Juan Cole remembers Reagan.
June 7, 2004 1:17 AM   Subscribe

Juan Cole remembers Reagan. Cole: I did not say anything yesterday about Ronald Reagan's death. The day a person dies he has a right to be left alone. But yesterday is now history, and Reagan's legacy should not pass without comment.
posted by skallas (25 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

I am disgraced to be a Mefi.

Oh, wait, wrong thread.
posted by iamck at 1:32 AM on June 7, 2004

This bastard's death is no more sad than Nixon's, and history will remember him the way this article does. I still stand by my comments here.

I have never understood the desire to be nice to dead people, especially dead people who caused death and destruction with lies.
posted by interrobang at 2:35 AM on June 7, 2004

Well written, well-reasoned, with emotions admirably reigned in; unfortunately he will be criticized for "pissing on a grave" just for stating the facts and an honest analysis of them.
posted by sic at 2:36 AM on June 7, 2004

So every new opinion about Reagan is a new thread? Cool.
posted by David Dark at 3:03 AM on June 7, 2004


US President was more concerned with health of big business than health of nation's poor and dispossessed, claim radical revisionists.

Can hardly wait for another riveting and balanced debate in the media: "Reagan. An American Hero" vs "Reagan. Not a saint?"
posted by Mocata at 3:16 AM on June 7, 2004

On stage, early eighties...

Eddie Murphy: Wow, I'm in Washington DC!
Audience member: Reaganomics sucks!
EM: Reaganomics sucks? Tell me something I don't know, motherf*cker.
posted by asok at 3:44 AM on June 7, 2004

So every new opinion about Reagan is a new thread? Cool

Yeah, he might have been very old and very important, but there's no way he deserves three separate Metafilter threads.
posted by tapeguy at 4:37 AM on June 7, 2004

For those still interested, there be a good ol' fashioned MetaTalkin' goin' on...
posted by i_cola at 5:22 AM on June 7, 2004

Well written, well-reasoned

Though with some quotes and research - perhaps links to historical documents and articles - it'd have been much better. Without support, it's just another left wing Op Ed piece.
posted by aladfar at 5:27 AM on June 7, 2004

Juan Cole is, quite simply, wrong on just about every count...and the few times that he is right, his interpretation is wrong.
posted by davidmsc at 5:44 AM on June 7, 2004

davidmsc is, quite simply, wrong on just about every count...and the few times that he is right, his interpretation is wrong.

See how useful that was?
posted by Space Coyote at 6:15 AM on June 7, 2004

Greg Palast and Joe Davidson are quite a bit more aggressive than Cole. Quite accurate as well.
posted by talos at 6:26 AM on June 7, 2004

talos - I'd go a bit farther as well.

Juan Cole's critique serves as a welcome astringent to cut through the fawningly servile and glassy eyed hagiography that American media - public radio most of all, it seems - is shoveling out by the shit-load to commemorate Reagan's death.

But Cole misses some important points

davidmsc - Cole is wrong on what, specifically ? Let's take a few of his best points. His critique is rather milder than the facts warrant, I'd say :

1) "Then when he was president, at one point Reagan tried to cut federal funding for school lunches for the poor. He tried to have ketchup reclassified as a vegetable to save money" - Is this factually incorrect?

2) Reagan refused to confront - or channel federal resources to address - the emerging AIDS crisis which is now a Global pandemic and is ravaging Africa. - Anything to add here ?

3) "Reagan hated environmentalism. His administration was not so mendacious as to deny the problems of increased ultraviolet tradition (from a depleted ozone layer) and global warming. His government suggested people wear sunglasses and hats in response. At one point Reagan suggested that trees cause pollution. He was not completely wrong (natural processes can cause pollution), but his purpose in making the statement seems to have been that we should therefore just accept lung cancer from bad city air, which was caused by automobiles and industry, not by trees."

4) "...Although it would be an exaggeration to say that Ronald Reagan created al-Qaeda, it would not be a vast exaggeration. The Carter administration began the policy of supporting the radical Muslim holy warriors in Afghanistan who were waging an insurgency against the Soviets after their invasion of that country. But Carter only threw a few tens of millions of dollars at them. By the mid-1980s, Reagan was giving the holy warriors half a billion dollars a year."

