Heroes and Ghosts (The Reagan Years)

by Adam Corwin Saturday, Jun. 12, 2004 at 7:50 AM

This Article examines the historical character of Ronald Reagan verses his recent posthumous herofication

As I pulled aimlessly on the doors of the United States Post Office this morning, the reality of Ronald Reagan’s passing set in. Not only was my routine trip thwarted, but the explanation on the door reflected an extremely dangerous historical connotation. While the passing of any human being reflects great sorrow to family and friends of the recently deceased, to manufacture posthumous heroes is bending the truth behind recent history into a more white-washed facsimile of reality.

To remember Ronald Reagan as something he was not, does no justice to the dead or the living. Reagan was a man that enacted polices for the benefit of the select few with little or no regard for the general welfare of the common citizens of the United States. While the election of this former President may have constituted a landslide in terms of the grotesquely similar U.S. two party system, it wasn’t long before Reagan’s loyalties were exposed to the world.

Reagan’s election to President of the United States began with a token gesture from 23 top oil industry executives who donated 270,000 dollars to redecorate the living quarters of the new commander and chief of the country. This small event, that foreshadowed future budget decisions, marked a consistent affiliation that followed all expendatures and cuts for the Reagan years.

Ever the true hero to big business, Reagan sought to eliminate all measures that stood in the way of profit earning to corporations. Among those manifestations attacked were unions and the environment. Reagan’s first message to union workers came on August 3, 1981. In a response to low wages, poor retirement benefits, and overwork, nearly 13,000 of the 17,500 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) walked off the job. Reagan’s response was stern and in line with the interests of the industry, return to work in 48 hours or termination would follow.

In addition to being strongly anti union, Reagan’s actions also had little concern of the safety of workers. Among measures taken in this capacity were the destruction of 100,000 government pamphlets that pointed out the dangers of cotton dust inhalation for factory workers. Viewing OSHA as another threat to profit, he went as far as appointing a former businessman that had open hostility toward the program as its new head.

Reagan’s lack of diplomacy and extreme measures also had grave repercussions on the environment. With a 90% cut to renewable energy resource development programs, the former president insured a prosperous market for his friends in the oil industry while simultaneously setting back progress to a cleaner planet.

Big business was not the only winners in Reagan’s vision; his military expenditures for his first four years in office was one trillion dollars. In 1984, this was a 181 billion dollar increase. Unfortunately, this pro military environment came at the expense of social programs that found themselves under heavy fire during the Reagan years.

Reagan cut 140 billion dollars to social programs. This extended to social security disability benefits being cut to 350,000 people, 1 million poor children losing free lunch at school, and 30 million unemployed in 1982. A strong military and corporate market grew at the expense of the poor, elderly, and children of the United States. The cut backs became so great, even a former Congressional Medal of Honor recipient was denied benefits despite shrapnel permanently impeded in his heart, arms, and legs. Even people deemed heroes by the former president were not safe from the reality of his conservative policies.

As a global policy figure, Ronald Reagan declared a “national emergency” in 1985 because of the actions and policies of Nicaragua were deemed threatening to the United States. The irrationality of Nicaragua being a threat to the United States is a farce from its inception. Regardless of the rationality, Reagan swiftly acted and used force and embargo’s to effectively destroy the nation. Tens of Thousands were slain and Nicaragua was prompted to take the United States to World court to be tried for international terrorism. In World Court, Nicaragua proved their case as the Reagan administration was convicted of international terrorism, this ruling was subsequently ignored by the guilty regime.

Although credited by his fellow Republicans as being instrumental to the fall of the Soviet Union ending the Cold War, this proposed credit is a falsehood. After the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, the Soviet nation had been on a decline. Former ambassador to the Soviet Union, George Kennan, points out that U.S. Cold War policy actually delayed the collapse of the Soviet Union while coming at the expense of the American people.

The death of Ronald Reagan is not most effectively used as a time to point out his many shortcomings and contributions to the decline of human rights in the 1980’s. On the other hand, to reconstruct the past and create a fictional hero that would glorify a similar Bush regime, is more dangerous. Reagan’s actions should speak for themselves and we should learn from the mistakes of recent history, doing otherwise is distracting us from reality and dooming the world to historical repetition.

Hasta La Victoria Siempre!

Adam Corwin (Joad)


Zinn, Howard: A Peoples History of the United States
Chomsky, Noam: 9-11 Interviews and Talks
Guerrilla Underground: Nicaragua Remembered