Sunday, April 27, 2014

Myths ("11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative" by Paul Kengor)

No American president is more mythologized by modern politicians than Ronald Reagan, and as Paul Kengor points out in the introductory notes to his book on Reagan’s legacy, this is somewhat understandable. Popular in his time and considered by many to be one of America's greatest presidents, Reagan's presidency was preceded by immeasurable failure--LBJ's Vietnam policy, Nixon's corruption, Ford and Carter's electoral defeats--and followed by much of the same, including George H.W. Bush's failed reelection bid, Clinton's impeachment, and George W. Bush's disastrous policies and near historically low approval ratings. Reagan was elected to two terms, both times by historic margins, and oversaw huge economic growth while also remaining relatively free from scandal.*

However, this narrative, which is at the heart of Kengor's short volume, is one written not only by Reagan's millions of supporters, all of whom lived through the 80s with relative ease and never felt the sting of Reagan's actual policies, but by contemporary conservative Republicans hoping to capitalize on the president's mythologized legacy to gain higher office and enact sweeping legislation that is regressive, authoritarian, and far from anything Reagan himself ever signed into law. By outlining eleven "principles" that supposedly personify a modern conservative, Kengor has added to the fallacy that Reagan was anything other than a typical Republican whose policies benefited his political cronies while damaging the rest of the country for decades--and generations--to come.

1. Freedom

When Kengor writes of Reagan's commitment to freedom, his meaning is twofold: freedom from political leaders and ideological doctrines that enslaved millions and curtailed personal liberty, and freedom from the burdens of unnecessary taxation--that is, freedom for people to spend more of the money they earned by giving less to the government.

The first argument, which is less ludicrous than the second, is based primarily on Reagan's response to the Soviet Union's totalitarian control over its satellite states, especially Germany and Poland, where Communism had empowered ruthless dictatorships for decades. Kengor is correct when he asserts that Reagan was in the White House during the gradual collapse of not only the Soviet Union--which was dissolved in 1991, under Mikhail Gorbachev--and its dominance in Germany, which ended with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1990. However, the leap that many Republicans make--that Reagan and his policies were directly responsible for these events--is not only flawed but ignorant of events years in the making.

In Dismantling Utopia, author Scott Shane pinpoints the Soviet Union's collapse as beginning in the mid-1970s, when a stagnating economy--caused by the changing demands of its people, an overabundance of unwanted goods, poor morale, corruption, a lack of workers' incentives, and a functionless bureaucracy--alerted Russian intelligence to the possibility of disaster. Years before Reagan was even president, Russian leaders--first Leonid Brezhnev, then Yuri Andropov--were aware of the coming collapse, even though their many attempts at staving it off would be unsuccessful: "If the [Communist] party under Brezhnev, in the years before his death in 1982, seemed almost oblivious to the eroding Soviet economic position, the KGB under Andropov was acutely aware of the deepening quicksand. As head of the agency from 1967 until 1982, Andropov had a clearer idea than almost anyone else in the leadership of how serious and fundamental were the causes of Soviet economic malaise. Eager to focus the Kremlin’s attention, Andropov set up a secret department in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Such a department would have undoubtedly highlighted Soviet technological backwardness and focus on the enormous role played by West Siberian oil in financing such economic progress as there had been in the 1970s. Understanding that the oil-fueled joyride was coming to an end, Andropov would have known that the Soviet Union’s very status as a superpower, already reduced essentially to a big collection of nuclear warheads, could soon be jeopardized altogether." [1]

Reagan had no role in any of these events, and instead of looking at him as the man who liberated millions from the grips of Communism, we should see him for what this truly reveals him to be: a shrewd politician who read the data, understood trajectory, and placed himself squarely in the center of events that were destined to happen anyway. Had Reagan said or done nothing policy-wise, the Soviet Union would have still collapsed, the Berlin Wall would still have been torn down, and history in this area would have changed little.

2. Faith

In December of 2013, President Obama and his family skipped Christmas church service, a decision that elicited outrage and derision from conservative pundits, many of whom accused the president of disrespecting a solemn Christian holiday. Others saw his decision as proof of a hidden faith, or even faithlessness, which have dogged him since long before he was first elected. Explaining the president's decision, Ashley Parker, writing for the New York Times, said, "Part of Mr. Obama’s decision to largely opt out of religious services reflects a desire to avoid disruptions by his Secret Service detail and security requirements." [2]

The reaction to Obama's decision encouraged many to examine the faiths and observations of his predecessors, including Ronald Reagan. For many conservative Republicans, Ronald Reagan's faith is indisputable, and his Christianity was an indomitable cornerstone of not only his political life but also his personal one. Paul Kengor takes this element of Reagan's life and legacy one step further by stating that the president's Christianity was one of his most redeeming qualities, as it influenced his unyielding optimism and supported his ideas about freedom, as he himself noted in a 1988 speech to college students, which Kengor himself excerpts: "At its full flowering, freedom is the first principle of a society; this society, Western society. And yet freedom cannot exist alone. And that's why the theme for your bicentennial is so very apt: learning, faith, and freedom. Each reinforces the others, each makes the others possible. For what are they without each other?" [3]

This is an interesting and much-repeated idea, that a free society and a society of faith cannot exist without one another, all of which insinuates that a nation--and, by the unspoken transitive property, its government--cannot exist without a strong faith at its forefront. What Reagan's supporters have forgotten--or chosen to ignore--is the fact that, beyond the necessary and expected pandering done as part of political campaigns, Reagan's faith played an almost negligible role in his political decisions, a reality that was so well-known that it even inserted itself into Reagan's 1984 bid for reelection, when a moderator asked Reagan why he attended church so irregularly. Reagan responded, "I pose a threat to several hundred people if I got to church. I know all the threats that are made against me." [4] Reagan made this assertion without qualifications, almost three decades before Barack Obama made the exact same assertions about his own lackluster church attendance, and today the issue of his spotty religious observation--at least publicly--is almost forgotten, even as conservative pundits chide our current president for the same transgression.

Even beyond this one dichotomous statistic, we see that the Christian beliefs Reagan so often spoke passionately about--the protection of the unborn, allowing God to be taught in public-school classrooms--were never once enacted into law. Twenty-five years after Reagan left office, abortion is still a Constitutionally protected right, religious worship and prayer is still forbidden from public-school classrooms, and the line between church and state is enforced by law. Kengor finds an exceptional number of speeches and quotes from Reagan extolling his desire for the nation to reflect his own religious convictions; what he cannot find are examples of these same convictions being signed into law and remaining to this day.

