(1911-2004) Actor, radio announcer, General Electric spokesman, governor of California, 40th President of the United States. A liberal Democrat in his youth, he became a conservative Republican some time after taking his job with G.E.

His economic policies (known as supply-side economics, or as then-rival George Bush described them, "voodoo economics") were based on the idea that increasing military expenditures and cutting nondefense spending while simultaneously lowering taxes would stimulate the economy and thus increase government revenue. Unfortunately, this didn't happen. Whereas in 1980 the United States was a creditor nation, by the late 1980s it was the world's largest debtor nation.

He often told anecdotes, presented as true events, that later turned out to be scenes from movies. Even after he was made aware of this he would tell the same stories later, again presenting them as truth, again seemingly unaware that they weren't.

He also told stories to support his policies that were complete fabrications - the Cadillac-driving "Welfare Queen" he often referred to in his attacks on Aid to Families with Dependent Children did not exist, and the particulars of her lifestyle that he described were not even possible under the existing welfare system.

Was played up as a warrior against terrorism yet supported the government of El Salvador (which engaged in acts of terror against its own people), illegally supported a terrorist war against the Nicaraguan government (which often involved attacks on innocent Nicaraguan citizens), illegally sold arms to the terrorist state of Iran, and himself ordered a terrorist action against another country in his bombing of Libya. (I'm sorry, but bombing people in order to "send a message" is the very definition of a terrorist act.)

Was indicted by the World Court for his mining of Nicaraguan harbors, yet refused to stop.

The only ass he truly kicked was that of the tiny island nation of Grenada, whom we invaded in order to get some American medical students out after they (Grenada, not the students) allied with Cuba. Encouraged the idea, widespread in the 1980s, that it was America's right and responsibility to kick ass overseas.

Though not a churchgoer, courted and won the support of the Religious Right, some of his strongest allies.

Believed himself to be an instrument of God's wrath against the Soviet Union and often wondered aloud if it were his duty to unleash America's nuclear stockpile against them in the war of Armageddon.

Hired people like James Watt, Edwin Meese, and former CIA director George Bush.

Joked on the air, at a time when U.S.-Soviet relations were extremely tense, that he had outlawed Russia forever and would begin bombing them in five minutes.

Cut government funding of mental hospitals so they were forced to release thousands of mentally ill people onto the streets - almost single-handedly creating the homeless problem as we know it today.

Justified increased defense spending by portraying the Soviet Union as an unstoppable juggernaut that was ready to invade at any moment, a picture we now know to be completely false.

The oldest-ever President. Even my grandmother thought he was too old.

Cut the American people out of participation in their own government by classifying more government documents Top Secret than any administration in history.

Though constantly speechifying about family values, Reagan divorced his first wife. Ron and Nancy's own children didn't even seem to like them, and when he was shot none of them visited him in the hospital.

When bombing Libya, cited "Rambo" as an inspiration.

On the plus side, he signed the first nuclear treaty with the Soviet Union that resulted in the actual destruction of nuclear weapons. And I always said I would support him totally if he ever learned to break dance.

To add to what is something of a list of Reagan and his acomplishments (or lack thereof), many people accuse Reagan of allowing AIDS/HIV to spread like wildfire through this country in the 1980s. How? (you might ask) His method was two-fold. First, AIDS spread through the early high risk groups at a time when Reagan was cutting public health expenditures by massive amounts so that groups like the National Institutute of Health and the Center for Disease Control were unable to spend any money on anything AIDS related. His other mistake (or method, if you will) was his refusal to even mention the words "AIDS" or "HIV" in public, which helped keep it out of the public eye (why? because it was a disease related to homosexuals and drug addicts and obviously (insert massive sarcasm) these people are sick to begin with). Clearly Reagan was not the sole reason HIV spread as it did (you can also blame the media, the publics conservative view of homosexual, drug addicts and immigrants, the gay sexual liberation of the later 70s/early 80s, the blood banks, ETC), but he certainly played massive role in the spread of it.

On a lighter note, while less and less of us have any recollection of the New Deal, Reagan happened to be major proponent of Roosevelt and his "big government" New Deal. This is a ironic since he came out about 20 years after FDR died to rail against big government and the "Evil Empire".

"Honey, I forgot to duck."

Supposedly Reagan’s first words to his wife Nancy after the operation following the failed assassin on him by John Harnock Hinckley jr. on March 30th 1981. Reagan won a lot of popularity for walking into the hospital on his own and for being back in business and signing his first official paper after the incident already the very next day.

If anyone is responsible for the vast spread of multinational corporations through the past few decades, its Ronald Reagan.  In 1978, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tried to ban all television ads targeted at young children.  The ban proposed had wide support amongst parents, broadcasters and even toy manufactures, but was opposed by industry groups, who tried to appeal to Congress to overturn the ban.  In 1981, three months after Reagan gained office, FTC totally changed its policy on the issue, arguing it was impractical and dropping the case.  In 1983, Reagan began to abolish the U.S. anti-trust laws.  He first permitted joint research between competitors, then removed the laws prohibiting giant mergers.  He crippled the FTC, limiting its ability to impose fines, cutting the staff by nearly two thirds, and appointing a capitalist-sensitive chairman who wanted to reduce the agencies “excessively adversarial role”.  In 1986 Reagan passed further legislation aimed at reducing anti-trust powers.  Reagans office saw the ten biggest mergers yet in American history, none of which were bothered by the FTC.  He even stepped in himself to protect the world’s ten largest airlines from anti-trust investigation by the government.

