May 29, 2018

The end of the First Republic: The Reagan effect

 In 2003 I initially suggested that the First American Republic was over. What follows over the next few days is a series of notes published  during subsequent years on some of the factors that helped to end the First American Republic, and, as one of its more disastrous results, put Donald Trump into power. 

Sam Smit - Although there were signs of trouble as early as 1944, when the conservative Human Events magazine was launched, Republicans in general stayed within traditional American culture until the Reagan administration. There were exceptions, the most striking being Joseph McCarthy and his ilk, but on the whole Republicans represented a wing of American politics rather than, as at present, a political asteroid threatening to blow the whole place up. People such as Robert A. Taft and Margaret Chase Smith were like your grandfather and grandmother, out of touch with the times but still members of the family. Dwight Eisenhower was a moderate and Richard Nixon – for all his personal faults – was on domestic issues the last liberal president America has had.

That changed radically with Ronald Reagan, who applied principles he had used to sell Chesterfield cigarettes to hawk a toxic form of government described well by Robert Lekachman:

"Ronald Reagan must be the nicest president who ever destroyed a union, tried to cut school lunch milk rations from six to four ounces, and compelled families in need of public help to first dispose of household goods in excess of $1,000".
There is considerable evidence that the collapse of the First American Republic began in no small part with Reagan’s inauguration:

- The number of federal inmates increased from approximately 25,000 in FY1980 to nearly 219,000 in FY2012.

- According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an all-time record 49 percent of all Americans live in a home where at least one person receives financial assistance from the federal government. Back in 1983, that number was less than 30 percent.

- From 1947 to 1979 family income of the bottom 20% went up 116% and those in the top 20% went up 99%. Between 1980 and 2009, the bottom 20% went up

- During the Reagan administration the number of families living below the poverty line increased by one-third.

 There are other aspects of the Reagan years we tend to forget. For example, the Reagan administration was among the most corrupt in American history including, by one estimate, 31 convictions of top officials. By comparison 40 government officials were indicted or convicted in the wake of Watergate. 47 individuals and businesses associated with the Clinton machine were convicted of or pleaded guilty to crimes with 33 of these occurring during the Clinton administration itself.

David R. Simon and D. Stanley Eitzen in Elite Deviance, report that 138 appointees of the Reagan administration either resigned under an ethical cloud or were criminally indicted.

The Reagan administration also had secret plans for an unconstitutional takeover of the federal government under an ill-defined national emergency. 

Reagan's policies also led to what was then the greatest financial scandal in American history: the savings & loan debacle which cost taxpayers billions of dollars.


Anonymous said...

No one doubts that there was a "Reagan Revolution" which advanced the conservative movement to the forefront of American politics.

Everyone concedes that.

Now, almost forty years later, can anyone (from any part of the political spectrum) seriously argue that these are "good results."

Thomas Day said...

The extremely conservative GAO estimated the S&L crisis cost at $480B ( or about $1,000,000,000 in today's dollars. But it was far worse than that because Republicans just dumped the cost into the national debt and we've been paying compound interest on it since.

Anonymous said...

Carter was more liberal than Nixon. Nixon's court ended the republic officially in Buckley v. Valeo. There has never been a golden era but the most recent approximation was Carter. The republic was superseded when Truman replaced FDR in what had the outcome of being a coup d'etat, which Eisenhower was powerless to reverse if he had wanted to. Apres lui lots of shooting.

Nebris said...

- From 1947 to 1979 family income of the bottom 20% went up 116% and those in the top 20% went up 99%. Between 1980 and 2009, the bottom 20% went up...?? what happened to the rest?

Anonymous said...

I agree, it almost seems like part of this has been hacked.