Where would America be without the two-term presidency of Ronald Reagan? Answering this question, Charles P. Pierce addressed the ghost of the Gipper on his 101st birthday:
…You did more than anyone else to demolish the notion of a political commonwealth, the principle that “government” is a common enterprise that must be undertaken by all citizens, and not some foreign entity to be whipped and controlled. You brought “states’ rights” back from the historical ignominy where it richly deserved to have been sunk. You showed how The Other can get you elected, how elections are really simply magic shows of pretty images and soft music. You ruled for an entire second term as a symptomatic Alzheimer’s patient and dared anyone to act in a patriotic manner and suggest you step down. Nobody did. You robbed the system of its confidence. You broke down important constitutional barriers that have yet to be reconstructed. You were the first among vandals…
Great stuff, but Pierce doesn’t mention that Ronnie boy couldn’t have done it without help from tens of millions of Americans who should have understood that his anti-government policies were ultimately directed against them. These people were convinced by right-wing propagandists that they could have it both ways — a middle-class lifestyle, but without paying taxes to maintain the infrastructure essential to such a lifestyle. They embraced the philosophy that helped corporate America destroy not only labor unions, but also the sense of unity and common purpose that was the legacy of the New Deal.
Reagan’s legacy is the notion that unregulated markets and tax breaks for the rich will raise all boats. It is the lie that the 99 percent, through hard work and dog-eat-dog selfishness, can become the one percent.
What we have instead is a wrecked economy and a gulf between rich and poor wider than that in any other developed country. We have a political system that puts in place cruel hacks such as PA Gov. Tom Corbett, who would rather drastically cut funding for safety-net programs and public schools than tax the corporations that paid for his election.
A lot of people now realize you can draw a direct line between Reagan the mean-spirited fraud and truly vile creatures such as Corbett, who doesn’t even pretend to represent the poor and near-poor. Too bad it took a second Great Depression to wake them.