"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Reagan Revolution, Part 5

The Reagan tax cuts mainly benefited the wealthy and were the main instrument in the administration’s very successful effort to rearrange the terms of political debate. Democrats found it impossible to resist the tax cut even though they controlled Congress. The concept had great public support, and few other than core Democrats saw anything wrong with the idea of giving the rich a big tax break. Democrats were intimidated by the widespread acceptance of the GOP market- oriented political philosophy and refrained from defending the Johnson programs the Reaganites denounced and misrepresented. Unwilling or unable to offer effective resistance, many Democrats voted for the Reagan assaults on social programs. A few complained about the widening gap between rich and poor, but most Democrats remained silent on this subject. The Great Communicator’s rhetoric resonated with the many who believed poverty was a character flaw, and he even joked about claims that millions were not getting enough to eat in the United States. He said, “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.” The electorate had made it clear that it was not concerned about a widening gap between rich and poor or that large numbers might be hungry.

Ronald Reagan echoed Barry Goodwater’s demand that size of government be sharply reduced. Goldwater was clearly the founder of modern conservatism, and Reagan clearly wanted to enact his program. Reagan did not enact much of the Goldwater agenda. The failure to do so has been blamed on Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush, called “a man of no discernable ideology, who allowed government to begin growing again.” Whatever his intentions were, Reagan did not cut one federal agency, did not reduce the rate of spending, and added $1.4 trillion to the national debt. His aggressive foreign policy, which included a not-so-secret war in Central America, laid the foundations for the imperial foreign policy of George W. Bush. The Republicans who came to power in 1995 did nothing to trip government or arrest spending; rather they soon spawned a multiplicity of pork barrel projects funded through “earmarks” to please the K Street lobbyists who funded and allied with them. Under George W. Bush, new federal agencies were created and the debt soared. There was little sign that the party of Goldwater still feared debt or was serious about reducing the size and influence of government. Under the second Bush, personal liberties were sharply curtailed in the name of national security. Somewhere between Reagan and the second Bush, the Goldwater dream for the Republican Party had vanished. The party still enacted tax cuts for the wealthy and championed business interests, but it had reversed itself on much of Goldwater’s vision.

Ronald Reagan had put in place a political settlement of sorts that seemed to have widespread support. Its basic terms were acceptance of the growing gap between rich and poor, a reversal of the progressive taxation policies of the New Deal, and acceptance of the fact that there was great support among regular voters for cutting social programs. By the mid-eighties, Census Bureau data demonstrated that the gap between the poorest and richest families was wider than it had ever been, and the federal government was pursuing a policy of redistributing wealth in favor of the rich. Nevertheless, the tax cut remained very popular, and many citizens considered criticism of its benefits for the wealthy as class warfare. There is also evidence that framing the difference between parties in terms of the rich and powerful versus other citizens simply does not work. In a follow-up study to the 2000 presidential election, David Brooks compared two counties. In the far less prosperous county, George W. Bush was triumphant. In the more prosperous one , people recognized that there are great differences between rich and poor, but it was hard to find people who thought they were have-nots. Part of the explanation may be that even though some people have enormous wealth there was “little obvious inequality.”

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About Me

Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!