Why Ronald Reagan is one of the Worst Presidents in U.S. History – Democratic Article
Ronald Reagan is possibly the worst president in the United States’ history. Nearly all his policies and stances on cultural issues have led us to the point we are now. A ballooned deficit and debt, a bloated military budget, a struggling dwindling middle class, enormous wealth inequality, huge racial disparities, a demonization of governmental assistance, anti-intellectualism, the rising influence of evangelicals, a catastrophic environmental situation, the war on drugs, and a broken healthcare system. Just to name a few.
My sharpest criticism of Reagan is of his economic policy, Reaganomics, also known as supply-side economics. The idea that you could cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans, decrease all government spending, except drastically increase defence, and somehow maintain a healthy economy not saddled with debt. Even Reagan’s eventual vice president, George Bush Sr., noted that this was voodoo economics. Supply-side economics was later renamed trickle-down economics, with the idea that the gains made at the top would later trickle down to middle and lower-class Americans; this never happened. In fact, poverty increased under Reagan.
Due to this poverty, homelessness within city centres increased. Reagan proclaimed that it was their fault that they were in this horrible situation. Income inequality also skyrocketed under his watch. Wealthy households saw their fortunes increase by 9% while the poorest households saw their wealth plummet by 9%. He also cut corporate taxes, allowing corporations to amass even more money and get even greedier. Corporations were essentially rewarded for behaving as selfishly as possible. This corporatism led to the volatile business cycles that we now experience with sky-high stock markets only to have crazy crashes that devastate the economy.
Reagan’s economic policy of spending cuts had direct impacts on Americans. He utterly slashed the budgets for public health, depriving Americans of the care they needed. Under Reagan’s watch, nearly 300 rural and urban hospitals had to close due to lack of funds. This has caused rural populations, the Republican base, and their health to suffer greatly.
His policies also directly impacted minorities. The Black life expectancy went down under Reagan. Native Americans were at higher risk of dying from preventable diseases and alcoholism. Reagan also actively ignored the AIDS pandemic. He ignored it because it was mostly gay men who were affected, and his hyper-conservative base didn’t care for them. His active neglect and disdain for public health had negative effects on Americans. This can be seen in our lack of a national healthcare system that continues to let thousands of Americans die; more than 40,000 to be exact.
Not only did Reagan attempt to dismantle public health institutions, but he also waged a full out war on government welfare programs. He popularized the disgusting welfare queen myth. He invoked this myth not only to show how welfare and government programs were bad and could be corrupting and easily taken advantage of but also to diabolize Black people, especially Black women. The rhetoric he used was a dog whistle, invoking, the “Chicago Woman”, implying that the woman is Black.
Reagan used the myth to further promote the disgusting stereotypes that equate Blackness to being lazy and Black women to uncontrolled sexuality. Malcolm X was truly right when he said “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” Reagan railed on about a “Chicago woman” who had “80 names 30 addresses, 15 phone numbers to collect food stamps, social security and veterans benefits”. Reagan used this rhetoric to explain why so many white Americans were suffering. He used the “welfare queen” as a scapegoat to demonize Black people and blame them for white economic woes. Not only were Reagan’s welfare policies anti-poor, but they were also anti-Black.
This strategy is quite pernicious and goes back to the reconstruction era. Just after the civil war, the plantation class lost all their free labor. Because of this, they feared class unity amongst poor whites and Blacks. To avoid this, they used racial agitation to prevent class unity and unionization amongst the working class, to keep their profits. Reagan did essentially the same thing but for the corporate class. He effectively used racial agitation to keep the lower-classes from organizing and ensuring they received adequate benefits.
Reagan made sure that poor whites and poor Blacks stayed divided so that he could continue his assault on government programs that helped people. He even stated so in a 1986 press conference when he said, “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”. This vilification of government help only led to the country becoming more conservative and right-wing, dooming the chance of implementing policies that would help Americans.
In addition, Reagan expanded the calamitous and ineffective war on drugs. Through this expansion, he managed to instate mandatory minimums and civil asset forfeiture, two laws that have ruined lives. Reagan also focused on crack cocaine rather than powdered cocaine, even though they are essentially the same drug. This is because Black people used crack rather than powder. Reagan handed harsher sentences to crack users than powder users, further perpetuating racist and unequal outcomes through the criminal justice system. The war on drugs also exponentially increased the nation’s prison population and put millions of Black men in prison leaving many children fatherless. The consequences of this are still evident today. In many states, 1 in 20 black men are in jail, mostly for non-violent drug offences, limiting the potential of otherwise bright Americans.
