More than most U.S. presidents, Ronald Reagan was a myth–and I mean that in the non-disparaging sense. A story was created around the real man, and it came to represent policies or ideology put into practice. On the economic front, this amounted to limiting government’s growth, at least in many areas (middle-class transfer programs such as Social Security were an exception).
Because the myth was so strong–redirecting American politics for decades–it has now become an obsession of the progressive Left to undo Reaganism as a historical force. In a piece at the new webzine Discourse, published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, I examine the recent documentary appearing on the Showtime streaming network, “The Reagans.”
I fault the makers of the show for failing to produce much hard evidence for their sweeping economic indictment of Reagan as having ushered in an era of dramatic inequality in the U.S. (I don’t get into the debate over whether inequality is of itself an adverse condition.) Now, even in a four-hour total program, a video presentation is not going to venture deeply into data analysis, I recognize that. But the numbers are important in understanding whether the shifts occurring in our nation (and world) in this era are fundamentally of a domestic political or global economic nature. I believe they are greatly the latter, although I concede (in fact, mostly celebrate) that policies such as Reagan’s played a part. It is now an easy, and sloppy, bit for polemicists of the Left to ascribe outcomes they don’t like to a symbol from those times–when many of the trends they decry preceded his time in office or have accelerated long after his immediate wake.
I also object to seemingly historical documentaries, on ostensibly neutral platforms, being used for score settling. “The Reagans” has a lot of well-crafted (if adversarial) story telling, but I don’t think the economic installment does enough justice to truth.
Here’s the link to my piece: https://www.discoursemagazine.com/economics/2021/01/27/blaming-the-gipper/