3. Family

Paul Kengor does not like gay marriage. Normally this would be an irrelevant piece of information, especially in the context of a book about Ronald Reagan, but seeing as how Kengor spends much of his third chapter denouncing not only the idea of same-sex unions but also those who look to make it legal nationwide, his personal beliefs on this topic are unavoidably relevant, especially since much of the vitriol Kengor spouts is delivered without quotation marks or attributions to Reagan himself--that is to say, they are not Reagan's opinions but Kengor's, which the author offers unabashedly under the banner of an objective examination of another man's politics. And Kengor does this despite the fact that Reagan himself was president during a time when the very idea of "gay marriage" was unthinkable to either political party. As Kengor himself notes, "Any politician advocating for such a thing in Reagan's time...would have been hauled off to a lunatic asylum as a public menace." And while this may be mostly true--the first public endorsement of gay marriage by an elected official didn't happen until the new millennium--the gay rights movement had already been publicly active for decades by the time Reagan was elected president, so the idea that someone would have advocated for such a right at some point is not as far-fetched as it may seem in retrospect.

Despite this, Kengor makes a leap that has very little support beyond anecdotal insinuations, stating that it would be "very difficult to imagine Reagan today suddenly contradicting himself and favoring a redefinition of traditional marriage." In fact, Reagan's views on homosexuality--in the age before gay marriage--was unclear, which itself went against the prevailing mood of the day, when homophobia and prejudice against gay Americans was almost expected. Two years before being elected president, Reagan wrote privately against a proposed ban of gay school teachers in California, purportedly saying, "Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual's sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child's teachers do not really influence this." [5] This unusually tolerant and educated position was most likely informed by his time in Hollywood, when he was surrounded by openly gay performers and crew-members who defied prevailing stereotypes of the day; as Reagan's own daughter Patti wrote in 2003, "My father and I were watching an old Rock Hudson and Doris Day movie. At the moment when Hudson and Doris Day kissed, I said to my father, 'That looks weird.' Curious, he asked me to identify exactly what was weird about a man and woman kissing, since I'd certainly seen such a thing before. All I knew was that something about this particular man and woman was, to me, strange. My father gently explained that Mr. Hudson didn't really have a lot of experience kissing women; in fact, he would much prefer to be kissing a man. This was said in the same tone that would be used if he had been telling me about people with different colored eyes, and I accepted without question that this whole kissing thing wasn't reserved just for men and women." [6]

By making an assumption about Reagan and his ideological beliefs, Kengor is demonstrating one of the major problems with acolytes of the former president: a need to transcribe their own personal beliefs onto those of their hero. Because Paul Kengor doesn't like gay marriage, and because he wants to be a conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan, he must make Reagan similarly opposed to gay marriage, even though it requires resurrecting the late president as he supposedly was decades ago and making him unable to change a supposed opinion. Kengor does not offer a single verifiable document or attributable quote supporting these notions of Reagan, nor does he offer a single quote, speech, private journal entry, or letter even suggesting that Ronald Reagan would've been opposed to gay marriage, or even that he thought of gay people as inferior to himself in any way.

4. Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life

Kengor's chapter on Reagan and abortion, titled "Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life," is the shortest of his entire book, coming in at just under 4 pages. And there's a good reason why Reagan, often extolled as the personification of Christian conservative principles, should find his legacy on abortion consigned to so few pages: he has none. For all the noise made over abortion as a political topic, especially in the era of Tea Party legislation, Reagan remains one of the few Republican icons who made little progress for the pro-life cause. In fact, if his political career is considered in full, Reagan's achievements on abortion are remarkably--and ironically--liberal, and one could argue that his executive decisions contributed to making our country as pro-choice as it ever was and would be.

The first of these major decisions was made while governor of California, when Reagan signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act. Designed to keep women from seeking "back-alley abortions," which were often unsafe and led to dangerous complications and even the death of the patient, the act allowed women in California to undergo safe, protected abortions if the pregnancy endangered her health, or if it was the result of rape or incest--exceptions that remain standard in pro-life conversations to this day. Nowhere in Kengor's chapter on abortion does the author once mention this act on Reagan's part, even though Reagan himself came out as pro-life after signing the bill.

The second major decision, made almost immediately after being elected president, was to appoint Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, a choice that made conservatives almost apoplectic at the time. As Reagan himself wrote in his diary, "Called Judge O'Connor and told her she was my nominee for supreme court [sic]. Already the flak is starting and from my own supporters. Right to Life people say she is pro abortion. She says abortion is personally repugnant to her. I think she'll make a good justice." [7] Would any modern Republican president appoint someone who expressed pro-choice views, their decision would result in widespread outrage, dissent from their own party, and the eventual withdrawal of the nomination; for Reagan, it meant little, an indication that while abortion was an important topic, the opinions of his "Right to Life" supporters were not, at least not in a non-election year. For her part, Sandra Day O'Connor would be overwhelmingly approved by the Senate and spend the next quarter-century on the Supreme Court, where she would be the deciding factor preserving abortion rights on case after case. As O'Connor once wrote in a majority decision upholding abortion rights, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State." [8] It is perhaps the most stinging, succinct rebuke to the conservative Republican argument that abortion is an affront to liberty and freedom, and it was written by Reagan's very first appointment to the Supreme Court.

One other aspect to Kengor's short fourth chapter that deserves attention is his definition of "life"--namely, its limited scope, rendered only to include the unborn. Kengor, like many conservatives, speak of "the dignity of life" as though we begin living at the moment of conception and stop once we emerge from the uterus. Nowhere in Kengor's chapter does he discuss the dignity that comes with properly educating those babies; ensuring those babies graduate from high school and can attend a good college or earn a decent living wage; guaranteeing those babies can one day afford a home, raise kids, and feed their family without putting their financial stability at risk; providing them with affordable health care and well-funded hospitals should they ever get sick; keeping them safe with clean water, clear air, and inspected food; and so on. Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun, isolated the dissonance best when she said, "I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is." [9] Had Reagan's pro-life approach focused on "the dignity of life" beyond the womb rather than just the dignity of those inside it, perhaps his legacy--and Kengor's chapter--would be worthier of study and attention.

5. American Exceptionalism

There is little reason to doubt that Reagan thought of America as an exceptional place, and as Kengor points out, he made this idea the subject of countless speeches, including some delivered long before he ever ran for public office. Even if Kengor were to concede that analyzing presidential speeches for quotes on American exceptionalism is pointless, as all presidents deliver speeches that highlight the qualities that make their country unique in the world, there is still ample evidence supporting the idea that Reagan saw his nation as different than most, almost transcendent.

