Republican Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine) has a long career in education and surely he’s smarter than his recent OC Political love letter to the late Ronald Reagan.
Wagner apparently had an opportunity to read portions of the Gipper’s own personal diary recently and revealed that Reagan thought former House Speaker Tip O’Neill **believed** Reagan’s policies were “promoting welfare for the rich.”
“In this particular passage, Reagan recounted a meeting earlier in the day with Tip O’Neill. At the time, O’Neill was the very liberal Speaker of the House. From Massachusetts and a committed man of the left, Reagan accurately described O’Neill as a “New Deal Democrat.” He and Reagan sparred constantly over policy but apparently got along famously well. And then Reagan said this of the Speaker:
“He honestly believes that we’re promoting welfare for the rich.”
I find the line instructive both about O’Neill and his mindset, but equally about Reagan and his.
In this seemingly offhand observation, Ronald Reagan gives Tip O’Neill credit for acting in good faith in their policy disputes. O’Neill and the Democrats really do believe that Republican policies are intended to help the rich get richer. Forget for a moment that they’re wrong about that (as I’ll demonstrate below) and set aside the evidence from Reagan’s time and ours that shows unmistakably that our policies actually help the poor get richer. Just consider that Reagan recognizes O’Neill, however wrong, actually believed that Republican policies were explicitly designed to help the rich.
The same remains true today. Democrats actually believe this stuff; they truly think that Republican policies are intended to help the rich become richer. And, of course, if you believe this of us, like O’Neill did and today’s Democrats still do, you would vigorously oppose and denounce our selfish, mean spirited “welfare for the rich” policies.
But I note the passage from Reagan’s diary for another reason than just to explain Democrats. It really says eloquently that O’Neill and today’s fellow travelers with him are just plain wrong. That is actually the most telling point of the diary entry. Quite simply, Ronald Reagan knew that this absurd Democratic belief was not true. The diary entry is inexplicable otherwise.”
Where to start?
Many Republicans believe President Reagan reduced the size of government in his eight years in office when what he really did was expand it while increasing government spending and cutting taxes for the very wealthy. It had the effect of turning the United States from the world’s greatest creditor nation to one of the world’s greatest debtor nations.
That’s what happens when you dramatically increase the military budget while drastically cutting funds for domestic programs that helped the middle class and the poor. The Republican presidents who followed Reagan used his blueprint on governance to terrible results.
Republicans also believe Reagan restored the nation’s economy, but the economic growth that occurred during the Reagan administration mostly benefitted the 1 percent and the income gap between the very rich and everyone else in America widened dramatically. The average middle class worker saw wages decline and with it a decline in the country’s homeownership rate. The minimum wage was $3.35 an hour, the cost of living rose and lowered the standard of living for millions of the working poor. Under Reagan, those living below the poverty line increased from 26.1 million in 1979 to 32.7 million in 1988, while the rich got richer, holding 39 percent of the nation’s wealth.
So much is made of big cities run by Democratic mayors, but urban decline began during the Reagan years because his administration cut general revenue sharing by as much as 60 percent which slashed funding for public service jobs and job training, nearly killed legal services for the poor, and reduced federal aid for public transportation. These cuts were very hard on cities with high poverty rates. How hard? Basic services funded by the federal government in 1980 was about 22 percent of these city’s budgets and Reagan cut them to 6 percent — cities still haven’t recovered.
An increase in homeless can also be attributed to Reagan’s dramatic cuts for low-income housing, which he cut in half. While Tip O’Neill and Congress saved some funding for housing assistance for the poor, Reagan got most of his way. Homelessness doubled during his two terms in office.
The scary thing for me is that our currently state assemblyman in Irvine actually believes Republican policies help the poor get richer.
Not when you cut education.
Not when you cut job training.
No when you cut funds for low income housing.
And certainly not when you are in denial about Ronald Reagan’s actual record compared to his promises.