Sunday, February 6, 2011

Honoring the Reagan legacy

Mike Thompson's commentary:
The best summation of the presidency of Ronald Reagan came from current U.S. Senator and former Saturday Night Live writer and comedian Al Franken. As the Minnesota Democrat Franken sarcastically observed, when it comes to Reagan, America owes a debt that can never be repaid.

America is a far different place today than it was in 1980 when Reagan won the White House. Back then, as numerous commentators have been pointing recently, America was the world’s largest exporter of manufactured goods; we were the world’s largest creditor nation, and our industrial base was the envy of the world.

Can the blame for America’s demise be laid solely at the feet of Reagan? Certainly not. But there’s no denying Reagan’s profound impact on American politics. His themes of deregulation and tax break for the affluent have been the guiding principles of American politics for the past three decades. So much so that even many Democrats (hello, President Clinton, hello, President Obama) have embraced Reagan’s memes.

Never mind that the American middle class has been all but obliterated by Reaganesque supply-side economics as the trickled down wealth that was promised never quite materialized. We’re bound and determined to continue marching down the path Reagan started us on, no matter the cost.

America has done pretty much everything Reagan advocated. The rich got richer (the top 1 percent now pull in 24 percent of the nation’s income, a larger share of the pie than even during the robber baron era, according to taxes went down (Americans’ tax bills are at the lowest level since the 1950s, according to USA Today) and we got government “off the back” of business (Wall St. deregulation ring a bell?). As Reagan’s former budget director David Stockman pointed out recently on the CBS news show, “60 Minutes,’ since the mid-1980s, “"The top five percent have gained more wealth than the whole human race had created prior to 1980." So where’s the prosperity for the rest of us?

If you’re among that top five percent, crack open a bottle of Dom Perignon and drink a toast to Reagan on this, the 100th anniversary of his birth. The rest of America will be too busy trying to hang onto their jobs, or sending out resumes.

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