One of these speeches--perhaps Reagan’s most famous--is the 1983 speech he delivered about the Soviet Union, which has since come to be known as the “Evil Empire” speech for a section in which Reagan derided the Soviet Union as such. Unlike many of the other speeches mentioned by Kengor, the author doesn’t excerpt this particular moment, and for good reason:  in context, Reagan’s comments on the Soviet Union also reveal his advocacy for a nuclear-free world, a position that is almost anathema to conservative Republicans in today’s world. As Reagan himself said,

I urge you to speak out against those who would place the United States in a position of military and moral inferiority…. So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride--the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil. I ask you to resist the attempts of those who would have you withhold your support for our efforts, this administration's efforts, to keep America strong and free, while we negotiate real and verifiable reductions in the world's nuclear arsenals and one day, with God's help, their total elimination. [10]

By claiming that America could not afford to be weak militarily and morally, only to proceed by saying that a world without nuclear weapons was the ultimate goal, Reagan demonstrated an understanding that a strong military and a nuclear-free military were one in the same--that a military could be strong without such devastating weapons. When Reagan speaks of the “evil empire” and how its history of aggression carries with it much of the responsibility for the decades-long Cold War, he positions his nation as the superior actor, one that now pushes for peace instead of war, for resolution instead of conflict. This idea, that America should have a strong military but wage peace, is at the heart of a chapter much later in Kengor’s book, though on the topic of American exceptionalism, it seems to undermine one of Kengor’s key defenses of Reagan (and refutation of his critics)--that Reagan did not blindly condemn other nations and empires without also acknowledging the sins of his own.

As Kengor writes, “Consider that in his most strident attack on the Soviet Union--his March 1983 ‘Evil Empire’ speech--he first paused to point a finger inward at America for her past sins, especially slavery, racism, anti-Semitism, and ‘other forms of ethnic and racial hatred.’ ‘Our nation, too, has a legacy of evil with which it must deal,’ Reagan lamented. America was not perfect.” The key word here--Kengor’s word--is past, as in, “point a finger inward at America for her past sins.” At no point in his speech does Reagan acknowledge the prevalence of these very same sins in contemporary America, which enabled him to place the United States in a position of superiority--the shining beacon on the hill, as Reagan once proclaimed--and thereby claim a moral victory over the nation’s main adversary. Never mind that, during Reagan’s presidency, he supported the apartheid regime in South Africa, which worked to oppress the majority of South Africans and was responsible for Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment; his veto of a sanctions bill against the nation was overridden by the Senate by a vote of 78-21, a resounding rebuke to a presidential policy, and one that was supported by many of Reagan’s own Republican colleagues. (Richard Lugar, the Republican senator from Indiana, actually encouraged the Reagan White House to get “on the right side of history.”) Reagan also skirted the chance to take accountability for his own sordid history on race, including his opposition to the Voting Rights Act of 1964, a landmark piece of legislation that granted African-Americans the right to vote and outlawed bigoted voting practices in the South, as well as other major civil rights legislation of the 1960s. [11]

Ultimately, Reagan did not achieve his goal of a nuclear-free world, though his open discussion with the Soviet Union was a groundbreaking moment in American foreign policy--a moment that Reagan should get credit for, as many of his closest advisers and European allies encouraged him to avoid engaging the Soviet Union in such discussions. A few years ago, when President Obama restarted discussions with Russia over nuclear disarmament, there were small protests from pockets of Republican legislators, but not enough to prevent ratification of a new agreement. The New START Treaty, as it was called, passed the Senate in December 2010, with a vote of 71-26, fulfilling a key part of Reagan’s legacy more than twenty years after he left office. [12]

6. The Founders' Wisdom and Vision

One of the most egregious and dangerous political thoughts in the last two decades has been Constitutional originalism--a belief that the Constitution should be interpreted and applied as it was when written over 250 years ago and not adapted as a living document to fit changes in society. Proponents of this strange ideology argue that the intentions of the Founding Fathers are tantamount, and any attempts to reshape their centuries-old words, forged as they were in revolution and time-tested by dozens of presidents, is no less than undemocratic treachery. The most visible originalist, Antonin Scalia, has even remarked, “I have my rules that confine me. I know what I’m looking for. When I find it--the original meaning of the Constitution--I am handcuffed. If I believe that the First Amendment meant when it was adopted that you are entitled to burn the American flag, I have to come out that way even though I don’t like to come out that way. When I find that the original meaning of the jury trial guarantee is that any additional time you spend in prison which depends upon a fact must depend upon a fact found by a jury--once I find that’s what the jury trial guarantee means, I am handcuffed. Though I’m a law-and-order type, I cannot do all the mean conservative things I would like to do to this society. You got me.” [13] In his own words, Scalia treats the Constitution as though it were a restriction--handcuffs--rather than a document guaranteeing the ultimate freedoms any society could ask for, which is in itself a strange paradox.

However, the Founders were men of their time:  what was acceptable to them may now be unthinkable to us. For instance, the Constitution not only condoned slavery but rendered slaves as three-fifths of a person; voting was reserved for white male land-owners; and senators were chosen by state legislatures and, in essence, party bosses and machine politicians, not the people. So imperfect were their ideas--so anchored to the beliefs of their time period were their laws--that the Constitution itself has been amended almost 30 times, and for reasons that are almost common sense today:  banning slavery, granting women the right to vote, giving voters the right to choose their senators, establishing presidential term limits, protecting the right to vote from unfair “taxes,” lowering the voting age, and preventing members of Congress from granting themselves pay-raises midway through a session. Had the Constitution as written been a perfect document, one worthy of preservation and strict adherence, it would not have required so many necessary revisions.

In his chapter on Reagan and the Founding Fathers, Kengor writes, “No modern president...cited the Founders as frequently and thematically as did Ronald Reagan,” and he follows this statement with actual proof--analysis of public documents and speeches of every president since John F. Kennedy. And while his findings are somewhat skewed--Reagan served two full terms and thus had more opportunities to invoke the Founders than any other modern president save Clinton and George W. Bush--they speak to both Reagan and Kengor’s beliefs in the importance of invoking our country’s origins, which is understandable in a president. However, Kengor later writes, “[Reagan] concluded that the axis of this unique place, forged by those unique founders, was a basic understanding that the proper, fundamental function of government was to protect life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Kengor’s emphasis.) Here is where Kengor’s ideas about what he thinks Reagan believed, what Reagan actually believed, and what happened--or didn’t--during the Reagan presidency diverge.