Not only did Reagan harshly punish crime, but he also committed crimes himself. He is partly responsible for the Iran-Contra affair, where the United States sold weapons to the Iranian government to fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. The problem is congress had banned any fiscal support of the Contras and Iran was under an arms embargo. Not only did Reagan break the law, but the US also did not gain anything from it.
Reagan endangered national security in more ways than one. In terms of his environmental policies, they were non-existent and disastrous. Reagan even once said that trees caused pollution. Even the extraordinarily partisan and conservative heritage foundation states that he squandered valuable time in saving the environment. Even the measly regulations they did implement were found to be “both complex and inefficient”. In addition, Reagan removed the solar panels Jimmy Carter had installed on the white house roof. He perilously curtailed spending on renewables and incentives for fledgeling renewable industries. This refusal to move towards green energy has made the fight against climate change exponentially harder. We now have much less time to combat an extremely urgent and existential issue, that could have been dealt with over 4 decades ago.
Reagan is also responsible for accelerating anti-intellectualism in the US and an anti-intellectual President. Sound a little familiar? One of his biographers noted that he had a “growing suspicion that the president has only a passing acquaintance with some of the most important decisions of his administration”. Reagan frequently attacked intellectuals on the campaign trail, saying they were “morally bankrupt” and had disdain for “middle-class values”. Reagan also shifted the Republican party from elitism to populism, even though he was an elite himself. Does this ring another bell?
He also amplified extreme conservative voices such as the evangelicals. The evangelicals loved his anti-communist, anti-social change, and pro-conservative rhetoric so much so that they were willing to look past the fact that he was twice married and rarely ever went to church. He essentially highlighted that it was good to not care to seek knowledge and stay in your own entrenched staunchly right-wing viewpoints.
Overall, Reagan left Americans with a country in bad shape and in desperate need of fixing. He also gave us a Republican party that would only stray further and further right. It has become an insurmountable task to do anything to help fix the mess the 40th President of the United States gave us.
Written by Democratic Writer, Ali Lahrech
Point of Information
A Litany of Errors – A Republican Response
At a first read, I thought this article to be bluster and hyperbole. Research proved me wrong. Too young to truly appreciate the damage this President did, the list is staggering. This is just about as entertaining and precise a hit-piece that you’ll ever read.
The only slim positive in my mind, was the reinvigoration of the military under his administration. It was revitalised after becoming somewhat impotent and vulnerable during the Carter administration. However, this was only achieved through eye-watering expenditure that created bubble & deficit, alike. Unsustainable change is very little use: the decades of restructuring after the Reagan years are a testament to this.
Again, a slightly improved military does not even come close to redress the issues. To mention some, would be to neglect others. The two big ones for me: the “war on drugs”, and the brutalisation of the working and middle classes.
As for the former, I simply do not understand why, in “the land of the free”, individuals cannot be allowed to consume the substances that they wish (within reason). In this way, Reagan epitomised the antithesis of the American experiment: the overbearing, paternalistic government.
Concerning the latter, I am dumbfounded as to why taxes were increased for those who struggle to make ends meet, but slashed for those who have plenty. I am in favour of tax cuts for all, do not get me wrong. However, logic dictates that you start with the poorest! Perhaps, corporations had rather effective lobbyists during this term.
Sadly, we often airbrush history; there have even been calls for Reagan to be added to Rushmore. The failures should be writ large, as done with the above article, and never repeated.
Written by Republican Writer, Alexander Dennis
Apparently the worst President, yet Reagan won two terms – A Foreign Perspective
Ronald Reagan has many qualities and weaknesses, like any other leader. We can praise him for his foreign policy such as the peaceful end to the Cold War. Some say he re-ignited faith in the American Dream due to his loyalty and love for his country. Others say he restored pride and morale among the people after Jimmy Carter’s weak leadership.
The overall consensus by historians is that he restored and rehabilitated conservatism and was arguably the most influential president since Franklin D. Roosevelt. This does not mean Reagan was a good president by all means.
We must not just casually dismiss the elephant in the room; the stance on his economic policies. Some believe Reagan restored the economy to its greatness and made people believe. But I will take a stand against that theory amongst many critics. He plunged so many people into further poverty. I am equally as shocked as Alex and Ali, who both mentioned his tax increase policies which did not make much sense.
Life expectancy dropped and the class gap was exposed with ‘War on Drugs’. It is safe to say that Reagan did not quite follow his idea of the American Dream as it were.
Future leaders must learn from his successes and his failures to make sure that these mistakes never occur again.
Written by Foreign Writer, Max Jablonowski