The Cost of a Life – Part Two
December 3rd, 2008 by Sonja

When LightHusband and I started dating and for the first part of our married life he was a drummer.  He played the snare drum with the Third US Infantry Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps; the US Army’s Honor Guard for the President.  About six months after our first date, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated for the second time.  This lead to an interesting juxtaposition for the two of us.

LightHusband was scheduled to march in Reagan’s inaugural parade in the lead unit.  I was busily looking for protest to march in.  And I was fairly vocal about it.

Ronald Reagan was a very popular President and his legacy has much to be admired, but we are now beginning to realize the one major flaw in what he left us:  trickle down economics.   I knew then that any idea that people could be willingly parted from their money and it would somehow trickle down to those with none was ludicrous.  Even given the tenets of capitalism, it would never work.  I was determined to protest it.  LightHusband, of course, had his orders which were to march in the parade.

Neither event happened.  The weather prevented all outdoor activities that year as it was unseasonably cold and we all celebrated the night before by drinking into the wee hours at a local watering hole.  I seem to remember that Blue Hawaiians featured prominently in my repertoire that evening.

Ronald Reagan was duly sworn in without public protest or public fanfare of the outdoors variety.  He continued his presidency for four more years without a hitch.  Not that anyone anticipated a hitch, of course.

During his presidency I was vigilant for the evil I was sure that was to come.  I was certain that all sorts of horrible economic woes were about to befall us because of Reagan’s ill-thought-out plans and designs.


Nothing happened.  In fact, we slowly but surely began to dig ourselves out of the rut.  And by the 1990’s our economy was in a boom again.  The Dow didn’t know a ceiling.  Unemployment was low.  Housing starts were high.  All economic indices were that we were good.  It appeared that trickle-down economics did work.  Or at least some version of it.

The trouble is that trickle-down economics rewards greed.  So does capitalism (inherently).  So we find ourselves in 2008 with an economy on the rocks and now we are looking to the government to bail out the very corporations which stumbled and fell in the first place.

It took a long time for ugliness inherent in trickle-down economics to become apparent, but now we are seeing the fruit ripen on the vine.  What is that fruit?

–Customers who trample a temporary employee to death at a Wal-Mart so they can get the best prices for Christmas …

… and then sue the store for inadequate security.

–Executives of the auto industry who fly individual private jets to Washington DC  to ask for money to bail out their companies.  I understand the need for private planes … but did the idea of plane pooling never occur to these men?  No one is that important.

–AIG receiving a multi–billion dollar bailout, then taking its staff on a multi-million dollar retreat.

These are well known and well discussed examples.  But they are examples of greed run amok.  Greed at the top and greed at the bottom.  We are all greedy … every one of us.  We all want what we do not have.  We look over the fence and see green, green grass that must surely taste sweeter than the dusty dry stalks at our feet.  Inherently, we are told, that’s a good thing.  Go for that greener grass … you deserve it.  You’ve earned it.

No one ever thought to ask what expense it came at.

4 Responses  
  • K.W. Leslie writes:
    December 3rd, 20088:53 pmat

    People forget: Reagan was an economics major. He believed in supply-side (“trickle-down”) economics because he had seen it demonstrated all his life, particularly in the movie business: Economics is best driven by the producers, not the public. The public either embraces or rejects what the producers make, but the initial step has to be made by the producers. And in order for them to make those steps, you have to unfetter them.

    Of course, it only works up to a point. You don’t want a command economy like the Soviets had; but neither do you want unrestricted capitalism like we had in the American Industrial Revolution. You need a balance. At the time Reagan was elected, there was, you might recall, an 80 percent tax bracket for individuals. That bracket encourages one of two things: Convince politicians to look the other way from your tax shelters, or don’t produce. Neither is good.

    Republicans, however, don’t know where to stop deregulating, and after 12 years of them running amok in the Congress, we had to hit this point eventually. Wild market swings, lack of trust in the system, banks constantly on the verge of failure: It’s like the New Deal never happened. ‘Cause the weasels finally undid it. Shouldn’t surprise anyone… except for those who, like Republicans, don’t learn from history.

  • Maria writes:
    December 3rd, 20089:50 pmat

    “I was certain that all sorts of horrible economic woes were about to befall us because of Reagan’s ill-thought-out plans and designs.


    Nothing happened. ”

    Sonja, I have to disagree… something did happen pretty early in the Reagan administration: the number of homeless skyrocketed, food pantries and food banks became the way the poor made it to the end of the month, the number of children living in poverty grew. In short, the growing gap between rich and poor pretty much started with the idea of “trickle down” and “supply side” economics. I guess it just didn’t pay to be on the wrong side of the trickle.

  • Sonja writes:
    December 4th, 20089:03 amat

    Kent & Maria … thanks for adding context to this post. I really mean that. You’ve both added a great deal with your bits.

    Kent, I always appreciate your depth and knowledge on these subjects. I really don’t when you have time to sleep!

    Maria, thanks for the reminder about the homeless shelters and food banks. I’d forgotten that. It was only with some tweaking of supply-side economics that need for those services dropped a bit in the boom of the 90’s and the early part of this decade.

    But on the whole, the issue is the same. It has fostered greed the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Robber Baron age in the late 19th century.

  • Brad Seraphin writes:
    December 10th, 20088:51 pmat

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