For instance, let’s take perhaps the  most important of the four protections as outlined by both Kengor and the opening lines of the Constitution:  the protection of life. Setting aside Reagan’s early legislative approval of abortion rights, we find other instances in which Reagan’s actions or inactions resulted in Americans losing their Constitutionally-guaranteed protection of life, the most infamous being his complete lack of interest in addressing the AIDS epidemic. In 1981, the first year of his presidency--and, as it happens, the first year that AIDS was identified by the CDC--almost 121 Americans died from AIDS. By 1987, the number of total deaths from AIDS had risen to just over 50,000. (According 2013 reports from the CDC, more than 650,000 Americans have died from AIDS since the outbreak was first identified in 1981.[14]) The year is significant, as 1987 was the first time Reagan gave major speeches on the subject of AIDS, marking the end of a six-year time period in which the epidemic was overshadowed or downright ignored as a major issue. [15]

Defenders of Reagan often point to a 1985 press conference in which, when asked by a reporter to directly address the topic of AIDS, Reagan suggested that he had been aware of AIDS since its identification:

MIKE PUTZEL (AP): Mr. President, the Nation's best-known AIDS scientist says the time has come now to boost existing research into what he called a minor moonshot program to attack this AIDS epidemic that has struck fear into the Nation's health workers and even its schoolchildren. Would you support a massive government research program against AIDS like the one that President Nixon launched against cancer?

REAGAN: I have been supporting it for more than 4 years now. It's been one of the top priorities with us, and over the last 4 years, and including what we have in the budget for '86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I'm sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it'll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there's no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer.

MIKE PUTZEL (AP):  If I could follow up, sir. The scientist who talked about this, who does work for the Government, is in the National Cancer Institute. He was referring to your program and the increase that you proposed as being not nearly enough at this stage to go forward and really attack the problem.

REAGAN: I think with our budgetary constraints and all, it seems to me that $126 million in a single year for research has got to be something of a vital contribution. [16]

The idea that the very same man who signed legislation guaranteeing $22 billion to minority-owned businesses five years earlier, increased the defense budget by more than $100 billion between 1980 and 1987 [17], and doubled the gross federal debt [18] could only guarantee $126 million to research a cure for an epidemic that had, at that time, killed over 50,000 Americans in just six years--and because of what he terms “budgetary constraints”--is downright preposterous. Between 1985--the year Reagan gave this press conference--and the following year, the federal budget increased spending by just under 15 billion dollars, much of it in defense. [19] (As noted earlier, our greatest foe--the Soviet Union--was in the midst of a total economic and political collapse at the time, so increased military spending was unnecessary.) Even more, these “constraints” did not prevent Reagan from signing a series of budgets that increased the public debt from $1.84 trillion in 1985 to $2.76 trillion by 1989, the year Reagan left office. Had Reagan truly been concerned with fighting the growing AIDS epidemic, he would not have shielded himself from a larger investment by proclaiming that his hands were tied by finances. However, credit must be given where credit is due:  reports from the Congressional Budget Office support Reagan’s statement that funding for AIDS research saw a rapid increase after 1981, though nowhere in historical documents does Reagan take credit for this increase; more likely it was something passed by Congress, either without Reagan’s knowledge or without his concern. [20]

On the subject of liberty--freedom from government interference, control, obligation, restriction, and so on--Reagan’s record is even worse. Heralded as the president who fought regulation and established a morning-in-American society in which people were free to live the lives they wanted, Reagan’s policies offered liberty only to a specific subset of citizens while increasing the burden on blue-collar and low-income Americans, as explained in the following section. When supporters of Reagan speak of the evils of regulation, specifically when their message is wrapped in the size of the federal government and the rights of the individual to live without intrusion, they speak only of themselves and the highest income earners--that is, those who will never fear living in public housing, enrolling in government assistance programs like Welfare, sending their children to underfunded public schools, living off food stamps, going on unemployment, or getting sick because the food at their grocery store has not been inspected or their medication was not put through an approval process. The idea that regulation is a scourge on American freedom and deregulation is a solution is absurd, and nothing proves this more than Reagan’s devastating tax cuts.

7. Lower Taxes

Throughout his book, Kengor uses Reagan's presidency as a weapon to attack the policies of Barack Obama, and nowhere is that more unapologetic and transparent than in chapter 7, which focuses on Reagan and taxes. Always a contentious issue, conservative Republicans have long held up Reagan as the embodiment of how a president should approach taxes: lower them as much as possible, especially on those who earn a higher income, and the economy will be spurred into growth. In the past few years, however, as the American economy recovers from the nation's worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Reagan's policies have been reexamined in lieu of Obama's own thoughts on the role taxation plays in economic growth. That is why, when Kengor talks about Reagan and taxes, he does so with a heavy dose of bitterness and qualifications.

Staking his anti-tax attitude from the start by deriding those who legislate and support federal taxes as "progressives" who are not only authoritarians but addicts--there's also a mention of Marxism at one point--Kengor derides former presidents who relied on federal income taxes, even in cases of national emergencies: Woodrow Wilson during and after World War I; Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression; and LBJ to support the Great Society, which created Medicare and Medicaid. Only Reagan, Kengor asserts, used taxes correctly in that he lowered them precipitously over three years so that, by 1985, "the upper-income marginal tax rate was dropped from 70% to 28%." According to conservative Republican orthodoxy, this massive drop in tax rates should have had resoundingly positive effects on both the American economy and the American people, and according to them it did--hence, the era of "Morning in America" that swept Reagan into a second term the following year. However, this prosperity was both an illusion to blue-collar Americans and a danger to their children and grandchildren.

Last year, an economic blogger named John Taylor compiled IRS data on income equality and found something startling: the large gap between rich and poor in this country began around 1983, when the income of America's "top 10 percent" skyrocketed while the income of the remaining 90 percent of Americans remained largely the same, if shakily so. While blue-collar Americans were still making money in relative security, their savings from Reagan's tax cuts paled in comparison to the savings seen by the nation's wealthiest; in the years since, however, what was once comfortable for the middle class has now become unlivable, and slowly the middle class has begun to disappear. In his post, Taylor did not make any definitive claims as to what happened in 1983 to foster this disparity, but the fact that it occurred around the same time as Reagan's initial tax cut seems less than coincidental. [21] In fact, other economists and journalists have laid the blame for our current economic woes at the feet of Reagan and like-minded Republicans. As Slate Magazine stated in 2010, "Reagan dropped the top bracket from 70 percent to 50 percent, and eventually pushed it all the way down to 28 percent. Since then, it has hovered between 30 percent and 40 percent. If President Obama lets George W. Bush's 2001 tax cut expire for families earning more than $250,000, as he's expected to do, Tea Partiers will call him a Bolshevik. But at a whisker under 40 percent (up from 35), the top bracket would remain 30 to 50 percentage points below what it was under Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford. That's how much Reagan changed the debate." [22]

By the end of the chapter, Kengor has made quite a few underhanded attacks on Obama, which should be addressed in full, as they not only speak to Kengor's credibility but also--surprisingly--provide excellent openings to discuss how Reagan himself dealt with many of the same issues. For instance, Kengor asserts that, Reagan steadfastly refused to raise income taxes, even as he was signing laws to raise gasoline and payroll taxes--a contrast to Obama, who bases much of his economic policies around the idea of collecting revenue through increased taxes on higher-income Americans. Kengor writes of Reagan, "These tax increases did not involve income taxes.... Reagan understood that not all taxes, or tax increases, are created equal."

