Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reagan the Ultimate Enemy

Worshipers of President Ronald Reagan always act surprised when I bring up the idea that it was under Reagan's rule that the US dropped its interest in US manufacturing capacity and adopted the world economy approach to production. It was a full quarter of a decade plus a year ago that Reagan won his first presidential election. Time doesn't always bring 20/20 hindsight, especially not when Reagan worshipers envision him as the man who once again made America strong. Reagan may have focused on making America the world's dominant military force, but the other side of Reagan's legacy (now forgotten) is that he was the one who undermined America's manufacturing capacity. With the full support of his conservative base he undid organized labor here in the United States.
What we easily forget is that for a decade prior to Reagan's presidency the United States struggled with high inflation rates. Conservatives blamed it on the high cost of labor. Nixon attempted price controls but that effort went bust with runaway energy prices fueled by imagined oil shortages. The Carter years saw cripplingly high interest rates. Reagan's answer was twofold, deregulation of American corporate power and the breaking down of trade barriers. Both initiatives were aimed at bringing down prices, fighting inflation, and both were successful towards that end. But both led to what we have today, global trade at the expense of the American manufacturing worker. Both led to outsourcing of our production capacity to the lowest bidder. Both led to the deunionization of America's workforce. Both opposed organized labor and favored corporate profit.
Ronald Reagan's economic policies aimed at curbing inflation led to the world in which we now live, a world where Americans perceive the United States as the dominant world military and economic power, as a force dominant over the entire world's resources. It is with this view that America invaded the Middle East to secure its oil resources. It is with this view that America seeks to establish a ring of military strength encircling Asia. It is with this view that John Bolton seeks to reinvent the UN to serve America's worldwide interests. And it is because of this view that the world increasingly sees the United States as the greatest threat to peace, the driving force behind a new need for the defensive militarization of any rising economy.
Ronald Reagan conservativism didn't simply end the Cold War. It began a new one! This one we can't win without Orwell's Big Brother. Ronald Reagan was reelected in 1984. How ironic yet appropriate that symbolism now is in our New World Order. How sad that Reagan's conservative Walmart economics, his forgotten legacy, will crush our nation.
But I should be fair. There is no way in the world that I would want to turn back America's production capacity to 1979. Inflation threatened productivity just as much as Reagan deregulation eventually did. It's easy to forget that the quality of American made products was falling short of the expectations of buyers. Nissan and Toyota and Nikon and Panasonic all saw sales soaring because purchasers of these Asian brands perceived and received value, reasonable quality at an affordable price. Since then American and world consumers have enjoyed seeing this value spread to many more mass produced products. In 1979 we all feared that quality would come at such a high price from America's union workers that few of us non-union workers would be able to afford it. Inflation fed that fear and it fed a downward trend in the quality of goods "Made in the USA." That trend has been reversed whether we will admit it or not. Even American manufacturers can now produce high quality at reasonable prices.
What we can't produce, though, is a surplus in the balance of trade. We can't produce for the rest of the world enough to compensate for what we purchase from them. Our response, our coping mechanism, is military domination of the world's economy and resources, the "shock and awe" approach. That is also our failure. The world will no longer tolerate colonialism, not even under the new economic world order. Eventually, encouraged by victory in Japan, Germany, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, China, Russia, North Korea, and in nations around the world once thought of as enemies of American interests, American hegemony will fail. The American economy won't be able to sustain the economic drain of military dominance.
Does anybody in Washington understand this?