Dime On The Dollar

"Fascism was really the basis for the New Deal." - Ronald Reagan on the policies of FDR.

By Dom Stasi

12/07/03: (ICH) The Reagan-consecrators are at it again. Fresh from their "victory" over the soap store known as CBS, there is suddenly a move afoot to replace the image of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the US 10-cent piece: the Dime. Not satisfied to have duped their political puppets ito squandering America's public money and our children's financial security (the only kind of security a government can provide) the newly-emergent right, drunk with power, now wants to change that money's appearance as well. I suppose they figure since they will very soon own most of it, its looks should more accurately reflect their self-image. Given their way, the Reagan-consecrators' along with their Reap-public-con stooges in congress will no doubt persuade the public flock that a new profile should be etched into every thin dime minted from now on. Said profile should be that of their beatified former president, poster boy, and legend in his own time, Ronald Reagan. 

Since I'm old enough to remember the Mercury head dime, which is the predecessor to the FDR head dime, a question comes to mind. Does this proposal to put Ronald Reagan's albeit handsome countenance on the dime, herald a return by the US Treasury Department to their old Mercury's-head philosophy? You know, the philosophy of embellishing the US 10-cent coin with the image of a famous character from mythology. For the populist Ronald Reagan character extant in the minds of these child-like delusionists - the Reagan-consecrators - is nothing, if not fabricated, idealized and filled with more balony than a barnyard. 

Just who are these Reagan-consecrators, you ask? Well, it's mostly a group of conservative Americans, led by tax activist and government hater, Grover Norquist.1 Norquist is the guy who, inspired by Reagan's irresponsible tax policies, is now behind much of George W. Bush's criminally-insane tax policies. In aggregate these policies have bankrupted America. He's also the person who named the Estate Tax, the Death Tax. Brought to public prominence by his hero, Ronald Reagan, Grover has committed himself and his organization, the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, to the task of insuring that a major monument to Ronald Reagan and one bearing the former president's name, is dedicated in every state in the union. You know what I mean - ubiquitous monuments - like the Saddam monuments that graced every corner of Iraq, and the Hitler visages that reminded well behaved Nazis that they were safe from primitive evildoers under daddy Adolph's watchful eyes. Icons to the icons, they should be visible everywhere a true believer might cast his glance. These kooks love that stuff… the Reagan-consecrators hate government but they seem idolize governors. I don't pretend to understand. 

But despite that, and despite that there are very few initiatives undertaken by the Reagan-consecrators with which I might agree, what I do understand is that there is some basis in logic for this dime thing. More on that later. What troubles me is, I am reasonably confident that there are even fewer things about the practices of the Reagan-consecrators with which Ronald Reagan would agree. For, whatever else Ronald Reagan might or might not be or ever have been, he was never an egoist. Neither was he an egotist. He simply did not and does not self-aggrandize. This personal attributes can be confirmed by anyone who's ever really known the man or ever worked with him in either entertainment or government or even labor relations. Unlike the current White House squatter, Reagan did what he thought was right, and what he considered was best for America. He was not motivated by that which he thought would make him more popular or make his owners richer. Ironically, doing what he thought was right, coupled with his natural charm, made him immensely popular. Much of what he thought was right, also tuned out to be wrong. But popularity and competence notwithstanding, tributes to himself were not high on Ronald Reagan's list of priorities. What was high on his list was utilizing the enormous power provided him by his popularity. And frankly, the ends to which the power of Reagan's presidency were turned, are exactly what make this "get Roosevelt off the dime" thing - though perhaps logical - also inappropriate and disrespectful. For no president did more to obviate the national economic structure and protection of personal liberties fundamental to, and successfully instituted under the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, than did Ronald Reagan. This specific tribute - this dime thing - is deliberate and intended primarily to diminish the legacy and memory of FDR, an undeniably great - and undeniably Democratic - president in the minds of today's voting citizenry. 

