One of the nasty features of being old is having to hear people who weren't alive when history happened (or where alive, but were too damn dumb to know what was going on) tell me what happened "way back when." For instance, the fruitballs at Motley Fool have been trying to sell me on their brilliant investment advice by screeching, "When Ronald Reagan signed his $750 billion stimulus plan in 1981, it snapped the U.S. out of a deep recession, ignited a high-tech revolution, and signaled the start of the greatest bull market in history... " And so on.
Most likely, the speculators and con artists on Wall Street made a killing during the Reagan years. After all, he handed over the keys to every S&L in the country to mobsters (like one of the Bush brothers) and they made off with billions of taxpayer dollars (~$150B). Reagan raised the public debt more than 4 1/4 times--from $700B to $3T--and joked about it. So much for the "conservative economic policy" king. The GNP, always a contested statistic, rose fairly steadily during Reagan's terms. Since the average quality of life of the working class dropped steadily during the Reagan/Bush I years, I don't know what that meant. The fact is, most of us were better off before Reagan, unless "we" were building bombs.
Joe Conason wrote in Salon.com, "However historians will assess Reagan's responsibility, the record is what it is. Gathering dust in the news archives are thousands of clippings about the gross influence peddling, bribery, fraud, illegal lobbying and sundry abuses that engulfed the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Justice Department, and the Pentagon, to name a few of the most notorious cases." Dozens of Reagan appointees were prosecuted and jailed for corruption. Cheney learned his infamous "I don't recall" defense during the Iran-Contra hearings. If the President can get away with claiming senility as a defense, why can't everyone else? Now, our ex-Vice President uses that infirmity every time he's put in a position of recalling any past decision. Of course, when Cheney does remember something he's notoriously wrong, so it's probably true that Little Dick is senile and always has been.
What I remember about the Reagan years was economic terror. I was well-employed during most of those years, but I knew lots of hard-working, talented people who weren't. I knew several talented engineers who couldn't find work anywhere outside of the military-industrial complex. I knew doctors who were forced to quit their private practices and join HMOs because insurance companies squeezed them out of business. I knew lots of people, including myself, who held a couple of jobs and needed them to pay their bills. I knew people who lost a job and were out of their homes and on the street in a few weeks. Like most working class people, I lived in fear that I'd lose my job, be unable to find a replacement, and be unable to protect my family from poverty. Like my depression-era parents, I've lived in fear of being broke and on the streets for much of my life and it affected how I spent my money, where I saved it, and how much or little confidence I've had in personal security. Those twenty Republican years are the cause of that insecurity, 1972-1992, and the Bush II years amplified that insecurity. Carter didn't count for anything. Johnson-Nixon-Ford and Vietnam had bankrupted the country and Carter was in office with nothing to work with and no clue where to begin. Reagan promised a magic cure, but he was just more of the same.
The one thing I do know about Reagan is that I wouldn't invest a nickel with anyone who claimed there was a Reagan economic miracle. That is the kind of fool who is doomed to repeat the past indefinitely.
Anyone who is good for the speculators is bad for the rest of us. Anyone who is good for the military and its contractors is bad for the country. Anyone who conducts private wars, financed with drug money and siphoned tax money is bad for the world. Anyone who believes that making the world tax-free for the idle rich will "trickle down" prosperity on the working class is a fool and/or a crook. Reagan was all of these things and a lot more. I don't remember anything good about the man and his evil has lived on in the wingnuts and is doing damage to our democracy and economy every day.