Unfortunately, this is only true in theory; in reality, as noted by Forbes Magazine, a Social Security reform bill signed by Reagan "required that higher-income beneficiaries pay income tax on part of their benefits." Reagan was not raising taxes on income that already existed; instead, he signed a bill that taxed money received from Social Security, which is not the standard political definition of "income," though anyone who relies on Social Security in order to survive would most likely beg to differ. It's a clever linguistic trick--Social Security benefits are not technically earned through a present job, so they're not technically "income"--so any increased taxes paid on it don't count as an income tax. The Forbes article goes on to address Reagan's 1986 tax hike, saying, "The tax reform of 1986, meanwhile, wasn't designed to increase federal tax revenue. But that didn't mean that no one's taxes went up. Because the reform bill eliminated or reduced many tax breaks and shelters, high-income tax filers who previously paid little ended up with bigger tax bills." [23] Again, it's a clever linguistic dodge: Reagan didn't explicitly raise taxes, but he removed loopholes that required taxpayers to actually pay taxes on more of their income.

Similarly, on issues related to individual economic success and racial disparity, Kengor writes, "The number of black-owned businesses increased by almost 40 percent, while the number of blacks who enrolled in college increased by almost 30 percent (white college enrollment increased by only 6 percent). There were likewise impressive numbers for Hispanics, who saw similar (if not higher) increases in family income, employment, and college enrollment. Among these, the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in the 1980s grew by an astounding 81 percent, and the number of Hispanics enrolled in college jumped 45 percent." From a distance and without context, this achievement seems like an impressive endorsement of Reagan's economic policies. However, even this landmark in racial progress was reached through the very same governmental programs and spending that Reagan and his supporters supposedly abhor.

On December 17, 1982, Reagan stood before business-owners in the East Room of the White House and signed a statement directing various government agencies and departments to purchase billions in products from minority-owned businesses. Before putting pen to paper, Reagan said, "Among the other items detailed in today's statement is a 10-percent increase of the minority business procurement objectives in 1983 over those of 1982. Over the next 3 fiscal years, our goal will be to purchase some $22 billion directly and indirectly from minority-owned businesses." The actual statement included even more specifics, including guarantees to "make available approximately $1.5 billion in credit assistance and $300 million in management and technical assistance to promote minority business development during this same three-year period," and to "assist in the expansion of at least 60,000 minority businesses or 10 percent of the approximately 600,000 minority businesses that already operate in America today." [24] For a man who so thoroughly believed in the free market and capitalism--a belief that is still sacrosanct among conservative Republicans to this day--this was quite an intrusion on that system, regardless of its social importance.

And while Reagan’s actions cannot be seen as the only reason why minority-owned businesses increased so dramatically during the Reagan years, this achievement--which Kengor touts as proof of Reagan's economic supremacy, especially when compared to Obama's--did not occur naturally. Instead, it was manufactured by the president's administration, which funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into a program that would today be condemned as "affirmative action" by conservative commentators. Had Reagan truly embodied conservative principles, he would not have felt the need to influence capitalist, free-market economics through billion-dollar legislation.

8. Limited Government

Perhaps the easiest myth to refute about Ronald Reagan is that he was a proponent of a small, limited government, famously saying, “Government doesn’t solve the problem. Government is the problem.” Kengor himself begins his chapter on limited government with a clarification as to what Reagan actually stood for, writing, “Ronald Reagan, in line with traditional conservative thinking, was not antigovernment, but anti-big government. He was against unnecessary government, intrusive government, overly burdensome government, ‘nanny state’ cradle-to-grave government, ever-expanding and encroaching government, unlimited government.” And yet, thirty years later, we know that Reagan wanted a limited government except when those limitations hurt him and his supporters.

Over the course of his presidency, the United States experienced massive cuts in important programs, such as transportation and community development, which fell from 6% of the federal budget in 1980 to only 3.6% in 1986; natural resources and environmental energy, which fell from 4.5% to 1.5% of the federal budget; and education, which fell from 4.8% to 1.9% of the federal budget. In 1983 alone, Reagan proposed cutting massive amounts from important social programs, including child nutrition (9.4% cut), food stamps (19.1% cut), education aid (17.1% cut), Welfare (17.5% cut), and low-income energy assistance (25.8% cut). A study by two professors of economics and public policy, Robert Haveman and Sheldon Danziger, noted, “It can be readily seen that while deep cuts are planned for programs designed for the poor and near poor-such as AFDC, Food Stamps, Medicaid, education aid, Low-Income Energy Assistance, and training and employment programs, there will be almost no change in the level of spending in most of the programs that benefit the middle class as well as the poor,” later adding, “Ironically, the cuts in social programs may well reduce the work effort of many lower-income families, and in doing so increase the budget costs….The Reagan program has aimed at maintaining adequacy (the safety net), while removing a large number of families just above the poverty line from the benefit rolls. As a result, work disincentives have increased for those still receiving benefits.” [25]

At the same time, the percentage of Americans whose income placed them below the poverty line rose from 13% in 1980--the year Reagan was elected--to 13.7% in 1981 and 15.2% in 1982, the highest number during all of Reagan’s presidency; however, even in 1986, after Reagan had been reelected to his second term and his supporters touted a full economic recovery, this number fell only to 13.7%, which was still higher than when Reagan first took office. [25] As Haveman and Danziger noted, “Blacks will suffer disproportionately from the Reagan programs. Because a higher proportion of blacks are poor than whites, a greater proportion will be affected by the reductions in transfers. Furthermore, since 55% of the net employment increase for blacks has occurred in the public sector, and much of that in social welfare programs, reductions in these programs will cause a higher percentage of blacks than whites to lose their jobs.” [25]

At the same time, Reagan was signing budgets that added over $150 billion to defense spending. In 1983, Reagan justified this increased spending in a radio address to the nation, saying, “Now, I know that this is a hard time to call for increased defense spending. It isn't easy to ask American families who are already making sacrifices in the recession, or American businesses which are struggling to reinvest for the future, and it isn't easy for someone like me who's dedicated his entire political career to reducing government spending.” However, he continued, there was a very good reason why adding so much defense spending to the budget was necessary, especially at such a peaceful moment in American history:  “One of the great tragedies of this century was that it was only after the balance of power was allowed to erode and a ruthless adversary, Adolf Hitler, deliberately weighed the risks and decided to strike that the importance of a strong defense was realized too late. That was what happened in the years leading up to World War II. And especially for those of us who lived through that nightmare, it's a mistake that America and the free world must never make again.” [26] The fact that the United States’ greatest enemy, the Soviet Union, was in the midst of an economic collapse at the time seems to have mattered little, not to mention the fact that Andropov, Chernenko, and Gorbachev were far from what we might consider Hitleresque.

