Friday, July 17, 2015

A Retro Rant on Reaganomics

A self-appointed Facebook troll began posting multiple FOX News style comments under my old photo a friend had reposted. He managed to construe an entire political right-wing agenda from a photo comment.
Who remembers when Sir Francis Drake High School took away our school buses so we had no way to get to school? Most people in The Valley didn't have cars, and it was one of the most economically disadvantaged regions of Marin. We found that it was a long walk to Drake. Then home again. How I learned to hitchhike. Ca 1969.
(In February I posted a blog: Shank's Mare and Reaganomics if you want to read more about it).

My high school friend Zana, who said she was proud of what I had done, commented on my photo: "Ah, the early Reagan as Governor years. School funding cutbacks. Read Maureen Hurley's Facebook comment. All the others as well for that matter." 

And it was off to the races for Mr. M. Round one!
"You do know that even today districts do not have to provide bussing to their students... right? If you do it just has be done consistently. AND the great state of CA still doesn't provide all the money that it cost to operate those buses. So it's not just Reagan and buses, its Democrat Jerry Brown and buses.... need to know your really don't want to play this game with me."
I said to Mr. M: Take your axe elsewhere. Dull blades are not of much use. Did he really say that? And on my page too? Game on.

Zana responded:
"Reagan's disciple has cut funding so much that it is passed locally. Yes, STATE property taxes are down but local, municiple and local school taxes are way up. Poorer rural areas are getting the shaft. More and more of what the state does have for schools goes to private and religious schools through the voucher system. Wealthy kids who never have been to schools receive money for their private education drawing money from public schools."
I was glad that Zana took Mr. M on, replete with facts. People like Mr. M make me angry, I can't talk to them because they're so hostile. Don't get mad, get even seems to be the best approach! I told Zana to keep on posting rebuttals to Mr. M's myopia. He's a revisionist, and his ill-construed rant is unfortunately sitting dead square on my Facebook page.... It's like having my own personal FOX News spewing cherry-picked "facts." 

Mr. M, who admires, nay claims he LOVES Wisconsin Republican governor (and presidential candidate), Scott Walker about as much as Walker has professed to love Ronald Reagan, is sadly misinformed. Mr. M posted:  "When we had republican govs we were the envy of every state."  (stet.)

Um, Mr. M, that was under Democrat leadership when higher education was free. Reagan destroyed that. (See my rant below). And that other bad Republican actor, the Governator was named one of 11 "worst governors" in the United States over ethics issues; he left office with a record low 23% rating.

Does anyone see the irony in Mr. M's statement: "People literally use to move to California just to enroll their kids in our schools." use to??? Really? Clearly the school system didn't work for Mr. M. Score one for the Grammar Police. There are more points to be had. Easy pickings. But I'm being catty.

And Mr. M continued to rant ad nauseum in several more comment boxes: 

 "Scott Walker has freed your schools from the insurance stranglehold that unions had on your schools. He's freed your universities from tenure rules that kept incompetent professors."   
And "I would party for a week if just one of those happened in CA. Freed your schools and broke the unions straggling of public tax money.... you guys need to stop worshipping at the feet of the socialist unions."
I wrote: "Wow, Mr. M, most highly qualified professors I know are already living at poverty level, because they can't get full time work, and have no benefits. And it's not because a tenured professor is hogging the slot. (Universities and businesses can get away with part-time hiring because the unions went bust.) And those in the front lines of education, public school teachers are grossly underpaid. You should target middle management, Mr. M. Principals and superintendents and school board members. Cut the fat." 

Apparently Mr. M's a rather smug California school board member. He yowped:
"No accountability!!!! B.S. Public schools and unions are the most unaccountability syayems anywhere. With a private school the customer picks and chooses... in public school there is no market... you're just screwed. Liberals don't like vouchers because poor kids would get a great education and become capitalists....if I could move my business to Texas I'd save $136,000 just on Workman's Compensation Insurance a year."

Well, first, Dear Reader, I must mention a caveat. I woke at 3 AM, on the wrong side of a one-sided bed, and after reading Mr. M's diatribes, I was irate as a rhinoceros. Cranky as a bear. I broke my vow of silence. Don't feed the troll. Or if you do, hose 'em with facts. So my comment to Mr. M morphed into an itchy trigger-fingered rant on Reaganomics.

