June 05, 2004
Ronald Reagan, R.I.P.
He tried hard, but by and large he didn't have the brainpower to think his way out of the boxes that his prior commitments and initial personnel choices handed him.
The economic policy the neoconservatives handed him was a disaster: the tax cuts made America a more unequal place, and the deficits slowed economic growth in the 1980s significantly--as even Larry Lindsey's numbers show. The best you can say about social policy is that it was a tremendous waste: a lot of misery could have been prevented had not fears of alienating the base kept the Reagan administration from reacting swiftly and intelligently to the coming of AIDS.
Foreign policy looks better. Reagan's foreign policy was horrible for the Nicaraguans, and horrible for the Iranians and Iraqis. But George Shultz proved a good Grand Vizier for Foreign Affairs. And Reagan's decision to help rather than try to hinder Gorbachev was the right one, even though few in his administration agreed with it.
Posted by DeLong at June 5, 2004 04:54 PM
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It's not good for your keyboard to grit your teeth so hard that the keys are dusted with flakes of enamel.
One would think you could put the criticisms aside on the day the man died. Nasty, nasty. I’m disgusted.
Everyone's reflecting on Reagan's presidency today - i think Brad's entitled to, and he gave an honest assessment of Reagan's contribution to America. Reagan was a personally compelling human being for a lot of people and Brad doesn't mentioned that, but Brad's right on about his effect on the United States and the World.
I've been playing by Republican rules of civility for some time now, Zarkov, but this is sort of new for Brad. Good for him, though.
I'm taking bets on who will declare him to be the Greatest of All American Presidents. Probably a neo-Confedrate from NRO or the Moonie paper.
If Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter died tomorrow, most Republicans would be nice. After all, he wouldn't be running for office, why run him down? Comparisons showing how Kerry is "not up to Clinton's standard" would suffice. Dems should be pointing out how Bush doesn't measure up to Reagan, not how bad you think Reagan was.
And those Repubs who would attack a Dem on his dying day just alienate - the Republicans (outside of the LGF level of inanity) were reasonably nice about Wellstone - honoring him as an idealist and one of the few honest politicians.
There are a ton of Reagan Democrats out there. Attack Reagan, and they say, "Hey, I liked Reagan. Maybe these attacks on Bush are just a load of cr*p, since I know the attacks on Reagan by the same folks are."
Nobody likes Reagan's economic policies. Few today will say that they liked the sweeping-under-the-rug of AIDS for so long. Fewer today think that arming and funding Saddam Hussein against Iran was a good idea.
rvman If Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter died tomorrow, most Republicans would be nice.
On what planet?
zizka: Not “Republican” rules of civility, human rules of civility.
I love how rightwingers have roped off all their politicians as unattackable idols. Discuss about the consequences of Dubya or Reagan's policies and they savaged you as un-American and heartless by them. The rightwing attack on reality continues.
It's been pretty well accepted that when you write an obituary on a public person's life, you discuss both what they did right and what they did wrong. There's a difference between rememberance and whitewash.
bah, got too meta again, sorry if that sounded more like an attack than a defense, though the content is obvious
there was a spelling error in your title. Based on the content of the post, you should have titled it, "Ronald Reagan, Burn in Hell".
>Nobody likes Reagan's economic policies. Few
>today will say that they liked the sweeping-
>under-the-rug of AIDS for so long. Fewer today
>think that arming and funding Saddam Hussein
>against Iran was a good idea.
Brad, you need to get out of California, more. Ordinary People remember Reagan for a) "Tear down this wall", b) "Morning in America". His "economic policies" are remembered as working. He created big deficits which didn't really hurt us, he cut and simplified taxes, he rebuilt the military.
He did screw some stuff up, everyone errs - arming Hussein against Iran wasn't one of them. (remember - it was sending arms to IRAN, not Iraq, that got him in trouble - Iraqi military equipment came from France and Russia, not the US.)
Most people aren't going to say that the President of the United States was responsible for AIDS - that is a problem of public health which most people view as a) a matter of personal responsibility, b) an act of god, or c) a problem for local and state health authorities. Only the left blames AIDS on Reagan. (What was he going to do? Shut down the bathhouses? The folks that did advocate that were rather shouted down by the left at the time.)
The two of us - a libertarian and a liberal - are going to disagree on Reagan's true errors, his true misjudgements, his true crimes. But today isn't the day for enumerating them. Even if all you say is true, saying it on his death day is poor taste, and bad form. Read Kerry's statement for a good, politic response.
Before anyone else goes off on Brad, read what Ralph Reed, true-blue Republican operative, had to say in MSNBC's story.
Suffice it to say it's damning with faint praise, albeit regarding religion, not fiscal or foreign policy.
The Republicans were not "reasonably nice" about Wellstone. They spoke mealy-mouthed words while trashing the funeral and doing everything they could, quite successfully and in a very well-coordinated way, to make it a political issue. One of the nastiest episodes I remember.
Zarkov, the "Republican" rules of civility I referred to are slim and none. My gold standard for "Republican civility" is Newt Gingrich's 1994 claim that when Susan Smith killed her kids, it was the Democratic Party's fault. Gingrich made this claim on the eve of the election which made him majority leader. His slime worked very well.
As it happened, Smith's stepfather, a Republican Party official and Moral Majority activist, had sexually abused her for years starting in her mid teens. As soon as that fact came out, the story died.
So anyway, as soon as Brad or I or some other Democrat falls below the Gingrich civility level, say something. Until then, shut your mouth, OK?
The egrigious David Brooks recently put out a silly thumbsucker about "polarization". Well, it's only called polarization and incivility when Democrats do it. Finally we are starting to have actual parity now, and I say that's a good thing. When creeps like Limbaugh and Gingrich and Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan and Michael Savage the rest of them said their nasty shit, that wasn't polarization because it was only the rightwingers who were doing it. It was monopolar jerkishness.
But when Brad makes a mild criticism of St. Ronnie, that's bad. Very, very bad.
As an aside, I don't know if I would want to press claims of Republican decency too far. Recall this:
" In mid-April of 1996, when Woodward himself tells Dole that Clinton is still angry over how the Rupublican candidate two years earlier had spoken out sharply about Whitewater on the very day that Clinton's mother had died, Dole is both nonplussed -- "That's not something Bob Dole would do" -- and upset that perhaps he had -- "Maybe I owe him an apology."
Brad has at least a couple of years to decide if an apology is called for.
Isn't this Reagan guy the same that armed and paid terrorists in Central America, under the allegation that Nicaragua could invade Texas?
Or is it the one who armed and trained Islamic fundamentalists, soon to become Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan?
Good riddence to bad rubbish.
When the Constitution was written it was specific that only congress could control the purse strings. Iran Contra was an act of treason. This garbage was a atraitor and sadly that was probably the least of his sins.
The world is better off with him gone the only problem is what toxic waste site do we pollute by dumping his pestulaent carcass in.
Well, we’re about to be inundated with the pros and cons...
A terrific book for anyone who’s interested in democracy is “Ronald Reagan: The Great Communicator” by Kurt Ritter and David Henry (Greenwood Press, 1992--a little pricey, but worth it). It’s a serious communications & rhetoric study of the themes and style of Reagan’s oratory, and quite an eye-opener.
Reagan gave many thousands of speeches since his Screen Actors Guild and General Electric days, and up until his presidency, HE WROTE EVERY ONE.
He gave about 9,000 speeches to GE employees, as a company spokesman. Throughout decades he used his actor’s craft to get the audience in the room to become emotionally one with him.
He started with a secular apocalyptic, then developed a secular jeremiad--a three-part structured lamentation of America’s original promise, its current failure, and its possible restoration--of enormous emotional power. This structure came from the Puritan sermons. He even found phrases there: “[shining] city upon a hill”, for example, was from John Winthrop in the 17th century.
I started to read this book, thinking that oratory is beside the point, but finished understanding it is central. Reagan’s true achievement was his oratory, and it cannot be overestimated. He came to understand, as the ancient rhetoricians knew, that oratory is not a side show, it is one of the main acts in a democracy.
Indeed, you could go so far as to say the liberal left’s current eclipse in this country is almost entirely due to lack of effective rhetoric, and little else.
Reagan’s oratorical achievement is central to understanding his extraordinary turn in American politics--as well as our politics’ eventual continuance to its present impasse.
zizka: It’s not a race to the bottom on civility. If Gingrich lacks civility, that’s his problem, and he will suffer the consequences. After all,
“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones”
So I think it’s wise to set high standards for yourself, and to be able to express your ideas without recourse to insults. People will respect you all the more.
I thought Astrid got it right. Not Classic Liberal, not Ken. It's no disrespect to Reagan to take his policies seriously, for good and for ill. For heaven's sake, Brad is a policy wonk; we don't really want him trying to compose paeans to Reagan's sunny optimism, do we?
