The biggest problem with Reagan, as we look back at his presidency in search of clues that might help us meet the challenges of today, is that he presented himself — and has since been presented by his admirers — as someone committed to the best interests of ordinary, hard-working Americans. Yet his economic policies, Reaganomics, dealt a body blow to that very constituency.
Mark Hertsgaard, the author of “On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency,” says in the film, “You cannot be fair in your historical evaluation of Ronald Reagan if you don’t look at the terrible damage his economic policies did to this country.”
Paul Volcker, who served as chairman of the Federal Reserve during most of the Reagan years, commented in the film about the economist Arthur Laffer’s famous curve, which, incredibly, became a cornerstone of national economic policy. “The Laffer Curve,” said Mr. Volcker, “was presented as an intellectual support for the idea that reducing taxes would produce more revenues, and that was, I think, considered by most people a pretty extreme interpretation of what would happen.”
Toward the end of his comment, the former Fed chairman chuckled as if still amused by the idea that this was ever taken seriously.
What we get with Reagan are a series of disconnects and contradictions that have led us to a situation in which a president widely hailed as a hero of the working class set in motion policies that have been mind-bogglingly beneficial to the wealthy and devastating to working people and the poor.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The Reagan Disconnect
Bob Herbert, commenting on a new documentary about Ronald Reagan by Eugen Jarecki, makes an important point that is becoming clearer by the day: