ONTD Political

The Disastrous Legacy Of Ronald Reagan In Charts

8:44 pm - 02/06/2011

The last three decades have seen a monumental decline in virtually every qualitative measurement in America.  This can be directly linked to the conservative political paradigm that was ushered into dominance starting with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.  Stagnant wages, rising costs, decreasing benefits, ballooning national debt, and a loss of freedoms have been the keynote of the Reagan Era.

The Drug War, Social Repression, and Incarceration

Where to begin?  Let’s start with the colossal failure known as the drug war.  Many states had decriminalized marijuana by the 1970s.  When the Reagan conservatives came to power, one of their central plans was to force cuts in recreational drug usage (including alcohol).  Thus began the Just Say No program and the drug war.  Costs quickly spiraled.

While a Harvard Study claims that legalizing drugs could save $76.8 billion per year, and 53% favor marijuana legalization, there are some vested industries at stake now, particularly the for-profit private prison/security complex who are entrenched in the bureaucratic establishment and hire powerful lobbyists to keep the drug war going.


All this money being spent to massively expand the government has to be justified somehow, so the authorities began to ‘fight back against crime’.  The number of arrests for marijuana offenses alone is approaching 1,000,000 people per year.  With an estimated 44% of Americans have tried or currently use it (compared to 22% in Holland), we have become a nation of criminals.  What better way to justify these bloated governmental budgets?

The spike in the number of incarcerated Americans reflects an increasing social repression.  Gilbert Mercier writes that the US is the worlds leading jailer, “According to the BJS, in 2008 over 7.3 million people were either on probation, in jail, in prison or on parole. This amounts to an astonishing 3.2 percent of all US adult residents or 1 in every 31 adults.” The following chart represents incarceration rates for a few countries:

Liam Fox expands on this, “America incarcerates more of it’s citizens than any other country in the world.  With only 5% of the world population, America has more than 25% of the world’s prisoners.  The steep incline in the number of Americans incarcerated began in 1980.  Since that time the number of Americans incarcerated has jumped from under 500,000 people to close to 2,500,000.   The advent of private prisons during that time has created a powerful lobby, on behalf of its Wall Street investors, to lengthen sentences.  Longer sentences means more prisoners.  More prisoners means more prisons.  More prisoners, and more prisons, means more profit.  As a result, Americans now spend almost $70 billion a year on a corrections system (including prison, probation and parole) being run largely for profit.”

Taxes, Economics, and Standard of Living

Although Ronald Reagan actually instituted one of the largest tax hikes in US history, he and the fiscal conservatives started their campaign to drastically reduce the top tax rate for the rich.

The conservative tax policy that unleashed the class war that ended the period known as the Great Compression (which followed the Great Depression), and was the terminus of an era where single income families enjoyed plenty of jobs, economic opportunity, and a larger degree of social mobility.

This in turn created the phenomena of wealth consolidation to go into overdrive, starting the drive towards income disparity and a gulf between rich and poor that hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression, a new conservative era known as The Great Divergence.

Additional charts for the share of wealth controlled by the top 10% and top 0.01%.  Ronald Reagan and the conservatives ushered in an era of unbridled greed.  An increasing amount of the share of the pie of wealth that is created by labor was gobbled up by those most well off to begin with.

The rich have reaped the vast majority of every economic expansion over the last 30 years, including the top 1% gaining two thirds of it in recent years. The top 0.1% have seen a 94% income growth since 2002. The richest of them all (the top 400) have seen an astounding 476% increase since 1992. The richest 74 people made as much as the 19 million lowest-paid people in America.

Today there is a higher Gini-Coefficient (which measures the wealth disparity in a nation) than the Great Depression.  The US now ranks 42nd from the worst in the world in terms of the gulf between rich and poor, slightly worse than Iran, Nigeria, and Cambodia.

Currently, one third of all the pay in the United States is raked in by corporate executives.  In 1970, the average CEO made 28 times what an average worker at his company made. By 2005, this had swelled to 465 times what an average worker made. This is phenomena exclusive to the US, and is not shared by other developed Western nations like Japan where an average CEO makes less than 20x what an average worker does.

Deficits and the National Debt

This is perhaps the most ironic part of the Reagan Legacy.  He railed against the national debt, even though it was decreasing with every president from FDR to Carter.  As soon as Reagan and the fiscal conservatives took control over economic policy, the very thing they talked about the most started to grow.

The national debt nearly tripled under Reagan.  We see a sudden change in the trendline for the national debt as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product as soon as Reagan became president as well:

In fact, Reagan and the Bushes are responsible for over 93% of the national debt:

Since the election of Reagan and the conservatives in 1980, America has been on a downward spiral.  The charts above are just the tip of the iceberg, but demonstrate in no uncertain terms that we are on the wrong track in America.  From turning the United States into a police state with the highest incarceration rate in the world, to waging class warfare on the poor so the rich can get richer, to massively ballooning the national debt, the Reagan Legacy is disastrous.


