Suppose a poll asked Americans the following question: Would you support a President for re-election if he did the opposite of what he promised to do on important subjects? Most people would probably say no, provided the issues were important to them.
Let’s examine the record of Ronald Reagan in this regard.
- He would balance the budget by 1984, we were told again and again in 1980, even with a large increase in the military budget and a tax cut. Result: Four years of deficits so massive that they nearly doubled the national debt to $1.6 trillion and, according to projections by the Congressional Budget Office, deficits would range between $180 and $280 billion a year in the next four years.
- He said his government’s policies would lick unemployment. Today, in spite of deficit spending, the unemployment rate is slightly higher than the month Carter left office in January 1981. This level does not include the two and one half million workers who, frustrated, have dropped out of the labor market and are not counted by the Department of Labor.
- He said he would -reduce big government. Well, government spending, as we know, is wildly bigger. There are 23,000 more federal employees than when Reagan became President (Carter left office with a 38,000 reduction in federal employees). There are other expansions of big government under Reagan -more secrecy, more wiretaps, more censoring, more lockout of citizen access rights with which to challenge big government or participate in government proceedings.
- He promised to increase military readiness. A major Congressional study shocked the Washington press corps a few weeks ago with evidence of military unpreparedness, inadequate supplies and ammunition for conventional armed forces. Reagan has poured billions into complex weapons which either don’t work, won’t work, are obsolete or are superfluous.
- He promised relief for taxpayers. The wealthier ones got it. But, according to author Thomas Edsall in his insightful new book, The Politics of Inequality, the combined effect of the tax legislation, social security tax increases and inflation left only people with incomes over $75,000 with a net advantage. To make up for reduced federal grants and revenue sharing many states and cities raised their taxes thereby adding to the burden for most taxpayers.
- He promised to defend free enterprise. Instead his tax and other policies benefited big business over small business. His sharp abandonment of anti-monopoly enforcement gives green lights to the biggest mergers in American history, further concentrating market power. He has preserved the many government subsidies to business, expanded unconditional protectionism in contrast to his free trade philosophy, reduced competitive bidding for government contracts and just completed the $7 billion bailout of the mismanaged, speculating Continental Illinois Bank.
- He said inflation would be tamed. Inflation overall is down but if Mr. Reagan, and not the oil glut nor the Federal Reserve’s tight money policy, is to take credit, then he has to be held responsible for the worst recession (1981 to early 1983) and unemployment (reaching 10.8% in December 1982) since the Great Depression. Moreover, real interest rates are at a record high and necessities such as food, rents, utilities, medicines, and hospital bills still are in a steep price climb for consumers.
- He pledged to the poor that the social “safety net” would remain intact. His first budget sent to Congress gouged gigantic holes in that safety net from the proposed abolition of minimum social security payments for three million elderly to infant nutrition programs, help for the handicapped, legal services for the deprived and many other slashes. Small wonder that hunger is reappearing and the percentage of Americans classified as poor, half of them children, has risen from 11.3% to 15% of the population.
- He called himself an environmentalist. Yet, his policies have resulted in drastically undermining clean air goals, safe drinking water and control of toxic chemicals and waste by lack of enforcement and health regulations. His wholesale drive to transfer control over many U.S. public lands and minerals to multinational corporations at bargain basement prices and few environmental safeguards would intensify in a second term.
In that puzzle palace on the Potomac called Reagan’s White House, there sits a President who must be amazed at how his speeches can cover over his deeds.