Ronald Wilson Reagan (Feb. 6, 1911 – Jun. 5, 2004), Rest In Peace

June 5, 2004

As is being reported throughout the world, Ronald Reagan passed away today.

The Washington Post and the New York Times have extensive obituaries.

May his family find peace, and may his legacy receive the fate due any honorable man: an honest, respectful appraisal.

My own appraisal will come in the days ahead as I’ve been intending for a long, long time to sort out several issues about the Reagan presidency, notably:

1) How strong is the case for saying Reagan’s policies accelerated the end of the Cold War?

2) During his presidency, did Reagan believe his arms buildup was a brilliant scheme to accelerate the USSR’s decline by encouraging it to spend beyond its means, or did he view it merely as a necessary measure to prevent the US from falling behind a USSR that supposedly was about to take the lead in the arms race? What did Reagan’s subordinates believe?

3) To what extent were there significant further possibilities for US/USSR nuclear disarmament during the Reagan era that were squelched by Reagan’s insistence on the continuing the Strategic Defense Initiative?

4) What were the merits of Reagan’s tax cuts and reforms considered separately from the fact that they contributed to increased income inequality, massive federal debt, and the current unholy incarnation of the Republican Party as the All-Tax-Cuts-All-The-Time Party? (For example, were marginal taxes creating horrid economic inefficiencies in the 1970s?)

5) On that note, how much blame for increased income inequality in the 1980s should be put on Reagan’s domestic policies (as opposed to more general and ineluctable societal factors)?

More questions will come to me, I’m sure. I’m almost equally sure that when all’s said and done, I’ll have come to essentially the same conclusion as Brad DeLong’s short-and-sweet summary of the Reagan legacy:

He tried hard, but by and large he didn’t have the brainpower to think his way out of the boxes that his prior commitments and initial personnel choices handed him.

The economic policy the neoconservatives handed him was a disaster: the tax cuts made America a more unequal place, and the deficits slowed economic growth in the 1980s significantly–as even Larry Lindsey’s numbers show. The best you can say about social policy is that it was a tremendous waste: a lot of misery could have been prevented had not fears of alienating the base kept the Reagan administration from reacting swiftly and intelligently to the coming of AIDS.

Foreign policy looks better. Reagan’s foreign policy was horrible for the Nicaraguans, and horrible for the Iranians and Iraqis. But George Shultz proved a good Grand Vizier for Foreign Affairs. And Reagan’s decision to help rather than try to hinder Gorbachev was the right one, even though few in his administration agreed with it.

P.S. On that note of recalling it does no honor to a honorable man to exaggerate his accomplishments, I humbly beseech FOX News to keep Grover Norquist off the air. Ronald Reagan does not need anyone to claim his works exceeded those of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt—as Mr. Norquist claimed in his interview with Shepard Smith tonight—in order to be remembered well by posterity.

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3 Responses to “Ronald Wilson Reagan (Feb. 6, 1911 – Jun. 5, 2004), Rest In Peace”

  1. Our Life Says:

    Farewell President Reagan

    “The Long Goodbye” is over. May you rest in peace President Reagan and Godspeed. Image Courtesy of the Associated Press Image Courtesy of CNN Image Courtesy of the Associate Press/Ron Edmonds Image Courtesy of the Associate Press Image Courtesy of…

  2. Our Life Says:

    Farewell President Reagan

    “The Long Goodbye” is over. May you rest in peace President Reagan and Godspeed. Image Courtesy of the Associated Press Image Courtesy of CNN Image Courtesy of the Associate Press/Ron Edmonds Image Courtesy of the Associate Press Image Courtesy of…

  3. Our Life Says:

    Farewell President Reagan

    “The Long Goodbye” is over. May you rest in peace President Reagan and Godspeed. Image Courtesy of the Associated Press Image Courtesy of CNN Image Courtesy of the Associate Press/Ron Edmonds Image Courtesy of the Associate Press Image Courtesy of…


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