But I agree with Brad that Reagan tried hard, and in important respects he was a better president than I ever expected him to be. R.I.P., indeed.
Your short assessment was fair. His failure in the AIDS/HIV crisis still leaves a very bitter taste 20 years later for all the lives that were lost.
I commented on this shameful aspect of his legacy in several places at Political Animal today: (Reagan: The AIDS Denier)
The only Reagan movie I've ever see is This is the Army, from around 1944. It was a kinda goofy musical with a lot more homoerotic and transvestite imagery than I'd have expected for a movie of its time. I enjoyed it for the hour and a half or so that it was on.
There would be no uniform "Republican" reaction to the death of, say, Jimmy Carter. Instapundit would doubtless be less civil than Brad DeLong, saying something like "Ha ha. Good riddance that that loser's dead." Andrew Sullivan (who, I think, regards himself as a more self-conscious media figure) would probably be as or more civil than Brad, maybe "Overall, I disagreed with Jimmy Carter a lot, and don't think he did a good job as president or post-president, but none can deny that he was a man of deep faith and conviction who always blah blah." (guessing from their reactions to Wellstone, for instance)
That said, I think that it would have been better if Brad had waited a little while before jumping straight into how good or bad a president Reagan was. I don't think that it's inappropriate of Brad to talk, substantively, about Reagan's presidency here, but I do think that the day of his death isn't the best time for rational discourse about it.
HHS Discretionary Funding for HIV/AIDS
Year Funding (k$) Increase over prior year
FY1982 5,555 2678%
FY1983 28,736 417%
FY1984 61,460 114%
FY1985 108,618 77%
FY1986 233,793 115%
FY1987 502,455 115%
FY1988 962,018 94%
FY1989 1,304,012 36%
FY1990 1,592,756 22%
FY1991 1,891,232 19%
FY1992 1,963,414 4%
FY1993 2,079,591 6%
FY1994 2,568,682 24%
FY1995 2,700,498 5%
FY1996 2,897,923 7%
FY1997 3,267,220 13%
FY1998 280,618 9%
FY1999 304,516 9%
Jesus, Zarkov, do you read? Gingrich was "punished" for his incivility by being named the second most powerful man in the US (Speaker of the House).
What were you doing then? I can tell you what you were doing then -- you were applauding him. You didn't even bother to notice his creepiness. (And that was not the only example of it, by far).
What Brad said was very mild, and what I'm saying is really not that harsh. Keep your pious whining to yourself, or if you really do feel so inclined, spend the rest of your life trying to clean up the Republican cesspool.
We've been dealing with the Republican creeps for over a decade. Hasn't bothered you none, has it? Don't preach sermons, OK?
Oh, for goodness sake, there are all sorts of people, left and right, all over the airwaves today making varied assessemnts of Reagan. And some of Reagan's ex-staff are making truly astonishing and ridiculous claims for the guy. So what is wrong with giving one's honest assessment of his presidency?
I was too young to have my political beliefs fully formed when he was elected, and still new to economics, so was tempted to think that some of his economic policies were worth a try (not the taxes cuts though, that was easy to see through).
I ended up disagreeing with 90% of what he did. But I do believe that he was sincere, and appreciated his optimism. And his acceptance of Gorbachev as a partner he could work with is a very very big plus. I have to give him credit -he *could* change his mind with changing circumstances. I started being nostalgic for Reagan as early as Bush I.
I don't think Reagan as a mean spirited person either. He probably did think silly things about HIV being divine punishment for gays, at least he apparently mused about it. But my understanding is that his initial reluctance to fund research was a simple ignorance of the nature of the problem, and that things changed after Koop was able to evade the president's staff and give a short lecture (during a long elevator ride, I think).
If you have to deal with an extreme right wing conservative, you could do a lot worse that Ronald Reagan, as we have learned. I do admire some of his attitudes very much, even if I think he was very badly mistaken on a lot of things.
What a spiteful, churlish little diatribe. What a horrid, bitter little person you must be.
And what's "neoconservative" doing in there? There was no such movement at the time - or at least, they were all still Marxists then. Seems that nowadays "neoconservative" is used by airheaded lefists as a cue word for "someone who you are supposed to hate", doesn't matter who it is slapped on.
Overall, on a scale of one to ten, I'd rate your post "despicable". Thanks for not disappointing.
A Zarkov writes:
> HHS Discretionary Funding for HIV/AIDS
[table of data showing huge growth omitted]
I'm not sure why you posted this since I would have supposed you were trying to make the point that Reagan made an appropriate response to AIDS. What the data show is, of course, a rocketing-upward cost in money (and lives; that data not shown) that was undoubtedly worse than it needed to be BECAUSE WE BLEW IT EARLY IN THE GAME AND EXPONENTIAL GROWTH EATS YOU FOR BREAKFAST. Sorry for shouting back there, but this is the key point. If you have a 100% lethal sexually transmitted disease in your population, you face nearly certain disaster *unless* you do literally everything you can do to slow the spread of the disease early on, and the earlier, the better. In other words, how much greater a hero would Reagan have been today if he, the great communicator, had spoken with conviction and passion about the need to face the AIDS crisis head back in 1982? How many lives and how much money would have been saved? I actually don't know. I do know that Reagan did not get the message out, and this curious lack of compassion on the part of a man who had more compassion than many compassionate conservatives do these days has long dumb-founded many of his most ardent supporters. Including his wife, Nancy.
Nobody, not Reagan or the Pope or anybody else, can turn the tide on an exponential process that has reached some critical point. If we have been lucky here in the US, that's interesting, but not something you should praise or base future policy on.
Lee A.: "Indeed, you could go so far as to say the liberal left’s current eclipse in this country is almost entirely due to lack of effective rhetoric, and little else."
Wow, I agree. I've been watching Democratic conventions since 1980 or so, and much of their oration hasn't progressed past the 1960s' style sit-in chants. It seems like liberals and the left are so viscerally opposed to evangelical Protestantism that they must also eschew its oratorical flavor, to which so many American ears are attuned. There are exceptions, like Rep. John Lewis (GA) and Bill Clinton - but Bill's style hasn't rubbed off on Hilary at all.
Brad: "a lot of misery could have been prevented had not fears of alienating the base kept the Reagan administration from reacting swiftly and intelligently to the coming of AIDS."
Hey, Brad, you might walk across campus to Dr. Peter Duesberg's office for an alternative view of the HHS and CDC's "swift and intelligent" action to identify the causes and treatment of AIDS.
what a silly, bitter, self-righteous little bitch YOU must be.
The first thing that should be said is that I would have more respect for your outrage if you left your email address intact.[*]
To get to the point, Brad called it as he saw it - a short, sober assessment. No more, no less. He also added the R.I.P. That means "Rest In Peace", not "Burn In Hell". He showed his respect his own way. Not by cheerleading.
BTW, the first I heard of Reagan's death was in this blog. I'm thinking sombre-ish thoughts at the moment.
(* Or a modified, spambot-proofed one as I use nowdays.)
I noted earlier that some of Pres. Reagan's ex-staff were making extravagant and fantastic claims about his policies. I now note that CBS, at least, has been setting the record straight shortly after some of the interviews (For example, --no, the Reaganomic supply-side Laffer-curve style income tax cuts never produced increased tax revenue; revenue didn't increase until after the rates were raised again; and there was never a surplus during Reagan's term in office.)
Does that make CBS a hate-filled, bitter, nasty network trying to disgrace the man's memory?
It should be possible to honestly evaluate Reagan's record today according to one's own views, without being accused of being tasteless or spreading hatred. As I said, I disagreed with 90% of what he did, but in many ways I admired him, and wished today's conservatives would be more like him.
By they way, one of his foreign policy staffers said that when it came to great power relations, Reagan always tried to put pragmatism ahead of ideology. I forget the man's name, but he said Reagan used to find excuses to send Brezhnev little personal notes to see if anything would come of them to get communication started -and nothing much ever came of them. And I admired him for his attempts to make real progress on big problems -I remember one summit where he almost hashed out a real breakthrough arms control agreement. I remember how the arch-conservative underlings almost had heart attacks and worked to scuttle it in a non-constructive destructive way as soon as they could -even people on his own staff who were supposed to be working for him.
Now today we have great-power arms control agreements that are more publicity stunts than anything else. And the Pres seems to be quite happy what that dishonest situation. Quite a step down from the Pres. Reagan days.
So at least one liberal has a pretty good opinion of Reagan, even though I disagreed on almost all of policies.
The sad thing is that today's conservatives have all Pres Reagan's prejudices and self-rioghteousness -in fact it seems that they have tried to increase both as much as they could in the intervening years, but none of his good humor, vision or optimistic nature.
Classic Liberal: "Ronald Reagan, Burn in Hell".
Ken: "Good riddence to bad rubbish."
