Image vs. Effect
The multimillionaire, who owns several $1,000 cowboy boots, is the same man who wants to eliminate the minimum $122-a-month Social Security payment, cut school lunch plates in half and prevent aid to dependent children if families have more than $1,000 in personal property.
The man, of course, is Ronald Reagan and he wants much more. He wants you, the taxpayer, to continue paying corporations billions of dollars in subsidies. He wants tens of billions of dollars more for the already bloated and waste-ridden Pentagon budget—an amount that perplexed even former Republican Defense Secretary Melvin Laird.
Such lavish government spending for the rich is consistent with the president’s own lavish lifestyle and the very wealthy people that make up his inner circle of longtime advisers. So far, Ronald Reagan has shown the American people his smile. He also has exuded the politician’s usualmultinational companies who profit at the public’s expense?
Where is our president’s compassion? Looking over his public utterances, dutifully compiled every week in print form by the White House, one is astonished at the absence of concern for the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the spate of saber-rattling patriotic slogans. But Reagan is neither funny nor patriotic when you set aside his rhetoric and get down to his deeds.
Is it funny to take a working legal aid program for 30 million Americans and try to dismantle it? Even the recently retired heads of Du Pont, General Motors and General Electric urged this program’s retention.
Is it patriotic to seriously weaken the clean air law, cripple the worker’s safety program and destroy the auto safety crash protection standard? Patriotism certainly includes respect for the health and safety of the American people in their own country. Or, at the least, enforcement of existing safety laws.
Is it love of country to block cancer-prevention programs that are striving to protect future as well as present generations of Americans? Is it being a presidential guardian to back Interior Secretary James Watt’s move to give away very quotable expressions favoring programs for environmental health; product safety and workers’ health. At least, Mr. Nixon felt the need to reaffirm publicly these values, even though they did not claim his priorities.
But Mr. Reagan feels no such need. He thinks he can obviate these felt necessities of the American people with substitute phrases, like cutting government spend-. ing, getting the government off people’s backs and protecting the values of the home. He must mean a mobile home. For under his regime of continuing high interest rates, most young couples will not be able to afford a house for their families. And is it getting off people’s backs to revoke proper restraints on the domestic spying activities of the FBI and the CIA or to make the Reagan government more secretive from the citizens of this country?
The Reaganites are showing their extremist colors every day. Wall Street finds their economic policies unsettling. Labor conducts a massive protest march in Washington—the first such rally in many years. The elderly are whispering betrayal by the president they voted for in November.
Most Americans would like to respect their president. But the White House’s double standard—one for the rich, one for the rest of America—is not the way to earn civic support. Soon the presidential smile and wave will wear thin. As people see the cruelty and hypocrisy behind the Reagan smile, his administration, increasingly calling on the public for more patience, will lose its hold on the credibility of the middle class. After that, as the French say, comes le deluge.