Reagan also worked to reduce the power of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  Before Reagan, OSHA was already seriously under funded; a typical American employer could expect an OSHA inspection once every 80 years.  Reagan cut the number of OSHA inspectors by 20%.  In 1981, the agency was forced to adopt a policy of “voluntary compliance”.  OSHA inspectors didn’t inspect a plant if the companies published injury rate was lower the national average for manufacturers.  These injury rates were provided by company officials.  This led to massive abuse of the system, leading firms “to understate injuries, to falsify records and to cover up accidents”, according to an investigation by congress.  During 1985 in the meat-packing industry, the real injury logs and the logs given to OSHA showed more then 1,000% difference.  Firms were fined a mere few hundred dollars for the death of a worker on the job.  The OSHA has never really recovered and this can be seen in the 25% annual worker injury rate (of injuries requiring more then first aid) that makes working in the meat-packing industry Americas most dangerous job.

No Logo - Naomi Klein
Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser

Ronald Wilson Reagan

Well-known American actor and politician, whose great charisma in front of the camera brought him numerous leading roles in both his careers. His biography reads like a Machiavellian fantasy – espousing whatever political views were in vogue at the time, Reagan went from a union leader to a strike-buster while climbing the political ladder.

Reagan was born February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois. His father, John Reagan, was an alcoholic shoe salesman, and his mother Nelle Wilson Reagan held various jobs and did volunteer work. He had an older brother, Neil Reagan. Reagan’s parents were strong supporters of FDR’s New Deal programs, which shaped his own political leanings until much later in his life, when he would gain great political power with a right-wing traditionalist platform.

Though a mediocre student, Reagan graduated from Eureka College in 1932. For the next several years, he broadcasted sports for a radio station in Iowa until signing a contract with Warner Brothers in 1937 to appear in films.

Reagan would go on to act in 53 motion pictures. His best-known role was that of doomed football player George Gipp in the 1940 film Knute Rockne – All American. The nickname "The Gipper" stayed with him for the rest of his life.

An Army reservist since the early 1930’s, Reagan was called up to active duty after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Army administration, not wanting to waste Reagan’s acting talents in the trenches, set him to work making propaganda films. Unlike many other future U.S. presidents, who really were war heroes, Reagan merely played one.

After the war, television was beginning its infiltration of American culture, and Reagan was right there on the ground floor. He landed a contract with General Electric, hosting the company’s weekly television program and serving as a general-purpose "celebrity spokesman," promoting the GE agenda wherever he was sent.

Love him or hate him, you’ve got to admit that Ronald Reagan knew how to pick a winner. You see, television wasn’t the only nefarious newcomer competing for Ameicans’ attention after World War II. Communism was becoming quite popular on the political scene, but Reagan didn’t hop onto that bandwagon. Instead, he helped lead the vigilantes chasing it down – as president of the Screen Actors Guild, he uncovered actors with communist sympathies and cheerfully ratted them out to the government. Now, decades later, communism is nowhere to be found, while TV is still going strong as ever. I rest my case.

Nonetheless, he remained a liberal until his divorce from film actress Jane Wyman in 1948. By the time he married his second wife Nancy in 1952, Reagan had become an active proponent of the conservative agenda of the Republican Party’s more rightist faction. She had tremendous influence on him, and her background of opulent wealth and social conservativism undoubtedly shaped his political agenda. It was not until 1962, however, that he formally changed his allegiance from Democratic to Republican.

Reagan’s great fame as an actor propelled him quickly up through the Republican Party ranks. He raised huge sums of money in support of Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign, and in 1966, decided to run for governor of California.

Though his platform was similar to Goldwater’s, Reagan’s presentation was drastically different. In stark contrast to Goldwater's intellectualism, Reagan was essentially a demagogue, using simple language and masterful rhetoric to present the Republican party line as a populist one. He was elected in a landslide, and spent 1967 through 1975 as head of California’s executive branch.

Reagan managed to win the Republican nomination for U.S. President in 1980, naming George Bush as his running mate, despite Bush’s sarcastic criticism of Reagan’s untested economic proposals as "voodoo economics." He then defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter in the general election, and became president.

Much of the rest of this node is devoted to debate over Reagan’s policies while president, and their impacts. Since there’s really not much more to be said in this area, I’ll just mention a few things he did.

  • Sworn in as president January 20, 1981.
  • Nearly killed in an attempted assassination by John Hinckley on March 30, 1981.
  • Fired striking air traffic controllers in August 1981.
  • Sent troops to invade Grenada in October 1983.
  • Re-elected in 1984, defeating Democratic challenger Walter Mondale.
  • Sent a bomber strike to Libya on April 14, 1986.
  • Got himself in a generally awful predicament in 1987 with the Iran-Contra Scandal.
  • Left office after two terms, with inauguration of George Bush on January 20, 1989.

Ronald Reagan announced to the world in 1994 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, from which he died in 2004. He had been the oldest American president ever, and his well-publicized spells of forgetfulness while still in office (and especially while in court!) suggest that the world’s most powerful military, as well as a nuclear stockpile large enough to destroy all human life on Earth, lay at the command of a man approaching senility. Scary!

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