One of the indicators Paul Kengor uses to gauge Reagan’s belief in a smaller government is the size of the Federal Register, a compendium of the federal government’s existing rules and regulations, among other important pieces of data. As Kengor points out, the Register was just over 87,000 pages long when Reagan took office; by 1986, that number was down to just over 47,000. According to Kengor, this one fact denotes “a definite Reagan success.” Unfortunately, the Federal Register is far from a clear, scientific measurement of the size of government. As pointed out by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that advocates in part for limited government,

Federal Register page counts are an extremely crude measure of regulatory activity. For one thing, they are easily manipulated. On occasion, font sizes have even been changed to keep the page count low.

Moreover, the Federal Register contains more than regulations. In addition to the texts of rules, it includes discussions of rules, determinations under rules, requests for public information, proposed rules, and even consent decrees in court cases. In fact, according to OIRA, the increase in Federal Register pages from 2001 to 2002 was due entirely to publication of the Microsoft antitrust settlement.

Finally, since agencies must publish all rule changes in the Federal Register, it includes actions to eliminate or reduce regulatory burdens, as well as actions to increase them. Thus, while an increase in size may generally signal an increase in agency activity, it does not indicate whether that activity lessens or increases burdens. [27]

Kengor also assigns much of the blame for the poor economy of Reagan’s first term to a Democratically-controlled Congress that spent too much money, which would be true were it not for Reagan’s own complicity in this overspending. As president, Reagan had the power to veto any legislation of which he didn’t approve, including a federal budget; instead, Reagan signed the federal budgets every year. If Kengor and Reagan’s supporters push the blame onto the Democratic Party for writing checks the nation couldn’t fund, they must also blame Reagan for giving those Democrats the checkbook in the first place without once threatening to take it away. (Kengor also quotes another writer, Lou Cannon, in justifying the increased military spending as “war-time deficits,” a claim that is ludicrous.) We know now that government over-spending is not the act of one man, or the act of 435 men and women, but a joint venture:  both must agree, both must vote or sign, and both must be held equally accountable.

We also know, thirty years later, that those “in line with traditional conservative thinking” are against “intrusive government” only as it applied to themselves. For conservatives, a government can decide who citizens can and cannot marry, and it isn’t considered intrusive; a government can decide on the medical care available to women, and it isn’t considered intrusive; a government can outlaw the recreational use of certain non-dangerous drugs, and it isn’t considered intrusive; a government can decide who is able to vote, and require voters to purchase unnecessary documents in order to do so, and that isn’t considered intrusive. However, if a government imposes regulations on banks so they don’t endanger the financial stability of millions through illegal business practices, that is considered intrusive; if a government imposes regulations on food and drug companies so their products are tested for side effects and disease, just in case they may debilitate or kill consumers, that is considered intrusive; if a government establishes uniform educational or labor standards to guarantee everyone has the same opportunities in life, and to make sure no one is being discriminated against, that is considered government intrusion. Reagan’s attitude towards limited government may have been hypocritical, but so is the way in which his supporters have propagated that legacy long past his presidency.

9. Peace Through Strength

In 1983, when Reagan spoke to the American people about raising defense spending, despite the recession, he concluded his remarks by saying, “I have lived through two world wars. I saw the American people rise to meet these crises, and I have faith in their willingness to come to their nation's defense in the future. But it's far better to prevent a crisis than to have to face it unprepared at the last moment. That's why we have an overriding moral obligation to invest now, this year, in this budget, in restoring America's strength to keep the peace and preserve our freedom.” [26] And from a distance, it seems as though Reagan’s ideas bore fruit; regardless of the economic effects of such monumental spending, the United States did not engage in any foreign confrontations that rose to the level of a world war, which might make it seem as though Reagan’s advocacy for military preparedness through increased funding worked:  we were strong, and so there was peace.

However, as we now know, there was little threat to begin with. For one, as mentioned earlier, the Soviet Union spent much of the 1980s in a tailspin both economically and politically; when, in his radio address, Reagan mentioned that “the Soviets out-invest us by nearly 2 to 1,” he does not specify what kind of investments he is focusing on, nor does he provide numbers, but the insinuation--that their greatest foe is spending double on their military--was a transparent attempt to foster a sense of fear and inferiority. But as a 1994 article from The Atlantic Monthly later showed, there was little reason to fear, as the budgetary shifts of both nations were in no way connected:

The Soviet Union's defense spending did not rise or fall in response to American military expenditures. Revised estimates by the Central Intelligence Agency indicate that Soviet expenditures on defense remained more or less constant throughout the 1980s. Neither the military buildup under Jimmy Carter and Reagan nor SDI [Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars”] had any real impact on gross spending levels in the USSR. At most SDI shifted the marginal allocation of defense rubles as some funds were allotted for developing countermeasures to ballistic defense.

If American defense spending had bankrupted the Soviet economy, forcing an end to the Cold War, Soviet defense spending should have declined as East-West relations improved. CIA estimates show that it remained relatively constant as a proportion of the Soviet gross national product during the 1980s, including Gorbachev's first four years in office. Soviet defense spending was not reduced until 1989 and did not decline nearly as rapidly as the overall economy. [28]

Furthermore, Reagan’s military policies, including SDI, may have actually complicated Gorbachev’s attempts to focus the Soviet Union away from foreign entanglements and towards rebuilding the country’s economy and social institutions:  “Reagan's commitment to SDI made it more difficult for Gorbachev to persuade his officials that arms control was in the Soviet interest. Conservatives, some of the military leadership, and spokesmen for defense-related industries insisted that SDI was proof of America's hostile intentions. In a contentious politburo meeting called to discuss arms control, Soviet armed forces chief of staff Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev angrily warned that the Soviet people would not tolerate any weakening of Soviet defenses, according to Oleg Grinevsky, now Russia's ambassador to Sweden. Yakovlev insists that ‘Star Wars was exploited by hardliners to complicate Gorbachev's attempt to end the Cold War.’” [28] Had Reagan not flexed American military muscle through increased spending and advanced defense initiatives, the threat of the Soviet Union may have ended sooner, which could have spared the United States further spending and quickened the relationship established between both countries once the Cold War had ended.

