold assault on American labor. In 1981 he summarily fired 12,000 air traffic controllers who went on strike for better working conditions. This ushered in a new and dark era of labor relations, with employers now free to "permanently replace" striking workers. The median real wage failed to grow during the decade of the 1980s.

The Reagan revolution caused even more economic damage internationally, for example by changing policy at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Thus began the era of "structural adjustment" — a set of economic policies that has become so discredited worldwide that the IMF and World Bank no longer use the term. The 1980s became "the lost decade" for Latin America, the region most affected by Washington's foreign economic policy. Income per person actually shrank for the decade, a rare historical event, and the region has yet to come close to its pre-1980s growth rates.

Mr. Reagan is often credited with having caused the collapse of the Soviet Union, but this is doubtful. He did use the Cold War as a pretext for other interventions, including funding and support for horrific violence against the civilian population of Central America. In 1999 the United Nations determined that the massacres of tens of thousands of Guatemalans, mostly indigenous people, constituted "genocide." These massacres — often involving grotesque torture — reached their peak under the rule of Mr. Reagan's ally, the Guatemalan General Rios Montt. Tens of thousands of Salvadorans were also murdered during Mr. Reagan's presidency by death squads affiliated with the U.S.-funded Salvadoran military.

But it was Mr. Reagan's efforts to overthrow the government — democratically elected in 1984 — of poor, underdeveloped Nicaragua that almost brought down his presidency. Congress cut off aid to Mr. Reagan's proxy army, the Contras, as a result of pressure from Americans — led by religious groups — who were disgusted by the Contras' tactics of murdering unarmed teachers and health care workers.

The Reagan administration continued to run the war from the basement of the White House, and paid for part of it with the proceeds of illegal arms sales to Iran. Hence the Iran-Contra scandal, in which Mr. Reagan escaped prosecution because his subordinates claimed that he had no knowledge of their crimes.

The Reagan revolution continues today: the "war on terror" has replaced the Cold War as pretext for intervention abroad, including the disastrous war in Iraq. Tax cuts for the rich and huge increases in military spending have revived the era of giant budget deficits. As the Great Communicator used to say, "There they go again."