But don't tell that to the Reagan-consecrators unless you're prepared for fight or flight. Because this cheap trick of changing the dime, is nothing more than another mean-spirited screwball conservative-loony vendetta against a president they abhor. To them, FDR was the antithesis of Ronald Reagan. So, as always, they're promoting an agenda. As always, it's their agenda. It's certainly not Ronald Reagan's agenda. He does not have an agenda. Which is exactly what cuts to the heart of the matter. In point of fact, these loonies care very little about what a healthy, lucid Ronald Reagan might have thought of their agenda. In point of fact, the Reagan-consecrators impress me in the same manner as do the ghouls who make their living by distorting history in order that they might sell their personal image of every marketable legendary figure. The Reagan-consecrators have a convenient disregard for history and count on their supporters having a similarly complete ignorance of it. And they damned sure don't care about what's right for America. As such, the Reagan-consecrators are no different from the legions of carrion-feeders pecking at the bones of every saleable legend from Elvis Presley to Jesus of Nazareth. The difference is, these Reagan-consecrators haven't the patience, decency, or respect to await their object-of-interest's mortal demise before fabricating his immortal legacy. But, since the former president can neither comment, denounce, nor bask in the "tributes" being bestowed by his consecrators, they are free to use him in any way that serves their current and immediate interests. Simply stated, to their minds, Ronald Reagan is dead enough. 

Perhaps, in tribute to them then, we should also consider replacing the eagle on the back of our currency with a vulture. Since, thanks to the policies instituted by their hero and the army of screwballs he introduced to government service, most of us will see very little of that currency in the future, so why should we care what it looks like?

But back to the point. Historical tribute has and should be accorded by those with an honest sense of history. Seems obvious enough. So, let's take a peek at the Reagan-consecrators' sense of history. My favorite example is this one. When beginning their successful endeavor to rename Washington National Airport after their man, the rationale primary among those cited by the consecrators was this: The airport in our nation's capitol should be named for a popular and beloved American president. I would agree that the airport at our capitol should be named for a popular and beloved president. But, it should also be named for a popular and non-controversial one free of contemporary political symbolism. Because just like the city it serves, the District of Columbia belongs to no state and no party. It is the city of our nation, the only one so distinguished. It is a city of all Americans. Thus the extant name National Airport. But as far as naming it for a popular president as well, the airport these characters were obsessed with renaming was already called Washington National Airport - Washington National Airport! Am I missing something here? Was there not a popular President named Wa…? Ah, well. And, oh, by the way, it was so named back in 1941 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Hmmm. Perhaps they do have a sense of history after all. 

This begs the question, are these Reagan-consecrators the sort of historically objective people who should be bestowing our nation's tributes in these tumultuous and not-yet-historically defined times? Of course they are not.

All of which brings us back to the image on the dime. You'll no doubt be surprised to learn that this time I see some abstract logic behind the consecrators' choice of both icon, and image. Perhaps Reagan belongs on the dime: specifically Reagan and specifically on the dime. But before you draw any conclusions, come along with me as we examine exactly why I might feel this way. Perhaps you, too, will see the logic behind this arguably worthy tribute. 

What determines tribute, is legacy. So let's consider presidential legacy. Specifically, since we're talking about money, let's consider the fiduciary legacy left to us by America's most recent chief executives. As I wrote in an article back in March, Richard Nixon's resignation came at a time when our country's annual federal budget was essentially a balanced budget. Call that a good thing. 

The subsequent administrations of Gerald Ford/Jimmy Carter took Nixon's balanced budget to a $100 million deficit. That means, during their brief combined tenure, the federal government started spending substantially more than it was taking in on an annual basis. Though it was considered chump change, even at the time, it was also the germ of a peacetime deficit-spending policy that would characterize forthcoming administrations. 

The first of these was that of Ronald Reagan. When Ronald Reagan left office, he left America $150 billion in the hole.2 In one splendiferous move, Reagan slammed the door on chump change economics forever, leaving us with the largest peacetime deficit in our nation's history. (For details on these policies see Direct Deposit, by Dom Stasi, archived at this site)

Sophomoric economic dichotomies notwithstanding, few would say this president was not about charting new territory. They even gave it a name: Reaganomics. He imposed an asymmetrical tax cut, which pacified the masses, while diverting the bulk of reductions to the wealthiest taxpayers.2 In isolation such a policy can be argued as equitable. It's an argument posed ad-nauseam by TV economists: the rich pay more taxes to begin with; wealth trickles down, so on. But economic theories are only as viable as their execution. Reagan's execution was irrational. Because while sharply reducing the government's income, he and his administration continued to spend the public's money like a bunch of heroine addicts. When Ronald Reagan was pressed for an answer to this apparent fiscal dichotomy, the chief executive of the United States, custodian of our treasure, orator extraordinaire said this. "A pessimist gets handed a box. He looks inside and sees only manure. An optimist gets the same box. He looks inside and says, 'With all this manure, there must be a pony in here too!" 