MIGUEL D'ESCOTO, former foreign minister in Nicaragua's revolutionary Sandinista government of the 1980s:
"There is not the least doubt that President Reagan did Nicaragua much harm, caused many deaths.
"He may not have had much time or inclination to regret the damage he did, but regardless of that we ask God to take pity on his soul."
One of these, at least, appears to nourish a spirit of forgiveness. Perhaps it's the one with the most to forgive.
I say, God bless Ronald Reagan.
Curious and a little pathetic so far in this thread is that no one has mentioned the Reagan Administration's environmental depredations--his minions started the ball rolling on almost 25 years of willful ignorance, and when the critical endgame on wildlife ecosystems had clearly started. And it never had to be, because the vaunted free market system would have found other ways to grow (what with God-given entrepreneurial creativity and all!). I firmly believe that distant-future historians may find this to be the salient characterization of our times.
The Right celebrates Reagan as a hero of liberty. The Left deplores the selfish pigs who rode in on his coattails, and destroyed much that cannot be reclaimed.
Now it's in overdrive, with Dubya.
"When the Constitution was written it was specific that only congress could control the purse strings. Iran Contra was an act of treason."
Is a non sequtor. Treason is defined in the Constitution as adhering to the enemy in a declared war.
It was an impeachable offense, however, putting RR with Richard Nixon in the elite group of US Presidents who should have been impeached and convicted. (The current Bush may also be a group member; I'm not sure, despite BLD's call to impeach him).
Perhaps understandably, today's encomiums don't stress this. But since it also hadn't been brought up here, I thought I'd fill the gap.
The Wellstone funeral was a fiasco on both sides, but the Republicans (at least the "leading" ones) never attacked WELLSTONE over it. They attacked the living people who used the funeral to celebrate liberal politics. The living are fair game - the dead aren't, at least until the mourning period is over. (If you want to speak ill of Reagan in three months or so, be my guest. Anything to distract you from criticizing Bush. But today, no, that's bad.)
Gingrich is a boor. That said, the man he made his reputation destroying (Jim Wright) was no prize himself. And he wasn't tearing into Hubert Humphrey on deathbed. One can make balanced statements, make faint praise, but to lay into the man the day he dies is rude, uncouth, and more importantly, politically self-destructive. THAT is my point, more than anything else. Criticize Reagan, today, you make enemies for your side, even if many people agree with your sentiments. People value civility, even if they often honor it in the breach.
I was 9 when Reagan came into office, and 17 when he left. Here's what I'll remember of Reagan:
1. The October Surprise (Reagan's camp making deal with Iran to hold hostages until after Carter loses election)
2. The speech after the Challenger explosion - "The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God.""
4. Star Wars
5. Ballooning budget deficits
6. The ATC strike bust
7. "Tear down this wall!"
8. "The bombing begins in five minutes."
9. Nancy and the astrologer
That's what sticks in my mind about him.
(Please note, I'm just trying to say what I remember, not judge the man at this time. History will do that for us, if the truth is allowed out.)
Come on folks, would it be so hard to say: "With George W Bush as president, I now look back on the halcyon days of the Reagan administration, with its relatively competent administrators and relatively intelligent leadership (in comparison to now) as the good times."
THAT is the way the Republicans handle these things, not with clumsy and rude attacks on the dead.
I think that the Nicaraguan "May God have pity on his soul" was very Catholic, meaning something like "He deserves eternal hellfire, but that's so terrible that I don't want to say it out loud."
Just as they did with the Wellstone funeral, and just as they do about everything, the Republican Wurlitzer is going to find a way to be indignant about what someone is saying today. They have a lot of people paid to do that, and even if the only people gloating are Greens and anarchists, they'll still find a way to blame Democrats. So the practical, strategic reasons for playing nice aren't very compelling.
Second, Brad was originally denounced for making a measured but mostly negative judgement of Reagan's career. That denunciation was totally unjustified and stupid.
Yes, it is true that Gingrich's nastiness wasn't perfectly identical to saying bad things about someone who just died. It was quite a bit worse, as far as I'm concerned. Blaming horrible murders committed by a Republican who was probably mentally ill on the Democratic Party? Isn't that lower than saying bad things about a deceased enemy a day or two early? (Call the church police!)
It is just not fucking true at all that Republicans handle things in a civilized and decent way, in comparison to us. They are frequently incredibly creepy.
Thanks for dragging Jim Wright into this, rvman. Is there some way in which he is related to the topic?
It wasn’t clear until after 1983 (when the virus was discovered in the US and France) that AIDS was a communicable disease. By 1985 a test for the virus was available and could be used to screen blood. So after 1985 the primary vectors for AIDS were anal sex and infected needles used by drug addicts. Ever wonder what the probability of HIV infection is from normal *unprotected* heterosexual contact? I used to ask AIDS activists that question and no one seemed to know. The number was hard to come by. Then I found it in the Journal of the American Statistical Association (Vol. 87 no, 418 June 1992). You still have to wade through a lot of technical material to extract the number, which varies between 1/500 and 1/1000 (it’s not given explicitly). So the risk is small for something like 95% of the population. In September 1985 Ronald Reagan spoke about it publicly for the first time. What was Reagan supposed to do or say to convince that 5% of the population to modify their behavior? How did he “blow it” early in the game? If he had spoken publicly in 1983 or 1984 instead of 1985 would that have made a big difference?
I too share RVman's distaste at Brad's immediate trashing of Reagan. There will be time enough for that. Get a hold of yourself DeLong - I doubt even Krugman would go so far as to spit on a man's grave.
"He tried hard, but by and large he didn't have the brainpower to think his way out of the boxes that his prior commitments and initial personnel choices handed him."
Taken thoughtfully, I'm wondering if this is actually a "criticism." Other presidents may have had different boxes, like "prior prejudices," or "lack of intellectual curiosity" or whatever, but they've all (like the rest of us) had them. And have any thought their way out? But then again Reagan's most amazing achievement (for me) was political, his appeal to voters who hitherto had not thought to vote Republican, despite his conservative views. And I suppose the "amiable dunce" line is just as comforting now as it was twenty years ago.
My friend, Zizka: "I think that the Nicaraguan 'May God have pity on his soul' was very Catholic, meaning something like 'He deserves eternal hellfire, but that's so terrible that I don't want to say it out loud.'"
Picked a bad example, you seem to say. Okay, how about these:
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON AND SENATOR HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, who called Reagan "a true American original... Hillary and I will always remember President Ronald Reagan for the way he personified the indomitable optimism of the American people, and for keeping America at the forefront of the fight for freedom for people everywhere."
SENATE MINORITY LEADER TOM DASCHLE
"America has lost an icon. Ronald Reagan's leadership will inspire Americans for generations to come. His patriotism and devotion to our country will never be forgotten."
DEMOCRAT SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY OF MASSACHUSETTS
"We often disagreed on issues of the day, but I had immense respect and admiration for his leadership and his extraordinary ability to inspire the nation to live up to its high ideals."
I remember then-President Clinton being quite generous to the memory of Richard Nixon on his death, who had a heck of a lot more to answer for than did President Reagan. On this one day, which will never pass again, wouldn't it be commendable to lighten up and be kind like these other old antagonists? I don't see how the ugliness on this blog today serves anyone well.
The man passed away in his home with loved ones on his bed side; he must have been basically a good man as a private person. On the occasion of his own death, a man should be considered a private person, and also should be considered a good man, and if one finds this impossible, then silence should be opted for.
... at least until the day after the funeral proceedings have been completed.
I agree that on the day of the death of a former president, it is somewhat impolite to judge his earthly works. That being said, I disagree with nothing that Brad had to say.
That also being said, I am writing the day after his death on Sunday morning. History begins now, and as we all know, history can be cruel to many popular icons.
Reagan's revolution in conservatism began with the famous 'october surprise', went into regressive tax cuts that helped to put the economy into recession, provided for a vastly unnneccesary huge increase in defense spending, waged war against Nicaragua and El Salvador, armed Saddam Hussein and the Taliban precursors, and provided huge impetus to the then nascient rise in economic immobility and social inequality that has continued till today. Not to mention James Watts' faith-based environmental regulation, James Meese's corrupt intransigence, spilling over into the financial deregulation mania which evolved into the huge Savings and Loan bankrupcy scandal.
I'll never forget that in 1986 he made federally funded graduate student stipends taxable, while he stripped the wealthy of their share of the tax burden. Graduate students- they already get a starvation wage to be able to study for a higher degree, usually from the federal government. To tax them makes sense in no reality construct that I can imagine.
He and his administration were also anti-intellectual, anti-public education, and anti-minority in general.
His cuts in federal educational programs initiated the decline of many nationwide public school systems, and his pandering to the religious right with his eschatological imagery helped to create the climate whereby the Moral Majority was to flourish as a reactionary political force in this country.
