The real legacy of Ronald Reagan
There’s been talk that George W. Bush was so inept that he should trademark the phrase “Worst President Ever,” though some historians would bestow that title on pre-Civil War President James Buchanan. Still, a case could be made for putting Ronald Reagan in the competition.
Granted, the very idea of rating Reagan as one of the worst presidents ever will infuriate his many right-wing acolytes and offend Washington insiders who have made a cottage industry out of buying some protection from Republicans by lauding the 40th President.
But there’s a growing realization that the starting point for many of the catastrophes confronting the United States today can be traced to Reagan’s presidency. There’s also a grudging reassessment that the “failed” presidents of the 1970s – Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter – may deserve more credit for trying to grapple with the problems that now beset the country…
With his superficially sunny disposition – and a ruthless political strategy of exploiting white-male resentments – Reagan convinced millions of Americans that the threats they faced were: African-American welfare queens, Central American leftists, a rapidly expanding Evil Empire based in Moscow, and the do-good federal government…
When it came to cutting back on America’s energy use, Reagan’s message could be boiled down to the old reggae lyric, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Rather than pressing Detroit to build smaller, fuel-efficient cars, Reagan made clear that the auto industry could manufacture gas-guzzlers without much nagging from Washington.
The same with the environment. Reagan intentionally staffed the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department with officials who were hostile toward regulation aimed at protecting the environment. George W. Bush didn’t invent Republican hostility toward scientific warnings of environmental calamities; he was just picking up where Reagan left off.
Reagan pushed for deregulation of industries, including banking; he slashed income taxes for the wealthiest Americans in an experiment known as “supply side” economics, which held falsely that cutting rates for the rich would increase revenues and eliminate the federal deficit.
Over the years, “supply side” would evolve into a secular religion for many on the Right, but Reagan’s budget director David Stockman once blurted out the truth, that it would lead to red ink “as far as the eye could see.”
RTFA. Lots of detail – even though it skips over a couple of my favorites: Reagan could have helped the young movement for environmentally-smart building technology just by staying out of the way. Instead his anti-science ideology demanded the removal of solar panels from the White House.
He emphasized his contempt for working people by halting cost-of-living increases to the pensions of retired federal employees and capped it off by issuing an executive order stopping unemployment checks for anyone who didn’t re-enlist in the military after their term of enlistment expired.
He essentially invented the concept of “homeless” by shutting down every public health hospital he could, ending psychiatric care for tens of thousands – especially VietNam vets with PTSD.
The number of spills from offshore oil rigs and pipelines in U.S. waters more than quadrupled this decade, a trend that could have served as a warning for the massive leak in the Gulf of Mexico, according to government data and safety experts.
The spills — and the amount of oil that leaked — grew markedly worse even when taking increases in production into account, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data shows. The leaks came as the oil industry repeatedly claimed that offshore drilling was never safer.
The same Louisiana officials who now whine about government response to the BP oil spill being inadequate – led the march of political lemmings backing the Gulf drilling industry. They all got their slice of the contribution pie.
From the early 1970s through the ’90s, offshore rigs and pipelines averaged about four spills per year of at least 50 barrels, according to the Minerals Management Service (MMS)…The average annual total surged to more than 17 from 2000 through 2009. From 2005 through 2009, spills averaged 22 a year.
The company with the most spills from 2000 through 2009 is BP, which leased the well spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf since April 20, according to the data. The oil giant and its affiliated companies reported 23 spills of 50 barrels or more, not including the latest blowout. Oil firm Shell was next with 21, according to MMS spill reports…
Richard Charter, a marine expert with the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife, said the smaller spills should have foreshadowed bigger mistakes were on the way.
Political kickbacks, corruption, cronyism are usually the source of the “carelessness”. Take it all the way from the Bush White House and Congress right back to local hacks who managed to praise and support offshore drilling – safe or otherwise.
Ken Weaver had a problem with his past. A decade of scheming, stealing and prison made for many inconvenient truths. So by the time Texas licensed him to provide phone and electric service, he had constructed a heroic history.
The college dropout from Duncanville became a dual-degreed university graduate and varsity football legend. The carpenter was transformed into a corporate vice president who developed resorts in Brazil.
The fake pedigree, as well as state inattention, allowed Weaver into the lucrative deregulated utilities market. He was one of a breed of entrepreneurs who saw opportunity in selling expensive electricity to people living on the economic edge.
Weaver’s Freedom Power developed a track record of cutting power to customers in midsummer, despite a state-imposed moratorium on cutoffs during a heat emergency. It also compiled the highest rate of consumer complaints in Texas and one of the highest rates of rule violations of any electricity provider in the state.
The Public Utility Commission, which is supposed to protect consumers in the deregulated market, ultimately fined Weaver’s company $21,050 for a few electrical cutoffs. But it took no other action even after The Dallas Morning News informed it of Weaver’s criminal history and false statements his company made in filings to the commission…
The PUC had little to say about Weaver. One current and two former commissioners said they didn’t know him. Staff lawyers declined to speak on the record.
RTFA. Long and absurd tale of deceptions we’re supposed to accept. The Dallas Morning News cut right through the lies and deceit in a few weeks; but, the Texas Public Utilities Commission never figured it out. They say.