10. Anti-communism

Paul Kengor goes to great lengths in his tenth chapter to detail the crimes of communism, writing, “Communist governments erected cement walls and barbed wire to keep people from fleeing. Patrolling the walls and wire were their own soldiers, trained to shoot and kill any freedom-seekers desperately desiring a better life. Communist nations were maintained like prison cells.” And of the prisoners Kengor writes of those who were placed there--priests, bishops, nuns, political prisoners, those refusing to conform, all of them tortured in one form or another and sometimes even executed. It is perhaps the only redeeming section of Kengor’s book, to see the horrors of communism summarized so succinctly. Kenor even quotes Reagan himself, who said, “The Soviet system over the years has purposely starved, murdered, and brutalized its own people. Millions were killed; it’s all right there in the history books. It put other citizens it disagreed with into psychiatric hospitals, sometimes drugging them into oblivion. Is the system that allowed this not evil? Then why shouldn’t we say so?”

Reagan’s condemnation, while not politically noteworthy, serves to remind us about the legacy of the Cold War. It also serves as a reminder that, when faced with other governments that were committing similar crimes against their own people in the name of ideology, Reagan was suspiciously quiet. For almost fifty years, the black and “coloured” population of South Africa--the majority of the population--suffered under apartheid, which involved forced imprisonment, land reassignments, restricted voting rights, no legislative representations, restrictions on marriage, whites-only employment, the introduction of a police state through states of emergency, and the criminalization of protests  As a Stanford University report notes, “The penalties imposed on political protest, even non-violent protest, were severe. During the states of emergency which continued intermittently until 1989, anyone could be detained without a hearing by a low-level police official for up to six months. Thousands of individuals died in custody, frequently after gruesome acts of torture. Those who were tried were sentenced to death, banished, or imprisoned for life, like Nelson Mandela.” [29] The white (Afrikaner) population, which made up 10-20% of the national population, owned upwards of 90% of the land, earned 75% of the national income, and had an infant mortality rate of only 2.7%, as there was an average of one doctor for every 400 people in 1978; the black and coloured population, however, suffered an infant mortality rate between 20-40%, as there was only one doctor for every 44,000 people. [29] According to a 1997 report by the Human Rights Committee, apartheid was responsible for “14,000 deaths and 22,000 casualties...between 1990-1994 in South Africa due to political violence,” with 173 of those deaths “:believed to be acts of state-sponsered assasinations [sic] carried out by ultra-rightwing paramilitaries of key figures in the black homeland government and political parties” and  “an average of 460 deaths per month occuring [sic] in the 10 months before the election [of Nelson Mandela] in 1994.” [30]

Yes, we should remember the energy Reagan put into speaking out against Communism. But his advocacy for the the people of the Soviet Union to speak out freely, have liberty, and live without fear seems almost hollow when we understand his silence for those who themselves suffered for decades under a totalitarian rule fueled by an ideology based in bigotry, prejudice, and violence. By the 1980s, speaking out against the Soviet Union was almost standard practice for American presidents--it was not a brave thing to do. But not speaking out against apartheid, not taking a stand or committing billions to fighting the evils of that system, was downright cowardly.

11. Belief in the Individual

Paul Kengor begins the final chapter of his book with a marked comparison between Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama over the topic of the individual, deriding Obama for his strident and oft-spoken belief in “collective action”--that is, the strength of the community over the individual to affect social change and nurture progress. As far as Kengor is concerned, Reagan’s belief in the individual--his or her rights to live freely, benefit from liberty, and pursue happiness--surpasses any abiding trust our current president may have in a collective movement. Much of Kengor’s rhetoric here is couched in religion, just as much of Reagan’s was, as well--a belief that “all men are created equal by a loving God who has blessed us with freedom.” And yet, in advocating for the one instead of the many, Kengor is violating not only a basic principle of government--doing the most good for the most number of people--but also of the very same faith he so fervently extols.

What Kengor doesn’t understand is that an awareness and compassion for the collective society is not an ideal inherent to communism or socialism; instead, it is a prime Christian ideal, a belief in not only loving thy neighbor as thyself but acting on that love. A belief only in the individual is a selfish belief, and one that does little to promote a healthy Christian relationship with our world; if we concern ourselves only with our own wants and wishes--our own bank accounts, our own homes, our own jobs, our own futures--we do so at great risk to our society and the democratic principles behind it. When Obama and the Democrats advocate for universally available health care, they do so because a healthy and insured population is good collectively:  our neighbors are safe from illness and bankruptcy, and our own health-care costs remain low because we do not have to pay for the emergency care for our country’s uninsured millions. (This will also bring down the federal budget over time, which also benefits the collective us.) When the Obama administration proposes new air standards, environmental regulations, and alternative energies, they do so because we would benefit collectively:  everyone will breathe clean air and drink clean water, which would keep us healthy and out of hospitals, and everyone saves money when gas prices skyrocket while also coexisting with the very same natural world God created for us. When the Obama administration advocates for better educational standards, he does so because it is good collectively:  ensuring every child receives the same rigorous learning, regardless of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, location, religion, or ideology. Well-educated children means well-educated adults, and those same adults become our doctors, nurses, teachers, policemen, firefighters, judges, and even politicians.

There is a place for the individual in society, yes, especially when we talk about social justice--those brave few who stand up against the currents to fight for what’s right rather than that’s easy or what’s popular. However, those individuals do not succeed unless the collective us stands behind them and fights, for there is power in numbers. Reagan would never have succeeded had he not been supported by millions, all of them part of the collective us, and as someone who owed his entire career to that same ever-changing citizenry, he owed it to the collective millions to do right by them. The ideals of America require nothing less.