In short, one might say that where Reagan was 'not that bad' is that he was able to realize that he was not a bright guy, and could roll with the punches and change his course if it wasn't working. That puts him in the category of 'not as bad as the present moron who occupies the White House'. History will certainly judge Ronald Reagan quite harshly, not just for his somewhat pedantic, off the fly comments. Sure, he could read a script- so what? He was a trained actor, bought and paid for by the movie studios to be their plant as president of the SAG in the 1950s. The first and most successful of the modern day corporate shills.
If Reagan has one legacy that he has given America and the current Republican party, it is that he knew how to suck up to sleazy businessmen who would pay his way in exchange for favors. And that, indeed, has proven to be a most powerful and lasting legacy.
"I too share RVman's distaste at Brad's immediate trashing of Reagan. There will be time enough for that. Get a hold of yourself DeLong - I doubt even Krugman would go so far as to spit on a man's grave."
I suppose Reagan has been ill for so long, and "gone already" in a way from Alzheimers. If he had been completely lucid and suddenly died from a heart attack or an accident then the criticism may be more valid.
Reagan did some good and bad things. IF he was involved in an October Surprise that is pretty unforgivable in its evil, worse than Nixon by far. Probably the worst thing any president ever did, if he was involved.
I wonder what people said about Nixon on the day he died. Also the newspapers seemed to say much the same as Brad did.
Perhaps my sarcasm was too subtle in my first post. Althought my opinion of RR is low, I don't think he should burn in hell, I just wonder why Delong doesn't think that, based on what he wrote.
I think that the best eulogy, though partisan, is still from the former House Speaker Tip O'Neill: "He wasn't a very good president, but he'd have made a great king."
I have no problem with what Brad said, or for that matter of a view of RR as a good President.
My problem is with the current voices on the right wing that turn the man into something just short of the "second coming" by rewriting history.
My view of the economics of the 1980s is that we were bailed out of the mess the Republicans created by the Japanese savings surplus, but that it was still a major factor in the sharp decline in manufacturing during that era.
Second, they seem to have completely ignoresd
the role Volcker played in the 1980s that was much, much more important than anything RR did.
His good monetary policy that ended the inflationary spiral of the 1970s was much more responsible for the prosperity of the late 1980s
than fiscal policy.
The other big problem is their giving RR all the credit for the downfall of communism. His star wars program played a very minor role in the downfall of the Soviets. The drop in oil prices and Afghanistan played a much bigger role if you have to have a proximate cause of the end of communism. RR did no more to advance the fall of communism than any other post WW II era President from Truman to Carter.
The right wing likes to talk about all the jobs created under RR. But if you look at the facts employment gains under RR were better than any other post war republican president, but worse than under every democratic president. But the view you get from the right was that the employment gains were nothing short of a miracle.
"But George Shultz proved a good Grand Vizier for Foreign Affairs. And Reagan's decision to help rather than try to hinder Gorbachev was the right one, even though few in his administration agreed with it."
That was Brad's words -- the conclusion. It hardly looks like a trashing to me.
Yes, William, a lot of mealy-mouthed politicians from my party said the polite thing. That's their job! I'm not a politician and I'm barely even a Democrat.
**Note that neither I nor Brad actually trashed Reagan.** I'm just responding to the knee-jerk Republican response that someone, somewhere isn't mourning the guy enough. Zarkov, am, et al were all too happy to be disgusted; they had their partisan points to score.
The Republicans ALWAYS go over whatever we say with a finetooth comb and accuse us of saying the wrong thing about this or that -- "Why are people more upset about Abu Ghraib than about X?", etc. It goes on and on.
Those people are our enemies and we should have no regard for them. Republican discourse is a sewer of wild accusations and smears, and Republicans should be cleaning up their own house if they claim to care about civility. (Start with Tom DeLay.)
My main thought about the criticism leveled at DeLong here is that conservatives (and classic liberals) can't stand much in the way of sober criticism, for that's all Brad gave.
Classic Liberal, it may be news to you, but many people on both sides of the political spectrum are capable of disagreeing with or being critical of an opponent without desiring their eternal damnation. Our esteemed host seems to be among that number. Damned if I can see where you get "burn in hell" from Brad's comments, other than that they were something less than hagiographic.
Calling his comments a 'trashing' (MartinW) or as a "spiteful, churlish little diatribe" (am) suggests to me that certain posters here must've missed the 1990s, which were full of such things, usually aimed at a certain President. I will, for educational purposes, rewrite Brad's comments as a trashing, so y'all can see the difference - with the note that the tone I'm about to use is for demonstration purposes only, and does NOT reflect my true feelings about the man:
"He tried hard, but Gawd, what a complete and total dummy the man was. Could give a great speech, but couldn't think his way out of a paper bag.
His economic policy was very simple: rob from the poor, give to the rich. Like most of the Republicans of our time, he made a great show of being a friend to the common man, at the same time as he was cutting his paycheck and increasing his tax burden. The best you can say about social policy is that his administration did eventually decide that ketchup shouldn't count as a vegetable in subsidized school lunches.
Foreign policy looks no better. Reagan's foreign policy backed the Salvadoran death squads, and the rapists and torturers of the Nicaraguan contras, and kept a war going between the Iranians and Iraqis whose price was paid by the tens of thousands of conscripts who were killed and maimed. But George Shultz proved a good Grand Ayatollah for Foreign Affairs, which reminds me - Reagan sold arms to both Saddam and the Ayatollah. And Reagan's decision to outspend the Soviets was totally unnecessary; they were clearly on the verge of collapse on their own."
Now THAT's a trashing. Just remember that it doesn't necessarily reflect the opinions of the author.
Aside from the supply side b.s., all that needs to be said about his economic policies is that during his presidency Paul Volcker drastically cut interest rates as the fight against inflation was won. All of the economic strength exhibited was just a function of that.
So much vitriol, so little time.
In the end, the debate seem irreconcilable. For Dems, the cost of Reagan's policies far outweigh the benefits. For Pubs, the benefits occurred at very little cost. In the end, I think, Reagan's true contribution was, as has been said, political. His solidification of a party fringe into a national majority is his lasting legacy. Until the Democratic agenda can assert itself with equal charisma, Democratic candidates will remain stop-gap measures against the Conservative tide.
And I'd just like to add that I don't see how a critique of a President on the day of his passing is out-of-bounds. Prof. DeLong's words are tough, but fair...& well above-board. Perhaps even necessary, in light of the coming week of pop-hagiography we've got coming. Amazing the way the Republicans & Conservatives can be so strident....& yet throw their arms up at the first word that goes against their icons.
rvman: "THAT is the way the Republicans handle these things, not with clumsy and rude attacks on the dead."
Again I ask, on what planet?
Reading this blog from Canada, I am amazed at the vitriolic criticism aimed at Brad at expressing his opinion about the former president. Especially the notion that an evaluation of his legacy should wait for an official mourning period! So when did presidents become monarchs and ex-presidents become saints?
It also says a lot that so many posters felt it necessary to debate whether liberals or conservatives or Democrats or Republicans have worse manners or less decency.
Mote, meet beam.
Ask yourselves--what would the Right do if Clinton died today? I'm afraid any left-wing nastiness we've heard after the death of Ronald Reagan would be entirely negligible to what we'd hear about Clinton.
"Nobody likes Reagan's economic policies."
Compared to what? (an old joke Reagan would have appreciated)
Double digit inflation? 20% interest rates? Very odd for the author of:
not to appreciate thaat revolutionary aspect of Reagan's presidency. It was Reagan who gave Volcker the political support he needed to drive the stake through the heart of ArthurBurnsism--and Volcker acknowledges that in his memoir.
"Few today will say that they liked the sweeping-under-the-rug of AIDS for so long."
Which is ridiculous. And tells us a lot about how far down one has to dig for something to criticize; i.e. Barbra Streisand quality history.
"Fewer today think that arming and funding Saddam Hussein against Iran was a good idea."
In fact, it was France, the USSR, and Communist China who armed Iraq. Reagan's role was merely to supply intelligence and a few used helicopters to Iraq ONLY WHEN it appeared Iraq was in danger of losing its war with revolutionary Iran. Because that would have been a disaster for the free world.
The reality is that Reagan left both the USA and the world a better place than he found it. He came into office predicting that the Soviet Union was headed for the dustbin of history, and he was right (and everyone from Jimmy Carter to Henry Kissinger was wrong about this).
He re-established the primary role of economic markets (in political discourse). I still remember Jimmy Carter's jaw dropping (and Howard K. Smith's smirking) when, during their debate in October 1980, Reagan answered Carter's claim that the proposed Kemp-Roth tax cuts would be inflationary with: "Why is it not inflationary for [Carter]to keep your money and spend it the way he wants to spend it, but it is inflationary for me to return it to the people so they can spend it the way THEY want to spend it?"