Cole here fails to note that the CIA's Afghanistan project also intentionally fanned the flames of Jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan by promoting (funding, that is) the rhetoric of Islamic holy war. And it funded the creation of transnational Islamic networks which have now metastasized into Al Qaeda.


5) "Reagan's officials so hated the Sandinista populists in Nicaragua that they shredded the constitution. Congress cut off money for the rightwing death squads fighting the Sandinistas. Reagan's people therefore needed funds to continue to run the rightwing insurgency. They came up with a complicated plan of stealing Pentagon equipment, shipping it to Khomeini in Iran, illegally taking payment from Iran for the weaponry, and then giving the money to the rightwing guerrillas in Central America" - Cole neglects to mention the horrible civilian death toll, mostly through right-wing death squad massacres, which Reagan's Latin American policies visited upon the humble, desperately poor peasants of Central America.

You can read eyewitness accounts of these atrocities - recounted both by victims and perpetrators - in James Waller's "Becoming Evil". There is testimony there to - if this is possible - even exceed the barbarity of the Holocaust. Read it.

Under Reagan's Central and latin American policy, the notorious School of The Americas - which trained the officer elite from military forces of Latin and Central America (and from elsewhere around the Globe) in "Counterinsurgency" methods and also torture techniques - flourished.

6) "They therefore winked at Saddam's use of chemical weapons. Reagan's secretary of state, George Schultz, sent Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad twice, the second time with an explicit secret message that the US did not really mind if Saddam gassed the Iranian troops, whatever it said publicly." - In fact, many of Saddams worst atrocities - massacres, that is - of Iraqis happened during this period and there also is evidence that, in some cases, chemical attacks against advancing Iranian troops were mistargeted and hit Iraqi villages and towns.

There are at least two salient features of Ronald Reagan's foreign policy - the End of the Cold War, and US complicity in War Crimes.

On the domestic front, well......

Jimmy Carter bequeathed a modest federal yearly deficit of about $30 billion to Ronald Reagan. By the end of his second term, Reagan had managed to run the deficit up to around $300 billion per year.

Some fiscal conservative, eh?

Oh - and I forgot to mention - One of Reagan's first actions upon entering White House was to order the solar power system, which Carter had installed, torn down. Reagan then proceeded to gut federal alternative energy subsidies which - in any case - represented only a fraction of the yearly federal subsidy torrent that goes to the oil, coal, and nuclear industries.

If Reagan had continued the Carter approach, US reliance on foreign oil might be now considerably less, but the alternative energy industry was - for most of the next decade - starved for funding and so US based industries lost the technological edge in at least one key alternative energy methods, windpower.

I could go on a bit more, but I think that's sufficient for now to chisel through the coke-bottle thick and rosy hued distorting lenses being pedaled by the mass media now about the "Reagan Legacy".

And - I'd grant this certainly : The Reagan Presidency was not all bad.

George W. Bush's President throws that fact into sharp relief.
posted by troutfishing at 6:46 AM on June 7, 2004 [1 favorite]

A correction on those deficit figures :

Jimmy Carter bequeathed a yearly federal budget deficit of $40 billion of so to Ronald Reagan who - by 1986 - had run the deficit up to $220 billion. The overall federal debt under Carter, as a percentage of yearly GDP, was 34% but - by the end of Reagan tenure, as the federal debt ballooned up to almost 3 trillion dollars - by 1989 it was up to 55% of GDP.

"Lessons in Reaganomics

......."The epitaph of the Reagan presidency will be:  'When Ronald Reagan became President, the United States was the largest creditor nation.  When he left the presidency, we were the world's largest debtor nation.'"
--Lester Thurow, MIT professor of economics

"[A] lapse into fiscal indiscipline on a scale never before experienced in peacetime."
--David Stockman (Reagan's budget director) describing the 1980's, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed 

"In the Reagan years, more federal debt was added than in the entire prior history of the United States."
--Richard Darman (Reagan advisor), Who's in Control? Polar Politics and the Sensible Center

Bill Clinton - a Democrat - brought the Reagan-era fiscal irresponsibility under control and, by the end of his second term, left a balanced budget to George W. Bush. But Bush - in short order, and in the fashion typical of Republicans nowadays - ran up new budget deficits to rival Ronald Reagan's.