In the end, despite the divide over how we perceive him today, Reagan was not a bad president. Everything that violates our understanding of Reagan as a “conservative” Republican--his raising of taxes, his inability to change abortion laws, his low church attendance, his unclear attitude towards gay rights and gay people--is not unique to him, nor to any other president. Other presidents raised taxes, like Reagan did, while decrying the injustice of high taxes; other presidents ignored the oppression of minority groups in our country, as Reagan did; other presidents spoke jingoistically while doing very little to influence foreign affairs, just as Reagan did; other presidents shirked religion, just as Reagan did; other presidents signed laws or advocated policies that went against what would some day be considered their inscrutable core beliefs, just as Reagan did; other presidents bemoaned the size of government while signing legislation to expand it, just as Reagan did. Nothing about Reagan, including his supposedly conservative beliefs--the same beliefs that now make him a figure worthy of adulation, worship, and revisionism among his most ardent followers--make him exceptional, which is perhaps the most egregious myth that has been rendered about Reagan. In the end, when everything about Reagan has been reconsidered and reevaluated, it becomes clear that there is one incontrovertible fact about him:  Ronald Reagan was an average president. He had his successes, he had his faults, and in the end they present us with a man who didn’t ascend to the expectations of his loyal followers, past and present. And this, sad to say, is the one fact that much of our nation cannot accept, above all else.

*The Iran Contra Scandal, while costing others their jobs, did not result in any long-lasting effects on Reagan, leading to his christening as "the Teflon President."

1. Shane, Scott. "The KGB, Father of Perestroika". Dismantling Utopia: How Information Ended the Soviet Union. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1994. 105-106.

2. Parker, Ashley. “As the Obamas Celebrate Christmas, Rituals of Faith Become Less Visible.” The New York Times Company. 28 December 2013. Web. 25 April 2014.

3. Reagan, Ronald. "Remarks at Georgetown's Bicentennial Convocation, October 1, 1988." (As cited by Paul Kengor)

4. Raines, Howell. “REAGAN AND MONDALE DEBATE; CLASH ON DEFICIT, SOCIAL ISSUES.” The New York Times Company. 8 October 1984. Web. 25 April 2014.

6. Davis, Patty. “‘The Reagans,’ From One of Them.” Time, Inc. 4 November 2003. Web. 25 April 2014.,8599,536971,00.html.

It should be noted that Patti Davis' comments are anecdotal and not concrete, and Davis is often at odds with others on her father's legacy. However, seeing as how Kengor is basing his entire chapter on a supposition that he himself is pushing across 30 years, an anecdote more than suffices as a response.

7. Weiss, Debra Cassens. “Reagan Diary Says O’Connor Was Anti-Abortion.” American Bar Association. 2 May 2007. Web. 25 April 2014.

8. United States Supreme Court. “Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.” Legal Information Institute of Cornell University. 29 June 1992. Web. 25 April 2014.

9. “NOW with Bill Moyers. Transcript. November 12, 2004.” Public Affairs Television. 12 November 2004. Web. 25 April 2014.

10. Reagan, Ronald. “Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida.” N.p. 8 March 1983. Web. 25 April 2014.

11. Noguera, Pedro A. and Cohen, Robert. “Remembering Reagan's Record on Civil Rights and the South African Freedom Struggle.” The Nation. 11 February 2011. Web. 25 April 2014.

12. Baker, Peter. “Senate Passes Arms Control Treaty With Russia, 71-26.” The New York Times Company. 22 December 2010. Web. 25 April 2014.

13. Scalia, Antonin. “Constitutional Interpretation the Old Fashioned Way.” Center for Individual Freedom. 14 March 2005. Web. 25 April 2014.

14. “The HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the United States.” Kaiser Family Foundation. 7 April 2014. Web. 25 April 2014.

15. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “HIV and AIDS--United States, 1981-2000.” Department of Health and Human Services. N.d. Web. 25 April 2014.

16. “The President’s News Conference:  September 17, 1985.” N.p. 17 September 1985. Web. 25 April 2014.

17. Schneider, Greg and Merle, Renae. “Reagan’s Defense Buildup Bridged Military Eras.” The Washington Post. 9 June 2004. Web. 25 April 2014.

18. “Accumulated Gross Federal Debt.” Christopher Chantrill. N.d. Web. 25 April 2014.

19. “Federal Budget Detail.” Christopher Chantrill. N.d. Web. 25 April 2014.

20. Johnson, Judith A. and Coleman, Sharon. “AIDS Funding for Federal Government Programs:
FY1981--FY2006.” Congressional Research Service/The Library of Congress. 23 March 2005. Web. 25 April 2014.

Aside from this increase in funding, credit must also be given to an unlikely hero in the fight against AIDS:  Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. A Presbyterian and unabashed conservative--his nomination was opposed by left-leaning politicians and women’s groups because of his political beliefs--Koop also possessed a strong sense of ethics and personal responsibility, and he himself wrote the Surgeon General report on AIDS which, among other things, encouraged the use of preventative birth control like condoms and advocated selfless compassion when helping friends and family who were infected (“No one will require more support and more love than your friend with AIDS. Feel free to offer what you can, without fear of becoming infected”). So determined was Koop to spread this message--one that had gone almost unspoken since 1981--that he mailed copies of his report to every American, enraging conservatives and liberals alike but guaranteeing that the public was fully informed. (

21. Woodhill, Louis. “The Mystery of Income Inequality Broken Down to One Simple Chart.” Forbes. 28 March 2013. Web. 25 April 2014.

22. Noah, Timothy. “The United States of Inequality:  Can We Blame Income Inequality on Republicans?” The Slate Group. 9 September 2010. Web. 25 April 2014.

23. Sahadi, Jeanne. “Taxes: What people forget about Reagan.” Cable News Network. 12 September 2010. Web. 25 April 2014.
24. Reagan, Ronald. “Remarks on Signing a Statement on Minority Business Enterprise Development: 17 December 1982.” N.p. 17 December 1982. Web. 25 April 2014.

25. Danziger, Sheldon and Haveman, Robert. “The Reagan administration’s budget cuts: Their impact on the poor.” N.p. N.d. Web. 25 April 2014.

26. Reagan, Ronald. “Radio Address to the Nation on Defense Spending:  February 19, 1983.” Gerhard Peters. 2014. Web 25 April 2014.

27. Gattuso, James L. “Reigning in the Regulators:  How Does President Bush Measure Up?” The Heritage Foundation. 2014. Web. 25 April 2014.

28. Lebow, Richard Ned and Stein, Janice Gross. “Reagan and the Russians.” The Atlantic Monthly. February 1994. Web. 25 April 2014.

29. “The History of Apartheid in South Africa.” N.p. N.d. Web 25 April 2014.

30. “Land Degradation and Violence in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa:  A Legacy of Apartheid.” N.p. N.d. Web 25 April 2014.

This source cites info from here:
“MOST POLITICAL DEATHS OCCURRED IN RUN-UP TO 1994 ELECTION: HRC.” South African Press Association. 1997. Web. 25 April 2014.