"Ask yourselves--what would the Right do if Clinton died today? I'm afraid any left-wing nastiness we've heard after the death of Ronald Reagan would be entirely negligible to what we'd hear about Clinton."
I think your man Ken here in this comment section has removed all doubt as to the answer of your semi-rhetorical question. Hey, I've got it! Clinton may be trashed when he dies so let's go ahead and call his corpse poisonous right now, you know, just in case!
And as far as Reagan only playing a peripheral role in the downfall of the USSR, well, let's just say that most Americans have eyeballs and memories and are somewhat immune to the idea that the USSR's demise only started when Reagan finally wised up and made nice to Gorbachov, embracing and helping him was the key apparently. How f'ing laughable to most of us, and how comforting this line is to some. Why, the USSR did itself in! As a matter of fact, American et-al had nothing at all to do with it, it just happened all on it's own.
And the left hasn't stopped mourning its demise since.
And may I add a couple of other points? Oh, more appropriately, can somebody on the left let me know if I'm echoing this talking point correctly?
1. Nazi Germany imploded on itself. The floundering of Americans in France had little or no bearing on its demise. It was only the great effort put forth by the great People's Republic of the Soviet Socialist Union that caused Hitler and the Nazi's to finally capitulate. Our effect on that war's outcome was only ancilliary and because of the raping and such the French are well deserved to despise us now.
2. Not a talking point but a point nonetheless. Is anybody here who is whining about how mean the Republicans are and how they don't police their own ranks going to say one damn thing to Ken for his trollish and putrid little post? Anything? Anyone?
"..that the USSR's demise only started when Reagan finally wised up and made nice to Gorbachov, embracing and helping him was the key apparently. How f'ing laughable to most of us, and how comforting this line is to some."
At least, it's not laughable to George F. Kennan, one of the principal architects of the US's cold war strategy:
"The more America's political leaders were seen in Moscow as committed to an ultimate military rather than political resolution of Soviet-American tensions, the greater was the tendency in Moscow to tighten the controls by both party and police, and the greater the braking effect on all liberalizing tendencies in the regime."
Patrick Sullivan is doing exactly what I was complaining about in my posting. Volcker's
monetary policy was well in place before Reagan became President and all through the Regan Presidency his economic spokesmen did nothing but complain that monetary policy was too tight. They do their best to say tight money was the reason the the supply side revolution failed to deliver its promises. I've always said that the Fed is independent in the govt, not of the govt and the Fed was able to keep money tight like it did in the 1980s was the american people were willing to pay the price to end double digit inflation. Reagan had absolutely nothing to do with it. At the time the President of the Boston Fed was one of the driving forces behind the use of monetary targeting rather than interest rate targeting. In private meetings he was quite open about the thinking of the fed and the objectives of fed policy. He kept many of us in the Boston community well informed about what was going on and Sullivan has no idea what he is talking about when he trys to connect Reagan and Volcker.
Brent -- you are not echoing the taliing point correctly, and you know it. The talking point is that Reagan did not do anything more or less than any other post WW II President to fight communism -- he continued the policies Truman began no more no less. Second, there is absoulely no evidence that the star wars program had any impact on Soviet military spending and economic problems. Reagan just happened to be in the right place at the right time for people like you to give him credit for a policy that had been in place for almost a half century.
RT: "My main thought about the criticism leveled at DeLong here is that conservatives (and classic liberals) can't stand much in the way of sober criticism, for that's all Brad gave."
I wasn't offended, but it wasn't sober criticism, it was slapdash criticism. If I'm offended, it's that BDL took the opportunity to dust off his James Carville impression instead of saying something interesting.
If Reagan's economic policy was really a "disaster," and his social policy at best "a tremendous waste," that's some high standard we're talking about. I would agree that RWers tend to inflate his accomplishments, but his main accomplishment (I would argue) is that in 1980 we were a country where the Dems tended to control the 3 branches of government, and in 2004 things are a bit different. Or is this right? Would things have come out pretty much the same, electorally speaking, if Reagan had not come along?
If it was up to me, US economic policy would pretty much accord to the positions of Prof. Delong. Nowadays we are, thanks to Republican party policies, missing that target pretty badly, but before Reagan we were missing that target pretty badly too - thanks to Democratic party policies. With no Reagan, would our government now be much larger? Would our entitlement situation be worse, or better? Would we have a far more trade-restrictive world? Would we have had more antitrust regulation, and would that have been good or bad? Etc etc etc etc etc.
spencer: "Reagan just happened to be in the right place at the right time for people like you to give him credit for a policy that had been in place for almost a half century."
Is it that simple? I would agree that the structural economic problems of the USSR had nothing to do with Reagan, but you've (or at least Sontag and Heilbroner) got to give Reagan credit for articulating an alternative (and more accurate) view of the USSR to that espoused at the time by academic elites. When you compare where Reagan was in 1980 to where Jimmy Carter is now on these issues, it's hard to fault conservatives for liking Reagan.
And to what extent his words and policies may have at least had an important psychological impact on Russian elites, who knows? I would err on the side of caution and give him some credit, or at least leave open the possibility.
“ ... he didn't have the brainpower to think his way out of the boxes ... “
In my opinion this statement calls Reagan a dummy, which in the context of Reagan having died only a few hours before makes it tasteless even if Reagan was a dummy. It’s not excused by anyone else’s even more tasteless statement about someone else. This is something that many posters (like zizka) don’t seem to understand. Children often try to excuse their bad behavior by saying someone else behaved worse, but adults with manners don’t try to make such excuses. I understand that some people disagree, and don’t regard the statement as tasteless even in the current context. So be it. But that’s a different matter from thinking you can use others as the standard for your own behavior.
"Ask yourselves--what would the Right do if Clinton died today? I'm afraid any left-wing nastiness we've heard after the death of Ronald Reagan would be entirely negligible to what we'd hear about Clinton."
Well, here's what I heard on National Public Radio just about an hour ago: Garrison Keillor announced on Prairie Home Companion that Ronald Reagan had died, and there was very brief smattering of applause, and at least one person whistled and cheered.
P.S. I don't remember exactly what Garrison Keillor said, and I didn't have time to listen to the whole song he went into after his announcement, but his presentation was very decent. He said something like, "Ronald Reagan always confounded old liberals like me, by being such a really nice guy." And the song he went into was, "Let it Shine."
Paul Tsongas "the world's first radioactive environmentalist". Please do not come near.
if all Delong ever expressed were simple policy disagreements, I could see a simple R.I.P. as appropriate. But if one believes that RR was responsible for the deaths of thousands upon thousands of people from AIDS, then surely the former president truly deserves eternal damnation.
As I said, my opinion of RR is low, so sober criticisms are fine with me. But if one believes that everything bad that happened in the 80's was RR's fault, that doesn't strike me as terribly sober.
Patrick Sullivan: Is it true that Reagan, frustrated with the lack of response from the Soviet Union, was about to return to the much-maligned policy of "detente" in all but name, until the Politburo elected Gorby, and saved his bacon?
Brent: Please learn more about Soviet history. Reagan wasn't peripheral, neither was he indispensable. Needing heroes is simple and easy to understand, but history is complicated.
Meanwhile: I think Brad's post was entirely judicious, and Reagan himself might have approved.
As to some others, I seem to remember, after Wellstone's plane crash, some members of the House positively hooting. So this vicious stuff appears to be par for the course, among vomit-brains of all stripes.
This post was not worthy of deLong. I think he will reflect on it and regret his intemperate post. One can contrast it with the class act that is Alex Tabarrok's take on Reagan over at Marginal Revolution.
Your short assessment was fair. His failure in the AIDS/HIV crisis still leaves a very bitter taste 20 years later for all the lives that were lost.
I commented on this shameful aspect of his legacy in several places at Political Animal today: (Reagan: The AIDS Denier)
Posted by JimPortlandOR at June 5, 2004 07:38 PM
Shameful denial, eh? He had a lot of company, didn't he? Have you read Randy Shilts' book "And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic" recently? I would argue that the Gay community's obstinate refusal to accept that AIDS was a sexually transmited disease did far more damage than Reagan's personal opinions did. But then, the 1980s Gay leadership's reation to the epidemic does seem to have been one of those things that have vanished down the memory hole.
Brad, am I right in thinking that tax rates were in the region of 90% in 1981?
If so, shouldn't we give Reagan credit for getting them down to more sensible levels, even if you think he went a bit too far?
Zarkov, my point was that if you, Zarkov, are interested in improving the civility level of American poilitical discourse, you will begin by talking to your conservative Republican friends and allies and work at getting them to stop being the enormous jerks they so often are.
On the other hand, if you want to score cheap partisan points, you will visit your enemies' site and look for things to take offense at. The latter is what you just did.
The Republican party has profited enormously from incivility over the last decade or two. Your friends have been stinking up the place plenty -- get to work on them, OK?
