The Blame-Reagan Shift: From the Media to the Historians
by L. Brent Bozell III
October 9, 1997
Throughout the 1980s and beyond, news media liberals blamed
Ronald Reagan for everything from flammable children's pajamas to earthquakes.
While the attacks never stop, they did abate in 1994, when Reagan's
Alzheimer's disease became public.
Now the battle over the Reagan legacy has entered a new and
far more important dimension. The authors of "history" are hard at
work, specifically encyclopedias and textbooks, distorting the Reagan record
for generations to come.
Try the Encyclopedia Britannica: "In 1981, Congress
passed most of the President's proposals, drastically cutting nondefense
spending and approving a reduction in personal income taxes...massive budget
deficits resulted from the tax cuts."
The Encyclopedia Americana flat-out lies! "His
administration succeeded in dismantling much of the welfare state and many of
the regulations on big business that had been instituted in the 1930s and
expanded in the 1960s....Massive federal deficits piled up, however - a
reflection of tax cutting, greater defense spending and other economic
Collier's Encyclopedia baldly declares: "Reagan
persuaded Congress to enact a series of tax rate cuts that mainly benefited
upper-income taxpayers. To offset some of the revenue losses, he obtained
severe cuts in spending for 'social' items, including Social Security, job
training, college loan guarantees, aid to cities, food subsidies and medical
care for the poor, disability payments for the handicapped, day-care centers
for children, and geriatric centers."
A simple look at a Statistical Abstract would show now none
of this garbage is true. Tax revenues lost? Individual income tax revenues
increased from $286 billion in 1981 to $349 billion in 1986. Overall tax
revenues increased from $599 billion in 1981 to $769 billion in 1986. R.R.'s
21 million new jobs saw to that.
Drastic cuts in social spending? Social Security rose from
$118.5 billion in 1980 to $287.5 billion in 1992. In the same time span,
Medicaid went from $14 billion to $67.8 billion; food stamps, from $9.1
billion to $21.8 billion, AFDC, from $6.9 billion to $15.1 billion. From 1980
to 1992, defense spending rose 30 percent, while social spending rose 44
Encyclopedia accounts of Reagan may be reprehensible, but
some textbooks are even worse. In the conservative weekly Human Events, Peter
LaBarbera and Allan Ryskind found an incredibly sloppy mess called "A
History of Us" by Joy Hakim. Some distortions are right out of the DNC
playbook: "Supply-side economics didn't work. Reagan was spending more
money on arms and weapons than had ever been spent before, and the
government's income from taxes wasn't keeping up." Some statements just
aren't true: "The 80s, when he presided, were a high-living time. The
rich got very rich, and the poor got much poorer." Census Bureau data -
those natty numbers again - show that average family income increased in every
fifth of income earners from 1982 to 1989.
Other statements were just goofy: "This president was
about to make some radical changes in the nation's economy, but he did it in
such a pleasant manner that at first hardly anyone noticed." Did this
woman spend the 1980s in a cocoon?
And then there were the ridiculous mistakes that show this
woman has no idea what she's doing, and rather than writing school textbooks,
ought to be in school: "The deficit became GIGANTIC. It rose from $58
billion in 1981 (when Reagan became president) to $220 billion in 1986, to $2.3
trillion in 1988 (when Reagan's presidency ended)." (Capitals and
italics hers.) Wow. Makes you wonder what the debt was? Hakim makes
no mention that in the last three Reagan years, the deficit dropped into the
$150 million range. The actual deficit in 1988 was $155.2 billion. That beats
the first few deficits of the Clinton years.
Don't dismiss this ridiculous nonsense. Hakim recently
claimed that sales from the factually-challenged Oxford University Press
"are close to 1 million copies." Hakim defends her top-of-her-head
observations as scholarship because "my aim in writing the books was to
get boring textbooks out of our schools...Children, like the rest of us in the
Information Age, want to read about things that really happened." (Insert
Despite the sad spectacle of Hakim's sloppy work, her
ten-book series is touted across the country to school administrators and
home-schooling parents. The Los Angeles Times declared the book with the
Reagan tripe in it "caps off the liveliest, most realistic, most
well-received American history series ever written for children."
The Human Events authors note that the
"conservative" Weekly Standard recently published a piece by David
Warren Saxe calling "The History of Us" the "excellent new
history series," and wonder if anyone there bothered to read it. Judging
by title Bill Kristol's call for conservatives to salute the big-government
policies of FDR and JFK, I think the answer is...yes.
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