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schexyschteve 7th-Feb-2011 02:15 am (UTC)
jasonbeast 7th-Feb-2011 02:23 am (UTC)
I know, right?

Anybody with half a brain knew he was senile and stupid when he was in office. That golden glow of nostalgia the right keeps trumpeting ignores the fact that there were crippling gas shortages, a nasty recession, and several dirty and "secret" wars going on.

As opposed to now, when we're dealing with crippling gas prices, a nasty recession, and several dirty and obvious wars. At least it'll look like the Good Old Days in twenty years, huh?
erunamiryene 7th-Feb-2011 02:19 am (UTC)
And this is why I LOL so hard at people trying to tout his "legacy". As I pointed out elsewhere in response to someone saying "well, okay, his handling of the AIDS epidemic wasn't that great" (WASN'T THAT GREAT, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME) "but it's no reason to let this one thing overshadow his legacy":

Absolutely. Iran-Contra. His policy in Central and South America. Selling weapons to Saddam Hussein. Lowering taxes for the rich while raising them for the middle and lower classes. Starting the myth of the "welfare queen driving a Caddy" aka "all black people are responsible for taking your hard earned tax dollars". Playing on the Southern Strategy like it was going out of style.

It isn't just THIS event, and even if it was, *the man ignored an epidemic* because it was the "gay" plague. That's monstrous. Period.

(There's also a great diary on DailyKos here about Ol' Ronnie's disgusting treatment of the epidemic.)

God, I fucking hate Ronald Reagan.
koken23 7th-Feb-2011 03:28 am (UTC)
I would happily punch Reagan.

He knew what was going on in Argentina. He and his mates backed it...and that, I can't forgive.
eversofar 7th-Feb-2011 02:24 am (UTC)
I feel like the people who love ~St. Reagan~ either were completely oblivious to everything going on during his presidency or were not alive then.
squeeful 7th-Feb-2011 02:43 am (UTC)
Or privileged as fuck and don't give a damn about anyone else.
darksumomo 7th-Feb-2011 02:27 am (UTC)
I was a registered Republican in California from 1978 to 1988. During that time, I had four opportunities to vote for Ronald Reagan, both during the primaries and the general election. I didn't vote for him any of those times. Looking back, I'm glad to say that I have an unblemished record--0 for 4!
tripmeup 7th-Feb-2011 02:40 am (UTC)
If you think he didn't fuck up the country during his presidency then you are just oblivious/deluded.
evilgmbethy 7th-Feb-2011 03:17 am (UTC)
blackjedii 7th-Feb-2011 03:20 am (UTC)
My dad was watching Meet the Press / news / etc. today.

Everyone was jacking off to how Awesome Reagan was.
haruhiko 7th-Feb-2011 03:35 am (UTC)
Who jizzed first?
girlthatyoufear 7th-Feb-2011 03:25 am (UTC)
Amazing how a racist, paramilitary supporting, apartheid South Africa backing, AIDS/HIV ignoring ass is exalted as the ~best U.S. president evar~. I hate this sudden wave of renewed Reagan love as of late.
(no subject) - Anonymous
bostongirl2003 7th-Feb-2011 03:33 am (UTC)
plus he liked jelly beans!
blindgeoff 7th-Feb-2011 04:07 am (UTC)
Reagan's plusses: he revitalized a moribund conservative movement, implemented their policies, and showed them to be absolute failures.

Reagan's minuses: he revitalized a moribund conservative movement, and left it in the hands of the 'fuck you, I've got MINE' crowd that doesn't care that their policies have beed showed to be absolute failures.
mollywobbles867 7th-Feb-2011 04:59 am (UTC)
I fucking hate Reagan and I hate all the circle jerks over him in the media this weekend. He was a horrible president.
1300_hours OT7th-Feb-2011 05:17 am (UTC)
alight 7th-Feb-2011 06:01 am (UTC)
dreammeanyway 7th-Feb-2011 07:09 am (UTC)
the charts don't show that the prisoners were serving time for drug offenses though...
mindrtist 7th-Feb-2011 07:12 am (UTC)
I just finished watching a doc about Nancy on PBS. They did include the bad stuff and Ron Jr. was on, but it was mostly talking about how everyone loved him no matter what he did and how he was completely dependent on Nancy (even before he was sick). They said he wasn't the same when she wasn't around.

Poor woman talked about her long goodbye of 10 years. Man, that suxxxxxxxxxx, I feel for her. They also talked about her going against Bush on the stem cell issue.

Oh, and, she had some nasty approval ratings and people calling her Queen Nancy when she was out of touch with the people during the recession.

That is all.
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