This is not going to be one of the many "let’s-be-kind-to-the-dead-Alzheimer’s-ridden-wrinkled-guy" panegyrics the "liberal" media has been trotting out for the last day and a half. This is not an attempt to find a silver lining in the ruination, the waste lain by the presidency of Reagan. We will not be saying that "Reagan loved dogs." No, this is nothing like that. This is going to be a "rip that saggy-necked cocksucker out of his coffin and skullfuck him until his eyes roll out into the street" kind of thing.
Ronald Reagan was the worst kind of evil, the kind that wears the mask of goodness and morality. He was like the affable grandfather who loved molesting his grandkids. Oh, how Grandpa smiled when he fondled us. Damn, how we didn't mind the finger-fuckings, how we didn’t care how many psychic scars Grandpa left us with as long as Grandpa smiled at us, said he loved us, and gave us candy to keep us quiet. But, Jesus Christ, how we must live with those barely repressed wounds, the damage that afflicts every step we take.
This country, this world will never get over the destruction wrought by this man. Practically every awful thing going on in this country can be traced, in one way or another, to Reagan. Soldiers are dying in Iraq right now because of this man, because of his insane support for dictators, for turning a blind eye to genocide and madness. A decade behind in AIDS research? The power of the religious right in making public policy? The war on feminism? We're just scratchin' the surface of the repeated rapings of this country by Reagan's re-defining conservatism to the right, which dragged the rest of the nation, the rest of the political spectrum with it. He made liberal a dirty word. He opened the regulatory books for industries to rewrite them in their image. He presided over the other greatest intelligence failure, when we "missed" the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union. And we're not even talkin' yet about Iran-Contra, the second part of the Republican trifecta of massive abuse of power (Watergate being first, and the Iraq war being third). Reagan was a goddamned cancer, but he could sell it, like an old time preacher, with a twinkle in his eye and a promise of greater days tomorrow; he was like a suave Greek pimp who will sell you a syphilitic Turkish whore - sure, you'll get your rocks off, but, oh, how you'll pay, motherfucker, oh, how you'll pay.
Let’s focus in on one thing: poverty. Reagan shifted the conversation on poverty, as he did with so many things, away from economics and the vicissitudes of capitalism and towards a 19th century notion of morality. The poor were, in Reagan’s view, more easily tempted into immorality. They were "welfare queens" who exploited the good-heartedness of the government and the populace in general. Indeed, the whole debate about welfare never escaped from Reagan's enormous racist lie of the welfare queen because it was a story that comforted so many middle class white people, allowed them to abandon any pretense of wanting to correct past wrongs.
Let's narrow even further, to one bill. In his first budget, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, Reagan stripped away the ability of the working poor to transition off welfare, taking 100% of their income out of their welfare payments. Previously, the standard had been the 30 and a third rule – subtract the first $30 and 1/3 of income in order to wean the working poor off the government teat. The OBRA cut food stamps, Medicaid, and child care. It reduced or eliminated spending on prenatal, maternal, and child health care, school lunch programs, and day care, as well as eliminating Aid to Families with Dependent Children for some families. Sixty percent of cuts in federal entitlements were on programs to poor: AFDC was cut by $1 billion, Medicaid by $500 million, and food stamps by $700 million, erasing 875,000 people from the food stamp program. Because of these cuts, a working poor family of three had less income than one who stayed on AFDC. Much of this was directed at women, where Reagan sought to roll back the feminist movement through governmental tough love. "There you go, bitches, wallow in the filth of my philosophy," he was saying.
Here’s the evil part: this was done to offset huge tax cuts. Here’s the extra evil part: the tough love didn’t work. More people ended up on welfare (not cruelly disappeared from the welfare rolls as under Clinton’s welfare "reform"). The cuts for fiscal 1982, which totaled $35.2 billion, also affected disability benefits, subsidized housing, unemployment insurance, student loans, Pell grants, impacted areas aid, medical education, sewer grants, postal subsidies, trade adjustment assistance, small business loans, mass transit systems, highway funds, and more. Much of the spending was shifted to the states, as if that was somehow a greater good. The end result was to put a stake in the heart of the War on Poverty, effectively negating the role of the poor in national politics, who couldn't mobilize if they had to work two or three jobs in order to put food on the table, shifting so much of the social concerns of the government to the middle class. Welfare rolls grew while unemployment fell. And the seeds of the distance between rich and poor were sowed, and their vines bear fruit each year after.
Remember: this is one bill. One action. At the beginning of his presidency. With nearly eight years to go. Eight years where he smiled at us, regaling us with "common people" stories that comforted us amid the inferno.
Did he know what he was doing? Was Reagan a puppet? Of course he was, and by the end of his presidency, when he had descended into Woodrow Wilson-like levels of uselessness, he was merely a wax dummy. But if one surrounds oneself with cruel and evil people, if one listens to their counsel and signs off on their ideology, then, puppet or not, one is part and parcel of the evil that they do. He dumbed down the Presidency by making his ignorance into an asset; without him, there would be no George W. Bush for we could not begin to think that so slouching a human would be the person we say represents us all. Reagan made us think that this is what the presidency is: a summation of men (and women) and their ideology, not a man unto himself.
The final fuckin' joke is that because Reagan got to disappear into the clouds of his diseased brain, functioning only as a conveyer between tubes that fed him and tubes that removed his piss (with the shit-ridden diaper thrown in for good effect), he never had to see what he had done. He never got to look down from that shining city on a hill, the bullshit chimera of a nation that would never exist, and see the shards of the shattered country he left behind.
Or maybe, gasping his last, the Alzheimer's clouds parted and Reagan had a moment of clarity, a moment when he at last grasped the enormity of his blithe cruelty; maybe he understood the stunning, horrible, Christ-forsaken abandonment of the poor, the weak, the beaten down, the tossing aside of every "ideal" of uplifting the people in his maniacal pursuits of putting down the lid on the piss-stained toilet of Soviet communism and of tearing the condom off the cock of capitalism so that it infects us all with "free trade." When Lee Atwater, mentor to Karl Rove and one of the gurus of Reagan and then Bush I's campaigns, was dying of brain cancer, he had such an epiphany about the world he helped to create. He called the umitigated greed of the Reagan/Bush era a "spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul." Would that we all get such Kurtzian moments of realizing the horror.
Reagan's dead. Fuck him. Fuck Nancy. Fuck the 1980s. Fuck all the tributes that are going on for the next week while his putrid corpse criss-crosses the nation he helped desiccate. Christ, put that fucker in a hole and let's get on with it, with the neverending work of righting the legion of wrongs he did to us all, a legacy rife with its Rumsfelds, Cheneys, and Bushes.
And when Reagan’s finally quivering in the cold, cold ground, waiting for demons to tear his soul into bite-sized pieces so he can feel thousands of hells at once, the Rude Pundit will dance, dance, dance, grotesquely, madly, on the still shifting dirt of his grave.