I haven't said a harsh word about Reagan since he died, but I logged on today and yesterday expecting to see a flood of bullshit Republican incivility-police indignation at Democrats, no matter how little incivility there actually was (one guy whistling on Prairie Home Companian! Horrors!). And I was not disappointed.
This is just another piece of evidence for my conviction that at a certain point of political enmity there's really no use talking. I really don't think that Zarkov and Mark Bahner and the rest would have been happy with the liberal response in any case whatsoever. As we speak, the minions of the mighty Wurlitzer are dredging the database, looking for the most offensive possible comment, and once its found all liberals will be guilty until they denounce it savagely.
And afterwards, too, you know, because we're still goddamn liberals.
To repeat, I thought DeLong's statements were perfectly appropriate and quite temperate.
The margin tax rate was 91% in the 1950s,more a hold over from the need to finance WW II and the Korean war than anything. Kennedy cut them sharply as part of his package in the early 1960, but I do not remember the marginal tax rate he established.
The liberal argument is not with the idea of lowering tax rates, we agree that lower tax rates all things being equal are a good thing for the economy. What we, or at least me, has problems with is the structural deficit that would have crowed out investment in the 1980s if it had not been for the Japanese savings surplus.
In the 1980s the federal deficit absorbed about 15% of domestic saqvings -- both individual and business -- and now we are facing a structural deficit that will absorb about 25% of domestic savings. That is the key problem, at least in my mind. This time there is nothing comparable to the Japanese savings surplus to bail us out. The secondary problem is that we have tremondous natural economic forces squeezing the middle class and the Bush program makes the problem worse, not better.
Jez Martin wrote, "Brad, am I right in thinking that tax rates were in the region of 90% in 1981?"
No, you're wrong:
The top rate was 69.125%. But the top rate on *earned* income was 50%:
Furthermore, the bracket for the top rate was $215,400.
Joe Mealyus wrote, "I would agree that the structural economic problems of the USSR had nothing to do with Reagan, but you've (or at least Sontag and Heilbroner) got to give Reagan credit for articulating an alternative (and more accurate) view of the USSR to that espoused at the time by academic elites."
And what view was that? Certainly there must have been *some* academic elites that had odd assessments of the USSR. The proper question is, what did they think on average?
"When you compare where Reagan was in 1980 to where Jimmy Carter is now on these issues, it's hard to fault conservatives for liking Reagan."
Uh huh. And would this be the same Jimmy Carter whose national security advisor lured the Soviets into Afghanistan to trap them in their own Vietnam?
jml wrote, "Oh, for goodness sake, there are all sorts of people, left and right, all over the airwaves today making varied assessemnts of Reagan. And some of Reagan's ex-staff are making truly astonishing and ridiculous claims for the guy. So what is wrong with giving one's honest assessment of his presidency?"
Correct. If people are allowed to laud Reagan, largely for political purposes, people should be allowed to criticize him.
As for Brad's brainpower comment, it seems likely that whatever Reagan's original native intelligence---and let us note in his favor that he was a self-made man---his mind was almost certainly being ravaged by Alzheimers before he left office.
"I really don't think that Zarkov and Mark Bahner and the rest would have been happy with the liberal response in any case whatsoever."
That's complete bullshit. You obviously don't have a clue of who I am or what I think.
I already wrote that Garrison Keillor's response was fine. In fact, NPR's whole treatment of Reagan's death has been fine. (And please don't try to claim that they're not liberals!)
Larry King had some stuff last that was fine. I assume Larry King is a liberal. (He hides being a liberal much more than Garrison Keillor.)
As I'm sure you don't go to the Reason magazine website, this was a comment, and my response:
"The fact that most libertarians don’t understand that and are still whining about his (Reagan's) methods in some cases points to how libertarianism is a fundamentally immature ideology that most people leave behind with age."
My response was:
1) We have to understand that it's alright to have a president selling arms to Iran, and taking the money to give to rebels in Nicaragua?
2) We have to understand that it's OK to massively violate the Constitution by having a federal War on Some Drugs?
3) We have to understand that it's OK to be elected having (correctly) identified the Department of Education to be unconstitutional, but then not to make any attempt to dismantle it?
In short, we have to accept a president who massively violates his oath of office, because actually following his oath of office might not let him do what he wants, or might be inconvenient for him?
Well, I guess I must have grown immature with age. I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980. But I voted Libertarian in 1984. And I'm definitely voting for Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian Party candidate for President in 2004. As Mr. Badnarik says,
"The Constitution: It's not just a good idea, it's *The Law.*"
P.S. Anyone who does NOT think that whistling and cheering at a President's death is pathetic is...pretty pathetic.
spencer wrote, "The liberal argument is not with the idea of lowering tax rates, we agree that lower tax rates all things being equal are a good thing for the economy."
Agreed, except one important question is "what taxes are to be lowered?"
There's not that much evidence of sizeable distortionary effects of the federal income tax on *high income earners* (meaning that the claims of distortion by people like Feldstein et al. aren't supported by the evidence, on balance). This makes sense, as it appears most if not all high income earners are largely collecting economic rents or exploiting other economic inefficiencies (e.g. agent-principle problems between corporate management and shareholders, etc).
Jez Martin wrote, "Brad, am I right in thinking that tax rates were in the region of 90% in 1981?
"If so, shouldn't we give Reagan credit for getting them down to more sensible levels, even if you think he went a bit too far?"
Also, you have to ask the question: what happened to taxes on people at the *other* end of the income spectrum?
"Those people are our enemies and we should have no regard for them. "
is, IMHO, true. There are two reasons for soft soap: a certain decency, and the opinions of those in the middle, whom we want on our side.
I was going to reply to Brent, but realized in time that such trolling is best ignored.
Bahner, if you dredged up one nasty liberal response, you were going to talk about it, and it was going to be your lede. Only if every single liberal in the US had been completely wonderful would you have kept your mouth shut.
"Bahner, if you dredged up one nasty liberal response, you were going to talk about it,..."
I didn't "dredge it up." I simply didn't tune in to Prairie Home Companion expecting to hear some jerk(s) cheering about a man's death.
Zizka, you're so consumed by stewing in your own bile and hatred, you've lost all sense of decency. Congratulations, you've become no better than the people you hate.
Say what you like about Ronald Reagan, at least he kept us out of Iraq.
"Say what you like about Ronald Reagan, at least he kept us out of Iraq."
And Somalia. And Kosovo. And Panama. And Lebanon.
Mark, I don't like you and never will, and I don't like the rest of decency police patrolling the world today either, but that doesn't mean I have no sense of decency.
First, about 80% of my friends are liberal Democrats, and the rest are mostly independents. Second, I don’t visit “enemies’ sites,” because I don’t think in terms of having “enemies.” Third, expressing an opinion about bad taste is not a “cheap partisan point.” And finally there is nothing I can do about improving the civility level of American political discourse. I can only try to affect those very small corners of the universe I happen to make contact with.
"The Republicans were not "reasonably nice" about Wellstone."
I don't think you can pigeonhole all the Republicans like that. From what I remember hearing, Sen. Domenici of New Mexico wept openly when speaking about Wellstone.
"Nazi Germany imploded on itself. The floundering of Americans in France had little or no bearing on its demise. It was only the great effort put forth by the great People's Republic of the Soviet Socialist Union that caused Hitler and the Nazi's to finally capitulate."
To sort of go alon with what you were saying, it always annoys me when people speak of Reagan's role in the destruction of Soviet Union. Generally speaking, he did play a part in it, but as you indicate, he wasn't the entire reason why it fell apart. It's also important to consider the strength of the opponent. It's a lot easier to win a fistfight against a guy on crutches than it is to win one against a man who can use both legs. Was the Soviet Union as strong near the end of its run as it was back during the time of, say, Eisenhower or Truman?
Good point on Gorbachev but I believe that Nancy Reagan's astrologer deserves most of the credit.
If only Laura Bush believed in astrology or numerology or something, the advice Bush got from the ultra hawks might have been somewhat balanced.
But of course that was impossible since Saturn was in the seventh house and fundraising aligned with mars.
Getting back to DeLong's original comments: what the hell is "tasteless" about saying -- if you honestly believe it -- that a dead person had some flaws, whether that person is Reagan or Wellstone?
DeLong was hardly claiming that Reagan deserved Alzheimer's, or for that matter an easier death than that. He was saying -- correctly -- that Reagan had some serious intellectual and moral flaws, and he was entirely within his rights to do so. (Tim Noah and William Saletan were considerably rougher in "Slate", and their appraisal also strikes me as entirely fair.) if you are going to cling to a "speak no ill whatsoever of the dead" line, exactly where do you STOP clinging to it? When the person is, say, Ilse Koch?
