Memories of Ronald Reagan
September 9, 2008
by William P. Meyers

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I have mentioned former President of the United States Ronald Reagan in passing a number of times in my blogs. Today I gave him his own President Ronald Reagan page at, where I will have a list of pages that mention him. Ronald Reagan was an important American President who held office when I was just starting to practice political science. Here I am going to give some of my impressions and memories from the Reagan era without trying to be objective or even fact-check to see if my memory serves me correctly. Which is probably appropriate for writing about a President who probably suffered from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease while in office.

I considered myself a leftist revolutionary back in 1980, although I was involved in no leftist organizing that year (I was writing a novel that would never be published). Although the 1970's were not as turbulent as the 1960's, there were still a lot of Americans attracted to revolutionary ideas. Living near Berkeley, California, talking to people in People's Park, I knew Ronald Reagan had ordered the police to shoot at a crowd of protestors, resulting in the death of James Rector on May 15, 1969. I thought of former Governor Reagan as a sort of fascist, a potential Mussolini or Hitler.

I moved to New York City in 1981, in time to see the results of the Reagan Revolution. The streets filled up with homeless people. They were of three sorts (not including the homeless who had already been there). Some were the normal economic casualties of the 1982 recession, which took place because the Federal Reserve raised interest rates to extraordinary levels to try to stop inflation. Unemployment was over 10%. In addition many factories in the midwest closed down; families of people in cars would show up in New York City, and across the nation, looking for work. The third class of people in the streets were mental patients. Ronald Reagan cut federal funding for the mentally ill. Hospitals responded by dumping them into the streets.

Needless to say, I did not have a high opinion of Ronald Reagan. His 1981 tax cuts (passed, of course, with the support of the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party), did not help me, and I saw no reason to lower taxes on the rich.

But I have to say this for Ronald Reagan: he was no fascist. Anyone with a lot of power may seem to be a fascist at times, but on the whole Reagan was a man who reduced the control of society by government. This did lead to the rich having more power and income, and the workers having less power and income, but it was not centralized or totalitarian in character.

The closest America has come to a fascist regime was under President-For-Life Franklin D. Roosevelt. I'll write more on that in a later essay.

Within the central portion of the spectrum of American politics (and keeping in mind that my true position is well to the left of that center), Ronald Reagan provided an antidote to an unnecessarily large, bureaucratic national government. Unfortunately he did that in a way that favored the most privileged members of U.S. society, which I opposed and still oppose.

In retrospect Ronald Reagan looks better to me mainly because things have gotten so much worse since that era. Much as President Richard Nixon seemed to be on the ultra-right at the time, but now would probably be denounced by even middle-of-the-road Republicans as a Communist, Ronald Reagan seems like a mild-mannered reformer. He did not get the U.S. into any big wars. He did spend on lot of money on the U.S. military that could have been invested domestically; I am not saying I agree with much of his policy. I am just saying that compared to the current crop of right-wing jackasses running for high office (yes, I am including Barack Obama as a right-wing jackass), he seems not so bad.

I'll go over the Reagan Era in more detail as time goes by. During the Reagan era I listened to Punk Rock, hung out with anarchists and organized against Reagan policies including the placement of Cruise and Pershing Missiles in Germany, worked as a paralegal and legal secretary, and lived my life basically unmolested by the U.S. government except when I was engaging in civil disobedience. We worried about the destruction of the ozone layer in the 1980's, but very few people were worried about global warming. About the time Ronald Reagan left office the old Marxist left in the United States went into near total collapse, allowing the anarchist trend to come to the forefront. Anarchism is about true freedom, not the freedom-for-the-rich of men like Ronald Reagan. So far it has not had much impact on modern America, but hopefully it will some time soon.


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