Reagan, the consummate performer, convinced his goose-stepping followers that trickle-down would benefit the entire country. But what trickle down did was place the nation on a spending binge that nearly caused a global, economic meltdown. To be sure, Reagan’s fiscal policies did not cause the mortgage crisis, the gas crisis, the near insolvency of the U.S, automobile industry, and the banking crisis, but it was the trigger that set the entire nation on a pork-feast at the trough of hyper-deficit spending. If we consider what happened to America economically during the eight years of the Reagan Revolution, it amazes me that anyone who calls themselves a Conservative (there I go with that word again) can still pay homage to his legacy.
When Reagan succeeded President Jimmy Carter in 1981, the public debt was $998 billion, or just south of $1 trillion; however, when Reagan passed the baton to George H.W. Bush, the debt had exploded to nearly $3 trillion. This is a staggering demonstration of financial mismanagement. To place this level of reckless disregard in its proper perspective, one must consider that in eight years, Reagan tripled what it took the country 204 years to accrue in deficit spending. This is astonishing! Yet, former President Ronald Reagan is still revered in nearly mythological proportions. In fact, I understand that there is a move by Conservatives (there I go with that word again) to nominate him for a posthumous Nobel Prize.
There are three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and the requirement that every GOP leader genuflect before the portrait of Ronald Reagan that hangs in the headquarters of the Republican National Committee. Why? Because Reagan was the first president to demonstrate that you can overspend beyond your wildest imagination if you could convince the country that an enemy was looming: Reagan, of course, had the former Soviet Union; H.W. Bush had Saddam; and Dubya had bin Laden. Now watch very carefully, because the hands are indeed quicker than the eyes – During the 20-year reign of the Republican presidents since 1980, the United States has spent nearly $8 trillion on defense…you still watching?
- · Russia disintegrated without firing one single bullet in self defense;
- · Saddam was held up in a hole the size of my walk-in closet; and
- · The last I heard, Osama bin Laden was last seen walking through the streets of Anacostia.
Did you see that?
This entire performance took place; not because of the trillions that were spent, but in spite of the trillions it cost the American tax payers. According to one analysis of global defense spending, the U.S. spends more money on defense than the rest of the world combined. The United States spends nearly 57 percent of all military expenditures world-wide. The runner up to this dubious honor and the bronze medal winner go to China and Russia respectively with a combined military spending of $115 billion, or 10 percent of total global military expenditures. America’s closest NATO ally, France, spends about $45 billion per year, or four percent of the total global military expenditures.
Simple mathematics shows me that NATO is getting a free ride at the expense of the tax payers in this country. So let me make sure I have this right: The presidential deficit commission is recommending the elimination of the sacred mortgage deduction; increasing the age of retirement under Social Security; eliminating “all the expensive and popular deductions,” which almost certainly means cafeteria plans, charitable contributions and childcare deductions; programs to assist the poor would be drastically cut back; and an increase in the amount of income subject to Social Security taxes. To be fair, the Commission is also recommending a $100 billion cut in defense spending, but if we assume that the Military Industrial Complex will just roll over and play dead while the surgeon cuts, this would simply reduce America’s percentage of global defense spending from 57 percent to 48 percent.
But as the old saying goes, “Talk is cheap.” Therefore, in addition to my criticism of the plundering of the American treasury, I offer this recommendation: Let’s go back to where the Conservatives (oops, there I go again) ran off the track during the Reagan administration, and reduce military spending to those 1981 levels. This would erase nearly $400 billion in spending overnight, but here is the good part: The $317 billion defense budget during Reagan’s first year is still three times more spending than China and Russia combined, but what it does additionally is require NATO to shoulder more of the burden for living in a relatively safe world.
Although I do not subscribe to Marxism; I must say that Marx’s case on the misunderstood power of the working class is profound. Now that I’ve made my point, here is the overriding issue: Will you sit back and permit your congressional leaders to take the crumbs that Reagan gave you in trickle down, or will you make your political leaders accountable for the decisions that they make? Perhaps demanding that this nation’s vaunted, overpriced military capture bin Laden would be a great first step. With this nation’s almost surreal intelligence apparatus, unless bin Laden is communicating with carrier pigeon, surely we should have captured him by now…if that was a national priority. However, what seems to be most important to our leaders today is to push back the gains, benefits and amenities afforded to the working class over the last 75 years and not the capture of Osama bin Laden.
And unless a chorus of opposition is heard, over the next few years, the citizenry will be scratching their collective heads, wondering how their politicians did it to them again. Well, here is the memo in case you missed it: It is called forgetting the past.