Democrat = Fiscal prudence, balanced budgets.

Republican = Giant federal deficits.
posted by troutfishing at 7:23 AM on June 7, 2004

Democrat = Fiscal prudence, balanced budgets.

Republican = Giant federal deficits.

In order to lend some perspective to this often-held view, here are the details of the U.S. Government finances, during the Reagan years (from this handy spreadsheet taken from the President's 2005 budget):

Total Finances(billions of dollars)
Year Revenues Expenditures Deficit
1980 517.1    590.9        -73.8
1981 599.3    678.2        -79.0
1982 617.8    745.7        -128.0
1983 600.6    808.4        -207.8
1984 666.5    851.9        -185.4
1985 734.1    946.4        -212.3
1986 769.2    990.4        -221.2
1987 854.4    1,004.1      -149.7

On-Budget Finances(billions of dollars)
Year Revenues Expenditures Deficit
1980 403.9    476.6        -72.7
1981 469.1    543.0        -73.9
1982 474.3    594.3        -120.0
1983 453.2    661.3        -208.0
1984 500.4    686.0        -185.6
1985 547.9    769.6        -221.7
1986 569.0    806.9        -237.9
1987 641.0    810.2        -169.3

(Note: "Total" finances are different from "on-budget" due to inclusion of off-budget items such as Medicare and Social Security)
posted by MarkO at 9:13 AM on June 7, 2004

Er, this handy spreadsheet from this budget.

What the tables above tell me is that the Reagan tax cuts did not cause federal defecits, since revenues increased in almost every year during this period, although they may have (a) lowered the amount that would have come in, and/or (b) stimulated economic growth, leading to increased revenues anyway.

The cause of the huge federal defecits was an increasingly bloated budget spurred by politicians of all ideologies heaping unrealistic promises upon an uninformed electorate. Reagan is not solely to blame for all of this.
posted by MarkO at 9:20 AM on June 7, 2004

MarkO - No, Reagan was not totally to blame, but the trend still seems telling :

Carter - Relative fiscal prudence.

Reagan - Huge deficits

George Bush Sr. - Significant deficits (George Bush Sr. made an attempt to begin to deal with the Reagan-era deficits)

Bill Clinton - Elimination of the federal deficit.

George W. Bush - Back up to the worst Reagan-era level deficits.

can we discern a pattern ?

I think it's incorrect to say that the Reagan tax cuts did not cause Reagan-era deficits. They were a very significant part of the mix. The "Laffer Curve" theory has been put to the test now twice - and been found mostly incorrect.

[ Tax cuts for the rich are an ineffective way to promote economic growth (and federal revenues). Tax cuts for the poor and middle class translate much more readily into that increased consumption which drives the economy. ]

Reagan's deficits were a product of both declines in federal tax revenue and increased federal expenditures : less revenue, more spending. But Reagan was as lavish a spender as any in Congress and - at least in one year - submitted a budget proposal to Congress which exceeded (the Democratically controlled) Congress' own spending proposal.
posted by troutfishing at 10:08 AM on June 7, 2004

For pattern-discerning assistance:

posted by nicwolff at 11:10 AM on June 7, 2004

nicwolff - Rock on dude, rock on. I was wrong about George Bush Sr. deficits, and I don't even care 'cause that chart rocks so hard.

Here's a cute lil' ol' addition too :

Reagan vs. Clinton

1.JOBS—grew by 43% more under Clinton.
2.GDP---grew by 57% more under Clinton.
3.DOW—grew by 700% more under Clinton..
4.NASDAQ-grew by 18 times as much under Clinton.
4.SPENDING--grew by 28% under Clinton---80% under Reagan.
5.DEBT—grew by 43% under Clinton—187% under Reagan.
6. DEFICITS—Clinton got a large surplus--grew by 112% under Reagan.
7.NATIONAL INCOME—grew by100% more under Clinton.
8.PERSONAL INCOME—Grew by 110% more under Clinton.
SOURCES—Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.BLS.Gov)--Economic Policy Institute (EPI.org)—Global & World Almanacs from 1980 to 2003 (annual issues)
posted by troutfishing at 11:39 AM on June 7, 2004

I wish, though, that your chart went back further in time. I've heard talk that Republicans, long long ago and far far away, were into government fiscal prudence.

