An icon is a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something worthy of respect and admiration, and for conservatives their icon of choice is one-time B-movie actor turned politician Ronald Reagan. Reagan was in the news again yesterday when it was reported that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker apparently claimed he voted for conservative man-god Reagan when he was 13 and then again when he was 17 years old. It is not that Walker “misspoke” about voting for Reagan before he was old enough to vote, it is that he follows a long line of Republicans identifying themselves as the resurrected Reagan. This is despite the fact that Republicans would attack their paragon of conservatism as a tax-and-spend liberal coward who handed America to illegal immigrants in a socialist plot to destroy the economy and eviscerate white America’s purity if Reagan was alive today.
It never fails to amaze that Republicans hold up Ronald Reagan as the anti-Obama icon, although in many respects they would be completely correct, but not in the manner they will ever admit or the people might remember. For Americans grounded in reality and the nation’s historical record, Reagan is responsible for America’s thirty year slide into a corporatocracy to enrich the already wealthy at the expense of the masses, and is the rat-bastard who ushered in America’s march toward theocracy by opening government to the religious right to enact laws “respecting the establishment of religion” in violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment.
It is safe to categorically state that Americans suffering the income inequality crushing the economic life out of the middle class and creating a nation of peasants owe their economic plight to Reagan’s embrace of the trickle-down scam founded on taking from the masses to enrich corporations and the rich. Reagan also pioneered the current Republican mantra that “government is evil” and responsible for what neo-Reaganites claim is Americans’ loss of liberty. However, for all Reagan’s assertions that government was evil, he spent more on growing the government that today’s Republicans refuse to acknowledge was probably a major accomplishment during his tenure as president.
Reagan eschewed reining in the deficit and, like George W. Bush, championed deficit spending that, despite a steady diet of tax hikes, tripled the national debt for the first time since World War II. In fact Reagan was the “big spending Republican” until George W. Bush was handed the presidency by the conservative Supreme Court. About the only thing Reagan did that Republicans still cling to as “true conservatives” is create the plutocracy strangling America and pander to the religious right; everything else Reagan supported was precisely what Republicans accuse President Obama of even though he is the polar opposite of their chosen tax-and-spend conservative icon; it leads one to wonder why nearly all GOP presidential hopefuls aspire to emulate Reagan.
Barack Obama has never raised taxes like Reagan and, despite Republican assertions, he has cut spending and the national debt at its fastest rate since World War II. Deficit spending Reagan, like George W. Bush, would likely be impeached by Republicans for violating their anathema of increasing government spending and raising taxes with no regard for the nation’s deficit. While tripling the national debt, Reagan raised income taxes in 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987 for a total of eleven tax hikes including four substantial increases; President Obama cut taxes by $654 billion in 2011 and 2012 alone, and has not raised them at all. It is important to remember that the Bush tax cuts are still in effect including for the extremely wealthy up to $450,000 of their income. It is true the President raised the debt initially through stimulus spending to create jobs and encourage economic recovery, but it was a departure from Bush-Republicans bailing out Wall Street, banks, and corporations that were every bit as responsible for the Great Depression as Republicans emulating Reagan’s “get government out of the way” mantra that drove GOP deregulation.
Republicans have spent no small amount of time criticizing President Obama’s push for immigration reform as a massive amnesty program that will decimate the economy and endanger America’s Caucasian purity, but it was Reagan who said, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.” President Obama said in 2010 and subsequently that “No matter how decent they are, no matter their reasons, the 11 million who broke these laws should be held accountable.” The President’s proposals for immigration reform requires undocumented immigrants to pay fines, get in the back of the immigration line, and follow a clear path to citizenship unlike Reagan who granted unconditional amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants without “securing the border” like today’s Republicans demand from the African American President.
Reagan was also directly responsible for propping up Iraqi president Sadam Hussein, armed Osama bin Laden and the future Taliban, and gave bin Laden the impression that America was a “paper tiger that would cut and run if attacked” after a Marine barracks in Libya was blown up. Barack Obama disabused Osama bin Laden of the America as a “paper tiger” portrayal when he ordered the military to kill the terrorist Reagan spent taxpayer dollars training, arming, and funding along with Islamists in Afghanistan this nation is still fighting. Republicans have spent five years assailing Obama for “coddling Muslim terrorists” and yet he has killed more of America’s enemies than Reagan funded or Bush killed.
There are myriad examples of why it is a mystery that Republicans cling to a fantastical portrayal of Ronald Reagan’s alleged conservative bona fides, and except for his anti-government, corporatocracy, and religious right pandering the man would not be allowed to register as a Republican in today’s environment. In many respects, President Barack Obama is the man Republicans dream Ronald Reagan was and is arguably to the right of Reagan on many policies Reagan espoused; it is really the point Republicans will never admit. In nearly every respect, President Obama is nothing like the tax-and-spend liberal Ronald Reagan was, and is not even close to the gun control crusader Reagan proved to be. Reagan would have assailed this President’s stance on immigration, railed against his austerity to rein in Bush-Republicans’ deficit, and criticized his opposition to raising taxes to bring in much-needed revenue.
Republicans are either historically challenged or liars in propping up the conservative man-god Reagan’s iconic conservative status, and likely only because the second-rate actor-turned-politician ushered in the destructive economic policies choking the life out of the middle class. They probably celebrate Reagan for opening the religious right floodgates that provided the GOP with a reliable voting bloc and welcome the democracy-ending theocracy that Reagan would have opposed. If the corporate-controlled media were not firmly in the Republican camp, they would remind GOP candidates that Reagan was a tax-and-spend liberal, an amnesty-loving socialist, and gun control freak, but that would be too much akin to doing their jobs as journalists as well as force them to portray Barack Obama in the light he belongs; a left-leaning Centrist who in many ways is to the right of conservative icon Ronald Reagan.