Re: Tax rates and Reagan:
Here's some numbers for your perusal, these are on-budget receipts in inflation-adjusted 1980 dollars:
or period Receipts
In short, after the tax cuts, receipts plumeted from $425B to $374B in constant dollars. Receipts did not recover until after Reagan raised taxes after his re-election in 1984. The big jump came with Reagan's "tax reform" bill in 1986, the results of which you see in 1987's figures.
I fail to see how any conservative can justify cutting receipts at the same time you're increasing spending. It's like telling your boss "hey, I don't need all that money you pay me, give me a 20% pay cut!" at the same time that you're running up credit card debt... it just doesn't make fiscal sense.
Finally, regarding the top marginal rates: Some silly goose said that it was 91% in 1980. That's wrong, wrong, wrong. It was 70%. Just as it'd been since 1965, when that horrible liberal LBJ raised the marginal raate from 77% (1964) after he'd similarly raised the marginal rate from 91% (1963). Note that the marginal rate was 91% during all of JFK's tenure in office, just as it was during the entire decade of the 1950's except for 1950 (84.36%) and 52/53 (92%). Then that conservative Richard Nixon lowered the rate to 77% in '69, but then raised the rate back to 70% in '71. (Note that I'm using Republican Newspeak definitions for "raised" and "lowered" here, rather than English ones, please translate into English as desired :-).
Also note that the top marginal tax rate was 50% during most of Reagan's Presidency, far higher than under the Clinton Administration. It was not until the "tax reform" of 1986, which raised taxes on the middle class, that taxes on the wealthiest Americans was reduced to the same percentage as taxes on the middle class.
- Badtux the Conservative Penguin
If I recall correctly, there was a fairly severe recession in the 1981-1983 period. Surely that contributed significantly to the decrease in revenues. Moreover when those high marginal rates were in effect, the tax code was different. The rich had generous (and abusive) tax shelters to avoid paying anything like 90% or 70%, even at the margins of their income. The 1986 change in the tax law eliminated many middle class tax deductions. I can remember writing off all interest payments (not just mortgage interest) and medical payments. The IRS was a lot less strict in general. Looking at top marginal rate is a poor metric by which to judge a tax code, you must look at what people actually pay. Many countries have tax codes with super high top marginal rates, yet virtually nobody pays them because enforcement is lax as governments fear the political repercussions.
90% of German casualties in the second world war were suffered fighting Russia. The other 10% were suffered fighting America, and Britain, France, Poland, Yugoslavia, India, Australia, South Africa, the Netherlands, Italy after 1943, New Zealand, Belgium, Norway, and Greece, more or less in that order.
See "Brute Force" by Pete Ellis. I'm sure you thought you were being sarcastic.
On the other hand we did far better than Russia fighting Japan. Russia was only in the war for what, three days?
Patrick Sullivan-- I just checked my facts to make sure my memory was correct. The Volcker saturday night massacre where he swithced to targeting money supply was in sept 1979 and Reagan took office in Jan 1981.
How could the governor of Calif. have had a big impact on Volker deciding to change policy as you claimed?
"Is it true that Reagan, frustrated with the lack of response from the Soviet Union, was about to return to the much-maligned policy of 'detente' in all but name, until the Politburo elected Gorby, and saved his bacon?"
No, that is false. Reagan's primary focus (since the 1940s) was the defeat of the Soviet Union. It is Gorbachev who owes Reagan, not the other way around. He was selected to lead the USSR precisely because the Politburo realized Reagan was such a powerful and attractive figure. The majority of that body felt a younger, more energetic leader was needed to counter the cowboy.
We now know this, thanks to the opening to historians of Soviet records post-USSR. Just as we know how badly Reagan's policies in Afghanistan, Poland, Nicaragua, and Saudi Arabia were hurting the Soviet position geo-politically. Unlike the usual suspects here, I'm stating the facts (as the leadership of the USSR at the time saw them).
Btw, Reagan--just like every human--undoubtedly had his intellectual and moral limitations. But they hardly rival those of the usual suspect here.
"The Volcker saturday night massacre where he swithced to targeting money supply was in sept 1979 and Reagan took office in Jan 1981."
And 1980 was an election year. Volcker backed off his commitments during that summer, and--to his surprise--the markets responded with not lower, BUT HIGHER interest rates. They'd finally caught on to Gibson's Paradox.
Volcker tells (in his memoir, "Changing Fortunes") about the first meeting he had with Reagan (shortly after his inauguration,
and at Reagan's initiative), that he was "delighted" with what Reagan said
while the press was present.
He later compares Reagan quite favorably to his predecessors, for his "visceral aversion to inflation", and his, "instinct that...it wasn't a good idea to tamper with the independence of
the Federal Reserve...."
Of course, there is an air of disingenuousness in much of the chapter on Volcker's time at the Fed, but both Murray Weidenbaum and Milton Friedman in their books corroborate Volcker, re Reagan's support.
Volcker also specifically notes the problem of the recession and the resulting 11% unemployment
coming just before the '82 congressional elections, and seems quite grateful for Reagan's response:
"President Reagan must have received lots of advice to take on the Fed himself, but he never really did despite plenty of invitations at press
conferences or otherwise."
And the Republicans campaigned during that congressional election on the slogan: "Stay the course". Carter did nothing similar to support his appointee in 1980.
Here's Reagan's first CEA chair, Murray Weidenbaum:
"…it was the tight money policy of the Federal Reserve System that directly squeezed the bulk of the inflation out of the American economic system during 1981 and 1982. However, that policy was extremely unpopular at the time, and the Reagan administration deserves credit for its support of the Fed. Aside from a bit of public needling by the Treasury [my note, that would undoubtedly be Paul Craig Roberts], the Reagan administration deflected many of the political pressures that were generated by the high interest rates that accompanied the low growth of the money supply. As the reader might suspect, that supportive
position was taken only after considerable internal debate."
Reagan gave us Greenspan - first appointed Chairman in August, 1987. (Gives us a feel for how long the man has been in charge. He eludes the 14 year term "limit" on chairman because he was appointed to complete an unexpired term - his full term started in 1992.) Given that the biggest effect any president has on the economy is his choice of Fed Chairman, it seems to me Reagan's economic policies weren't all bad.
Deficits and "stimulus packages" pale by comparison. In the event, cutting marginal tax rates and running big deficits didn't seem to hurt us. If you want to thank Clinton for that, do so - Thank Congress for killing health care nationalisation in 1993, while you're at it. (Clinton's 1993 budget was intended to clear the obstacles deficits presented to national health care. I honestly don't believe "balancing the budget" was Clinton's high priority until later - maybe '95 or '96.)
Reagan also reduced and limited the "regulatory state" - whatever else you think of the social necessity of regulation, from a purely economic perspective, deregulation is generally considered good for the economy. His economic record is ok.
"[Gorbachev] was selected to lead the USSR precisely because the Politburo realized Reagan was such a powerful and attractive figure."
The first two picks for the General Secretary of the CPSU since the beginning of the Reagan administration followed exactly the opposite strategy - Andropov and Chernenko were both geriatric apparatchiks and political hard-liners lacking any charisma. So either the politburo was either extremely slow-witted or it acknowledged that serious political reform was too dangerous unless Reagan would soften his tone toward the USSR.
My wife is a biostatistician who has done research on AIDS. The majority of HIV transfer in this country is due to gay sex, intravenous drug users sharing needles, and sex with the immediate partners of these two groups.
The straightforward way to retard the spread of HIV would be to treat it like other sexually transmitted diseases, including mandatory reporting and identification of sex partners of those infected. Unfortunately, that sensible step was prevented by those concerned with privacy issues.
Oh, I have to chime in on this one...
I remember when Nixon died I was in San Francisco on business and a talk-show host said:
"Nixon is playing Canasta (card game) in Hell with Hitler"
So, no one is off limits when they are a public figure. While I do not think Mr. Reagan is waiting for the next seat to open up in Hell in the "brimfire leader room", but I must say, lets put all in perspective...
He was a Hollywood actor....another hollywood actor was just hired in California. It seems California- the land of dreams and fake imagery is a great place to "sell" yourself.
As for Reagan's plus side:
He helped in latter stages of Soviet demise- bring the wall down, which was already cracking, ask any soviet imminrant why they came to America, or defected. Not a fun place to live, or even eat.
Was a likable and helped forge the nation, I believe his 2nd election was biggest landslide ever.
Had better administrators than the current Prez does today. He seemed to have honour, and pride in AMERICA that was not false, it seemed, although a politician- and pandered to the rich- but- hey, that is ow DC works- keep corporations healthy to avoid massive lay-offs.
On the negative side:
Meddled in the mid-east, always a bad idea- study every country's follies in that region- and see how history always turns out the same (I.e.- USSR vs. Afghanistan).
His star wars idea, as a USSR bankruptcy primer- was just another deficit idea based on same grandiose notions that lead the current Prez Bush wanting to go to "Mars"- almost comical if you put it in historical perspective.