I don't like politics, I dislike writing about politics even more. There are far more interesting things to write about. But as I researched Mr. M's claims, I realized that I did need to address them, as it was part of a much larger picture of an era that I had witnessed, and its consequences had shaped my life. Talk about a stroll down memory lane.

Open Letter to Mr. M:

Ronald Reagan began his political career as a Democrat, until he decided they were commie sympathizers and socialists. He was hired by General Electric, and influenced by an anti-union conservative GE CEO, he switched teams and the Gipper became a Republican. A switch hitter who played for the other team.

Reagan was the 33rd Governor of California from 1967 to1975. When Medicare legislation was introduced in 1961, Reagan made an ad for the American Medical Association warning that the legislation would mean the end of freedom in America. "We will awake to find that we have socialism." In 1965, he said that Medicaid recipients were "...a faceless mass, waiting for handouts."

Reagan's controversial Barry Goldwater speech led him to seek the CA governorship. The Great Communicator's scorched-earth campaign ticket was "to send the welfare bums back to work,” thus targeting single mothers, and children. As governor, he closed the doors to the state mental institutions, and single-handedly created a massive homeless population. Said he, they were "homeless by choice." My mother was one of them. And some of our classmates. And not by choice.

Reagan implemented major cuts in Medicaid, food stamps, aid to families with dependent children, and to school lunch programs. Under both his state and national watch, the number of families living below the poverty line increased by a third. This is the same president who also cut survivor benefits for families of the disabled.

Before Reagan took office, California had the nation's finest public college system. Reagan launched his political career by slashing state funding for higher education. He led an assault on UC Berkeley. And his voting ticket was "to clean up the mess at Berkeley" in order to suppress the free speech movement—by any means possible.

Reagan cut the UC budget, and proposed that UC should charge tuition, saying that dissenting students "don't deserve the education they are getting. They don't have a right to take advantage of our system of education." Make them pay for it, he said. Before Reagan took office, higher education was free. He suggested that Berkeley should sell off its collections of rare books in the Bancroft Library to make up for the budgetary shortfall.

Reagan was responsible for the People's Park riots, and the "Bloody Thursday" peremptory strike brought in 2000 National Guard troops to violently occupy the city of Berkeley, thus inflaming the situation. With that, he turned California into a police state. Someone noted that behind every university fee hike, there's a new line of riot cops. Reagan's draconian policies shepherded in a death knell for public higher education in the United States.

As the 40th President of the United States (1981- 1989), Reagan vigorously campaigned to restore prayer to the schools, thus mixing church and state, he also awarded vouchers to segregated schools. He fired 11,345 air traffic controllers, and brought the military in, thus busting government unions. The labor movement never recovered. He slashed federal grants for poor students.The schools are still praying for recovery.

During Reagan's tenure, we saw a 40% increase in defense spending. The Teflon President raised taxes ELEVEN times during his presidency. The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA), was the "largest peacetime tax increase in American history." Reaganomics ushered in massive tax cuts for big business, and lowered the taxes of the wealthy.

His "trickle-down economics" theory—the belief that tax policies that benefited the wealthy would create a "trickle-down" effect to the poor, didn't exactly work. They kept it all for themselves. It was pissy logic, at best. A major tax cut was followed by a long recession and unemployment hit ten percent. "Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders,” said Reagan in 1966.

Reagan also froze the minimum wage at $3.35 an hour. He eliminated the antipoverty Community Development Block Grant program, slashed the budgets for Medicaid, food stamps, federal education programs and the EPA. He purged people with disabilities from the Social Security disability rosters. We see them living on the streets today.

Then there's the the greatest financial scandal in American history: the savings and loan crisis, largely responsible for the stock market crash of '87. Under Reagan's lax watch, the S&L industry gambled, invested money recklessly; the cleanup cost the public over $150 billion. Under Reagan's watch, deregulated lending became a wildcat enterprise. Fannie Mae did right well indeed. The Reagan administration was one of the most corrupt in American history. Some 31 of his cabinet members were indited for criminal activity for the Iran-Contra, and the Department of Housing & Urban Development scandals.

Meanwhile the national debt soared from $997 billion to $2.85 trillion. TRILLION. How many zeroes is that? His tax cuts reduced revenue and his unbalanced redline budgets created a perfect storm. He managed to triple the federal debt in less than eight years, Reagan's policies pretty much ushered in today's fiscal hot mess when he undermined Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1930s regulatory programs aimed to promote transparency and fairness in economic competition—bank insurance and the FDIC. Said Reagan, "Fascism was really the basis for the New Deal." The New Deal gave us Social Security too.