Despite this mountain of debt, Ronald Reagan found $5 billion American dollars for funding Saddam Hussein. That's the money, Saddam used to build his nerve and chemical weapons arsenal, the "WMD" subsequently destroyed by the UN inspectors. 

Words begin to fail me at this point. But onward, ever onward. 

While few would dispute that spending $150 billion more than you take in is a splendid bit of philandering, we had not yet reckoned with Ronald Reagan's greatest contribution to our national economy: the Bushes and the neo-con parasites I call The Bush League. George Bush the elder, doubled Reagan's best. What it took Ronald Reagan eight years to accomplish, his successor did in a mere four. Sure, Reagan's tax cuts, paired with an anemic economy left Bush One at a disadvantage going in. But he clearly exacerbated the problem by catching his tail in his own ill considered "Read my lips. No new taxes," trap. The deficit grew to $300 billion.2 Now, as any economist on Fox News or MSNBC will quickly tell you, though deficit spending builds debt, it is not necessarily a bad thing. In isolation, debt is neither good nor bad. It's simply debt. If, as with the household budgeting practice of most Americans, money is needed for a necessity such as a home mortgage, a car, a school loan, medical bills, whatever, we readily borrow that money. But generally such indebtedness is undertaken in anticipation of a favorable return and ability to repay. Like most intelligent, rational mammals, we accept that resource planning is fundamental to survival. Eating ourselves when the food money runs out is not consistent with rational planning. 

With Reagan - Bush-One, there was no rational plan to deal with the inevitable shortfall of deficit spending coupled with the self-imposed revenue reductions that characterized their combined tenure. They ignored, as does the current Bush administration, the implications of such deficit spending to future debt service entirely. 

The simple fact is this, by the time the first President Bush handed the reins of office to Bill Clinton by popular mandate, Reagan and his protégé had not only raised taxes by 14%, but had also plunged our nation into a $300 billion annual budget deficit. The largest in our history. 

Fortunately, during the reviled Bill Clinton's eventual eight-year tenure, we not only climbed out of that $300 billion black hole, but also accrued a $300 billion surplus. 

But I digress. 

Before Ronald Reagan left office he appointed Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court. That in turn led to Scalia appointing George W. Bush as president, despite that critical votes in heavily Democratic precincts were not yet counted, and his boy was already 500,000 votes short of a popular mandate. Then, despite his campaigning as the fiscally-conservative, small-government advocate, George W. Bush the president promptly spent the entire Clinton surplus in world-record time. He did it by building the largest government in the history of the world.3 He then spent yet another $400 billion we had not accrued by chasing Osama and Saddam, thus putting us back into debt. 

The tax policies of George W. Bush have resulted from his being advised and persuaded by none other than Grover Norquist, leader of the Reagan-consecrators. Many of Bush's other financial and policy advisors are Reagan leftovers returned from exile under Clinton too. Under their guidance, in something just under six years, the federal government will have to come up with about a trillion dollars a year, swelling to $4- trillion a year in about six years.4 That's money it simply does not have. If not collected in taxes, it will have to be borrowed - or printed. So figure a trillion or two in interest we'll also have to borrow every year against the deficit and burgeoning debt service. Do the math and you'll have your kids' future tax environment pretty well mapped out. Add to that the growing joblessness and the ability to pay down that debt quickly moves out of reach. What does that mean? Well do the math and you'll see what it means. We are about to go bankrupt.5 

That brings me back to something I'd promised at the start of this article. I promised to relate why I might think putting Ronald Reagan's face on the dime was logical. 

Bankruptcy, that's why. 

Bankruptcy law relieves failed executives of their responsibility to repay most of any debt they've accrued while trying unsucsessfully to run an enterprise. Under law, a bankrupt entity is obligated to repay only ten cents of each dollar it owes. It's why bankruptcy is called "The Dime On The Dollar Law." So, as the architect of America's bankruptcy, what better tribute to Ronald Reagan than putting his face on the coin that represents fiscal failure: the Dime? 

Every time I and every other thinking American cast our eyes upon a shiney new dime, we'll be reminded of exactly which president bankrupted our country! 

Hey, buddy, can you spare a dime?

Footnotes and References:

1. Grover Norquist:

Prjected Deficit and Debt: New York Times, 4/9/2003: "No New Tax Cuts," by John Kerry, Sam Nunn, P.G. Peterson, Sam Rudman, Paul Volcker.

3. Homeland security costs: Business Week, 3/14/2003: "Watch Out, The Deficit Is Growing"

4. National Debt: The 2003 Federal Budget:

5. Fiscal Doomsday:

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