Maybe back in the Eisenhower era ?

But it's clear now that the Republican Party overall - with a minority of conscientious laggards in tow - no longer gives a damn about the financial health of the commonweal, and that it loves to spend freely of others people's money.

Republicans are now the real liberals. Liberals are now the real Republicans, 'cept they support abortion rights and access to birth control, so they're sort of libertarian too.

"Repubicans" are now something else.

They're PseudoRepublicans

George W. Bush-brand PseudoRepublicans are into :

1) Big, intrusive federal government and giant federal deficits

2) Government surveillance of citizens, and increased restrictions on personal rights.

3) A "the buck stops elsewhere" policy of never, EVER taking personal responsibility.

4) Lying to the American people whenever possible because of the new - in vogue - Republican "Straussian" political philosophy which holds the American people to be too dumb to know what's in their best interest.

5) Vaguely defined, grandiose military ventures the likes of which might be cooked up by Think Tank fellows high on amphetamines : grand and poorly concieved projects to "Save the World" which happen to also - coincidentally - promise fat financial rewards to well-connected corporations associated with the PseudoRepublicans.

6) Strict standards of personal morality - as long as they apply to someone else.

7) Outsourcing US jobs whenever possible.
posted by troutfishing at 11:58 AM on June 7, 2004

nicwolff - I find that chart disingenuous, because it's plotted as a straight scale, when it should be shown as % of GDP. Also, many of those budget shortfalls in the 80's and so on are caused by spending programs going back to the Great Society and the New Deal. It's the same in all other countries with pensions, and nobody wants to deal with the problem.

Stay tuned for more...
posted by MarkO at 9:25 AM on June 8, 2004

MarkO - true and fair, you're right. But even so, the Reagan deficits as a percentage of GDP were also huge.

" The overall federal debt under Carter, as a percentage of yearly GDP, was 34% but - by the end of Reagan tenure, as the federal debt ballooned up to almost 3 trillion dollars - by 1989 it was up to 55% of GDP. "

Also, the US economy seems to fare as well - or better - with Democratic Presidents at the helm.
posted by troutfishing at 10:50 AM on June 8, 2004

Trout - I guess you could find a correlation between who's president and how the economy does. But if you consider that Democratic principles include rights to health care, a "right to work", etc, wouldn't it follow that in order to tax and fund the preservation of these rights, we must accept lower economic performance? Doesn't central planning look like an inherently wose way to allocate resources than a market economy?

I'm not convinced that there even is a Phillips curve. Or that you can boost demand in order to boost supply. It all sounds like the broken window fallacy.

I would suggest that the Republican party (purged of pork-barrel, tax-cut-and-spend politicians) is inherently the party of better economic performance. We still owe a lot of our current economic fortune to the tax cuts instituted 2 and 3 decades ago.
posted by MarkO at 11:23 AM on June 8, 2004

Re: Tax cuts 3 decades ago -- I was referring to Kennedy, admittedly a Democrat.

See also Say's Law for a different look at "demand-side" vs. "supply-side" economics.
posted by MarkO at 11:25 AM on June 8, 2004

MarkO - I cited the "weak" version of my case, for fairness. Then, there's the "Fordism" factor that could address some of your points (I'd guess).

"if you consider that Democratic principles include rights to health care, a "right to work", etc, wouldn't it follow that.....we must accept lower economic performance?" - This depends on how the system is constructed, I think. Any market system imagineable will still be built upon underlying ground rules. So one answer - as a question - to yours is : could the right to work, up to up point - or a health care rights, undergird a theoretical market system, as ground rules ?

I'm not sure about "right to work" provisions, but I'm confident that health care rights could do so.

Of course, there's the question of the competitiveness of such market systems vis a vis other market systems with less charitable ground rules.....
posted by troutfishing at 9:40 PM on June 8, 2004

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