Reagan also ended price controls on domestic oil. Big Oil's been laughing its way all the way to the bank ever since.

The Reagan administration was responsible for the massacres in El Salvador and the war and embargo against Nicaragua. US government officials planned for a possible military/civilian coup. His uninformed political decisions sent 241 Marines to their death in Beirut, Lebanon, and his absurd invasion of Grenada, oh my. Noriega much? Then there's Lybia. He thought the Contras and the Taliban were "... the moral equal of our Founding Fathers." Reagan wasn't a president, he was only an acting president. Take the Star Wars FEMA plan. "Facts are stupid things," said Reagan, who authorized $640 Pentagon toilet seats—no shit!

As president, about the only thing Reagan ever did right was to end the Cold War, and the claim that he won the Cold War is outright propaganda. This was the man who said trees cause pollution. Yeah, the CIA lied.

And I haven't even gotten to the part where Reagan destroyed and gutted public schools in California... there was so much else to choose from. When Reagan was governor, he actually raised taxes. Proposition 13, the antitax measure, destroyed Califronia's public infrastructure, including school funding. I won't mention how he tried to cut school lunch milk rations and declared ketchup "a vegetable" in order to save some money on mandatory hot lunches for low income students. Wow.
Reaganomics: "Throughout his tenure as governor Mr. Reagan consistently and effectively opposed additional funding for basic education. This led to painful increases in local taxes and the deterioration of California's public schools. Los Angeles voters got so fed up picking up the slack that on five separate occasions they refused to support any further increases in local school taxes. The consequent under-funding resulted in overcrowded classrooms, ancient worn-out textbooks, crumbling buildings and badly demoralized teachers. Ultimately half of the Los Angeles Unified School District's teachers walked off the job to protest conditions in their schools.[5] Mr. Reagan was unmoved.
Ronald Reagan left California public education worse than he found it. A system that had been the envy of the nation when he was elected was in decline when he left. Nevertheless, Mr. Reagan's actions had political appeal, particularly to his core conservative constituency, many of whom had no time for public education. In campaigning for the Presidency, Mr. Reagan called for the total elimination the US Department of Education, severe curtailment of bilingual education, and massive cutbacks in the Federal role in education. Upon his election he tried to do that and more. Significantly, President Reagan also took steps to increase state power over education at the expense of local school districts. Federal funds that had flowed directly to local districts were redirected to state government. Moreover, federal monies were provided to beef up education staffing at the state level. The result was to seriously erode the power of local school districts.[6] As in California, Mr. Reagan also made drastic cuts in the federal education budget. Over his eight years in office he diminished it by half. When he was elected the federal share of total education spending was 12%. When he left office it stood at just 6%." —The Educational Legacy of Ronald Reagan 

Good old Reaganomics. Back in high school, we were the first to feel the ramifications of it, as few families had cars, the San Geronimo Valley was poor. Yeah, I walked to school, 8 miles each way. No car, no transport. No transport also meant that there were also no extra curricular activities after school because the hitch-hiking ride pool to West Marin dried up after dark. Too hard to get home via shank's mare. Terrifying after dark. And that newly imposed tuition meant that I couldn't afford to go to the university. Reagan's skewed political shenanigans were a lasting gift that kept on hurting the economically disadvantaged  to this day. Win one for the Gipper. Yeah.

Maybe you should move to Texas, Mr. M. We'll even start up a collection.

This post was restructured from a Facebook thread. Yep.


Zana said...

Yes I a proud of what you did and that's why I shared it. I just didn't realize how it would serve as a bridge for trolls to attack. But that is what trolls do, seek bridges and attack. It's a good blog Maureen. I really hope you can sleep tonight.
Now, I am off to see how much board members make in the CA system. What a novel approach, paying board members monthly wages. Nowhere near that amount here. So little I think they just write a yearly check.


Maureen Hurley said...

Thanks for the comment Zana, I only now just found this little hidden archive of unpublished comments in Blogger, with a whole slew of comments waiting to be moderated, and I accidentally missed your comment. Thank you for the solace. What was the upshot on board members' salaries? And did your friend ever see this article? I think that by writing it, I got it out of my system. Interesting, how people assume that because we write something, putting our hearts on the line, that we're fair game for their trollish angst. Or in this case, it was his political platform, or the highway. Ugh. NOw I need to track down your other comment... TTFN!