The exaggerated pomp and ceremony surrounding the death of Ronald Reagan is over, but the campaign to promote the Reagan myth continues in full gear. One project is to have Reagan's profile replace Franklin Roosevelt on the
dime. The symbolism and contrast between these two presidents could not be
Roosevelt was truly a "man of the people," and this was reflected in his concept of government: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little."
Compare this with Reagan's mantra that government is the problem, and the ensuing deregulation process that gave Reagan's sponsor, corporate America, the dominant role in our society. One result is corporate control of our media, including television, radio, book and magazine publishing, movie studios, and a plethora of right-wing talk shows.
This philosophy is completely opposite to Roosevelt's democratic understanding on the role of corporations and those who own them: "The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power."
Reagan's economic policies greatly exacerbated the division of wealth in this country through his tax legislation that favored the rich and corporations. Moreover, his outlook on society initiated the "greed is good" nonsense so popular with the "me" generation. With this outlook, it 's not surprising that scores of people in the Reagan administration were indicted for criminal activity.
Roosevelt led this country through the dangerous and dark period of the "Great Depression" and through the most brutal and destructive period in human history, World War II. Roosevelt also had a vision for the future as the chief architect of the United Nations.
Reagan, in contrast, constantly ridiculed the UN, refused to pay this country's UN dues and debt, which produced a shameful period of U.S. international "bad will." Perhaps the darkest element of Reagan's term in office was his support of the brutal regimes in Latin America with their infamous "death squads." In a grotesque scene, Reagan greeted the murderous Contras rebels in the White House as "freedom fighters."
The Iran/Contra adventure was one of this country's most shameful scandals, with an arrogant Marine Lt. Colonel running amok with a secret government program in the White House basement. This was a far more impeachable offense than Nixon's Watergate scandal.
The myth spinners portray Ronald Reagan as a man of deep compassion, yet Reagan supported the deplorable Apartheid policy in South Africa. He opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and refused federal funding for the treatment of AIDS, jeopardizing the lives of millions of people.
The myth spinners want us to believe that Reagan defeated communism, but Mikhail refuted this in a speech in Washington the night before Reagan's funeral. The changes in the Soviet Union, from ending much of the official censorship to sweeping political and economic reforms, were undertaken not because of any foreign pressure or concern, Gorbachev said, but because Russia was dying under the weight of the Stalinist system.
Gorbachev also set the record straight regarding the myth that Reagan's massive military buildup forced the Soviet to retreat: "All that talk that somehow Reagan's arms race forced Gorbachev to look for some arms reductions, etc., that's not serious. The Soviet Union could have withstood any arms race. The Soviet Union could have actually decided not to build more weapons, because the weapons we had were more than enough."
Roosevelt fought against corporate control in the name of democracy. He used taxation to enhance democracy and justice. Reagan was the mouthpiece and creation of General Electric and corporate America, and wholly beholden to the rich.
As to which president was really "a Man of the People, that's easy to judge. Roosevelt's policies were a "new deal" of democracy and equality for working people, and with presidential support for unions. What Reagan provided, hidden by clever public relations, was a "raw deal" for working people, including a redistribution of their hard earned tax dollars to the rich, and a virtual war waged against unions.
Regarding the battle of the coins, Roosevelt must remain on the dime, and if real justice is served, it is Roosevelt's face that belongs on Mount Rushmore.