by Tommi Avicolli Mecca

In declaring February 6 “Ronald Reagan Day,” California Governor Jerry Brown recently said, “On this 103rd anniversary of his birth, we remember not only his most celebrated achievements – his successful diplomacy with Mikhail Gorbachev and the economic recovery that occurred under his presidency. We also remember the turbulent years of his governorship, during which he proved his ability to manage the affairs of the state, and earlier, the talent and the skill he brought to his work in one of our state’s most renowned and beloved industries.”

There are lots of things you forgot to mention, Jerry Brown, none of them flattering to the ex-president who made callousness to the needy a national virtue. Here are just a handful of them:

As a gay man, I will always remember Ronald Reagan as the president who refused to utter the word AIDS until thousands and thousands of people (and many of my friends) had died. Though he opposed the 1978 California Brigg’s Initiative which would have banned queers from being teachers, he was anything but pro-gay during his two terms, making anti-gay jokes and criticizing the LGBT movement  for “asking for recognition and acceptance of an alternative lifestyle which I do not believe society can condone, nor can I.” 

Reagan cut taxes for the rich, but raised them for the rest of us eleven times in his eight years in office. His gift to the rich left the country with a $2.8 trillion debt by the time he left the White House. With their tax breaks, the rich shipped jobs overseas to save money, while Reagan continued to tout his bullshit line that they would create new jobs here in this country with the added revenues from the tax breaks. Workers further got the royal shaft from the “great communicator,” who fired striking air traffic controllers.

 Reagan’s administration failed to address redlining of black neighborhoods by banks (even though it had evidence of the practice), cut aid to local governments by a whooping 60%, slashed the hell out of funding for public transportation, public housing, Section 8 and Community Development Block Grants, created the lie of the “welfare queen” living off of the federal government, characterized the homeless as being without housing “by choice,” and deregulated the savings and loan industry so that it could speculate to its heart’s content on commercial real estate (and eventually would be bailed out). 

On the international front, Reagan’s administration illegally funded the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua in flagrant defiance of Congress and provided training and tons of money for Osama bin Laden and his comrades in Afghanistan who would, almost 20 years later, attack the U.S. using the very skills they learned from the CIA. 

Not that many presidents in my lifetime have stellar legacies, but Reagan’s is particularly vile. What were you thinking, Jerry Brown? 

Obviously, you weren’t thinking at all.

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