Gave us the "savings & Loan" scandel, (cannot totally blame that on Bush Sr.)
So, you see Republicans are consistently "fiscally irresponsible"...no one can argue against that.
and besides, Brad Delong will never be as classless, or as virulent or as brassy as the Republicans when it comes to attacking, and lack-of-class in general.
On the plus side, Reagan, in his waning days as president never attempted to destroy the world in a messianic crusade...if he was sinking into early alzeimers, Nancy's atrologists and his competent advisors kept him from doing what the current President is accomplishing:
Besides, it is Clinton's fault that Reagan's trickle down theory did not work- everyone knows that, right?
Rich people always give their profits to their underlings, right....That's how capitalism works-
Your the boss, you get most of the money- live in a big house with a bigger horse & carriage.
The workers you pay...get less, live in a shack.
Reagan tried to change that, but he did not comprehend true human nature because he dillied around between "screen sets" during his movies. He thought the rich would share its money with workers as if he was writing a Hollywood script that everyone should follow, even the understudy's.
So, you see...life is a movie!
I have been over at slate.com and they have a couple of good takes on the Reagan legacy. My favorite is the article showing how Reagan confused the absence of government with liberty.
My strongest memory was his electoral victory in 1980 and he was giving his victory speach. I remeber because my parents were rivited to the TV screen and seemed afraid. I had never seen my Parents afraid of anything so I asked them what was going on, they just said a dangerous man had just become President of the United States.
It didn't end in a mushroom cloud but looking back at his first term, I remember living with the fear of nuclear annihilation. If you were in high school during the 80s you'd know the feeling.
At the time I had no thoughts of his economic program. It was only in Univeristy that I figured out that had been a failed venture.
At least he had good intentions.
I am not sure the current occupant even has those.
It is now June 8th in some parts of the world.
Does any body remember air controllers being arrested and taken off of their stations in handcuffs and that whole thing being televised?
There's been some talk about Volcker and the 1980s recession. In his 1979 book _Free to Choose_, Milton Friedman spelled out the cure for hyperinflation (drastic cuts in the money supply) and the immediate, shapr, but short-term side effect (a recession). Volcker followed his blueprint, and Friedman's prediction was right. Volcker single-handedly caused the recession, and he deserves a medal for it - it was an unavoidable result for solving the inflation problem.
On another topic, the debt rose by $2 trillion. I'd like to know how much of this was caused by Reaganite tax policy and defense spending increases and how much by Democrat/RINO domestic spending increases.
That attitude towards air controllers -- having them arrested and taken off of their stations in hand cuffs -- involved 11,000 of them.
They didn't put handcuffs on 11,000 of them physcially, of course, but morally, they did.
The intention was to tell them "you are nobody". And to set an example for professionals and workers in other occupations.
Naturally, the message got across, at least in part, and had an impact on morale and morality of air controllers, perhaps for decades... and it perhaps spread to airport management and aircraft fleet management as well...
If the power of the state had not been used against the 11,000 air controllers in such degrading fashion, I wonder if there would have been a better chance to prevent 911?
Bulent Sayin, is abbreviated to BS right? I bet you see that at least once a day, especially with the non sense you just posted.
it takes some pretty clever pretzel logic to blame 9/11 on Reagan's handling of the Air traffic controllers.
with an imagination like that you should go into comedy
As a condition of employment, each air traffic controller had signed an agreement that they would give up the right to strike. Their union (PATCO) decided to renege on the agreement and threatened to strike unless they got a $10,000 rise in pay ($22000 in today’s dollars), an 8-hour reduction in their workweek to 32 hours, and increased pension benefits. A court issued an injunction against the strike. They were warned that pursuant to their contracts they would be fired unless they returned to work. They didn’t and they were fired. Do you think the FAA should have caved in and granted their demands? Do you think PATCO should get to defy a court order with impunity? Do you think the law of contracts does not apply to PATCO? Connecting the self-inflicted demise of PATCO to 911 is certainly creative.
Oh, I hope when all this lauding is over of this great American president, then after a few years- we can commence discussing all the "hand-shake" aggreements that Reagan had with Sadaam Hussein.
You see, during the Iraq-Iran war- we supplied Iraq with arms and other secrets we will never know
Why even Rumsfield is seen in a photograph shaking hands with Sadaam (1984- he is good at following orders); even George Bush Sr. made a few secret envoy trips to meet with the man.
So, those who ignore history are codemned to repeat it. If we sleep with snakes to beat a tiger, do not be surprised when the snake bites you when you finish "using" it...
These types of discussions will never happen now, but maybe later when true historians are allowed to do their work (not journalists), we can then find out how the US lays the seeds of its own war. But not now- lets honour the man. Never should his reputation be diminished. The truth is a shining beacon that should never be kept dark. Grab the tiger; the snake may bite you; grab the snake, maybe that will keep the tiger knelled for now....I speak in parables because most Americans do not know; or have forgotten the illegal loan scandel (grain for arms) to Iraq during the Reagan late tenure in office....That was a shreading of the constitution...and guess what- most of Iran-Contra figures are back at work in the Pentagon...all is forgiven when the game starts up again...what fun, what exhilirating sequences we can have in the Middle East- It is never-ending!
"..Bulent Sayin, is abbreviated to BS right? .."
Yep. Some love to capitalize on it. At one time, an American, having sent me an itinerary, messaged somethin like:"... look at all those little BSs in the schedule, Bulent, and that's you..." At the frequency of occurence so far, I have always found it amusing.
A Zarkov, your sentence:
"..Connecting the self-inflicted demise of PATCO to 911 is certainly creative..."
Now lets simplify that statement a bit:
"... Connecting the demise of PATCO to 911 is certainly creative...."
I obviously never said the terrorists hijacked and slammed passanger aircraft to Twin Towers, with themselves in it, in reaction demise of PATCO. Neither did I say intelligence and security failed because PATCO was effectively put out of business in 1980/81.
I refer to a process here, "demise" of PATCO being only a part of it.
This process, Reganite-Tatcherite, glorifies capital and belittles every thing else. And that process, along with PATCO, did harm, I believe, a number of aspects of airlines sector, making way for a culture of "I just work here" on the part of employees and "cut the corners" on the part of management.
And that ain't good for security, no matter how you look at it.
That's the connection, I think, and I really don't see much creativity in that.
If, however, you could say that you were in general satisfied with the state of things in airline sectors as it concerned security prior to 911, then I'm prepared to say, "sorry, I was wrong".
If you can't say that, however, then you might wish to consider that 911 could perhaps be prevented if things were being managed in 1980s and afterwards in ways to allow the airline controllers a more honorable exit out of the conflict/disagreement.
Who knows; perhaps every body could have been better off, had the air controllers emerged as heros during the 911 incidence, rather than the firemen.
All I can really say is that the economy in both the US and the world was better when Reagan left office than when he started. There was much less oppression in the Soviet Empire (which, of course, was soon to fall) when he left than when he started. That record speaks for itself, and you can spin it any way you want, but the world was a better place because of the man.
Ronald Reagan obviously had an agenda and it wasnt't necessarily a bad one; but it certainly was not perfect. People later on developed a slogan which pointed to the major deficiency of the Reagan agenda: Putting people first.
Looking over the century, the inescapable conclusion is that Reagan was brilliant. Myths notwithstanding, his economic policies were bang on and we are only poorer for being victims of 15+ years of obfuscation and lies about the real economic and fiscal causes and effects. The search for simple not-Reagan explanations for the principal good things that happened under his leadership consistently ignores Reagan's position as the pre-eminent agent of change. The search for simple Reagan-only explanations for all the bad things likewise ignores the contributions of others. For example, the much-lamented (above) response to AIDS was crippled by the popular response and attitude to prophylaxis.
Less bitterness would be appropriate for your good fortune in having him succeed Carter for two terms.
And the search for the simple perfect-Reagan explanations ignores the fact no plan of change or reform is perfect for all times. For example, Reagan policies brought considerable solution to complascency and laxity in public sector operations that were not supposed to be public sector operations. But it seems to have led in the long run to other kinds of complascency and laxity in two other areas: (1) Public sector operations that were supposed to be public sector operations (observe who were using security equipment at airports, for example) and (2)private sector operations (observe Enron etc.)
Why? Because of the reform's major deficiency as I pointed in previous note: Not putting people first.
"Putting people first" is an empty concept - it means different things to different people. To some it means a blanket of socialist entitlements. To others it means simple liberty. There is also the question of "which people" - family? community? nation? all nations? Reagan's policies promoted a greater good for more people than just Americans.
I have some what of a problem. I'm trying to figure out waht National Parks were negatively affected by James Watts The Interior Secretary for Ronald Regean.
Inventas vitam iuvat excoluisse per artes - Let us improve life through science and art. (Vergil)
Pret toujours pret - Ready, Always Ready (304TH Signal Battalion Motto)