Opinion: Looking back on Reagan

“Madmen and butchers have no place in the 21st century, and as America continues to face a very uncertain future, we must not turn a blind eye.”

Bryan Staul

Bryan Staul

Bryan Staul is a sophomore political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

This week marked the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan. Over the years, our 40th President has become an icon to conservatives and hated by liberals. I am a Democrat and consider myself left of center, and I have no problem saying I don’t hate Ronald Reagan. In fact I think he was a good and decent man.

Reagan had a deep faith in our country that should be admired even if you disagree with his policies. Reagan is still popular for the same reasons John F. Kennedy remains popular. He gave Americans hope. After the Vietnam War and Watergate, this country needed to believe in itself again, and he showed us we could be strong. However, today’s GOP seems to have the wrong idea about Reagan and his time as President.

They rarely mention the shortcomings of the Reagan years, for example, the Iran-Contra scandal when government personnel sold weapons to Iran in the hopes of funding anti-communist forces in Nicaragua. However, funding the Contras was against the law. The scandal resulted in an investigation that found Reagan innocent of any wrongdoing. The most troubling part was that there was no proof Reagan had any knowledge that these deals were occurring in his administration.

What about Reagan’s economic record? Well it depends who you were. Those who made the least gained the least. Rising income inequality marked Reagan’s America. In short, the rich got richer, and the poor got poorer. His time in office was marked by corporate favoritism, and the prosperity felt on Wall Street was not felt on Main Street.

The former President also sought to privatize the most successful government program in American history, Social Security, as well as Medicare. Fortunately, Congressional Democrats stopped him. This does not make Reagan a bad man. It means he was out of touch with many working Americans.

Fiscal Conservatives also highly regard Reagan as a champion of their values. However, Reagan drastically increased federal spending, and the debt rose to over $2 trillion. Reagan did attempt to control the deficit but proposed the largest peacetime tax hike in American history.

Another highly praised Reagan subject was his handling of the Soviet Union. Some credit is deserved; however, he also spent billions of dollars on unrealistic military programs like the Strategic Defense Initiative, which sought to use lasers to prevent ballistic missiles from hitting the United States. That particular program was labeled as Star Wars due to its lack of scientific support.

Reagan is a transformative figure in American politics, and he deserves recognition for that fact alone. Reagan may have appealed to our American ideal, but he failed to deliver to our social and economic needs. Reagan the man seems to conflict with Reagan the myth.