One day, back in the 70s, I was sitting at a bar in downtown San Francisco. I off-handedly mentioned that I’d noticed a lot more whackos on the street lately. Somebody said, “Reagan closed all the mental hospitals.” Ronnie boy was then governor of California. While the statement was not completely true, not everything one hears in a bar is. Point being that the state released a huge percentage of compromised patients.
Next door was the entrance to the Stanford, a transient hotel that actually took up most of the upper floors on that side of the street. I also worked on that block. A side alley under the hotel windows was constantly strewn with little balloon carcasses, the way heroin came packaged back then. Theory being that a dealer could keep the stash in his mouth and swallow it if the police showed up.
The hotel was never much to talk about. It always attracted the forgotten layers of society: late-stage alcoholics, drug addicts, dealers, con artists, pimps and prostitutes. Those of marginal IQ and tenuous mental state found a home there. Gullible travelers from the east coast wound up pissed-off after responding to some tabloid ad for the prestigious Stanford Hotel in “dynamic downtown SF”. Wondering, even before they’d left home, why it was so much cheaper than the nearby Ritz-Carlton. As time went on, the street became much worse very quickly. Reagan had “saved” the state money, but now we as a society had to deal with the attendant issues on the street.
This worked so well that the country voted him president several years later, ushering in our current era of anger, hatred, fear and general disgust with what America has become.
I usually put 1980 as the beginning of the groundswell of anti-American thought.
During the Great Depression, we, as a country, learned a lot. We learned that wild speculation was dangerous in a capitalist system. Even the 19th century philosopher Tocqueville, who loved capitalism, understood and elaborated on the need for strict, efficient regulation to avoid disaster. We learned that lesson the hard way back in the thirties and it was an important one. The ensuing Roosevelt years produced effective economic regulatory protections to avoid future drastic downturns. Those of us lucky enough to come of age in succeeding years didn’t have to worry about an economic depression ever happening again.
Destructive movements, accelerating since 1980, have forged a systemic effort to chip away at those quite efficient rules and regs:
First, they deregulated the Savings and Loan organizations, allowing investment in previously illegal instruments. We all know what happened. Lots of money was squandered and lost. That proved so promising (not) they soon deregulated banks.
Chip, chip, chip the regs away. Greed in the moment—worry about tomorrow some other time—is now the current thrust of the economic system. No one can afford to gamble a life’s savings. Those who can afford to risk big bucks can and do make money, while we struggle to earn a quarter of a percent on our savings accounts. Banks don’t really want to do the business they were designed for, offering all citizens a safe, conservative vehicle for their savings while making a steady, conservative profit for shareholders. Hand-in hand. Instead, they take our money and invest wildly, (hit some, miss some!) endangering everyone, returning nothing, recouping their losses with low interest rates for us. Retirees, who thought they’d prepared responsibly for their later years, expecting at least three percent return on their savings, are now receiving a mere 1/12 of what they’d counted on.
And I’m talking about people with money to save. What happens when people can’t afford to save? We don’t always plan efficiently. We make bad investments. What if someone’s sick, out of work or on the pavement? According to politicians like Ron Paul … well, fuck ‘em. Again, the common citizen will have to deal with the collateral damage.
For every billionaire created during this time of avarice and greed—for everyone who advances from the middle to upper economic levels—there are hundreds who have become much poorer. Some, who lived paycheck to paycheck before, are now in our shelters and on the street. Again: works for those making money.
Of course we’ve always had indigent people in our country, but “homeless” didn’t become a household word until Reagan became president. He used the same basic advisory team as he had while governor of California. I fully understand that Reagan didn’t create this tragedy. He didn’t have the brains. If one person could ever be considered for that distinction, it would be Grover fucking Norquist. With his “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”. (If you don’t know what the pledge was/is, look Norquist up). Those same and rapidly devolving like-minded team of advisors, advocating the same policies (on steroids) a generation later, were proactive in leading a trusting country to near disaster in 2008.
We hear from radicals, calling themselves conservative, that redistribution of wealth is not to be tolerated. But one of the biggest transfers of wealth … upward … occurred in 2008, with nary a peep but with a squeal: When the banks thought they just might NOT be ‘too big to fail’. That year produced the greatest redistribution of wealth ever, as ordinary homeowners lost their biggest investment while the government stampeded to bail out the very banks that had driven us into the mire.
Reagan is famous for his absurd ‘trickle down’ theory. Money doesn’t trickle down. It percolates up. Poor people spend what money they have. Money, placed at the bottom, ends up at the top. In the process, funds flow upward through mechanic shops, hairdressing parlors, supermarkets, bus and other public services, creating jobs across the board and the ability for everyone to share the wealth. For instance, how many bills do you pay each month to those who have less than you? What percentage of your monthly expenditures goes to those with more money than you? The very rich don’t spend all they have like the rest of us; they don't put money back into the system at anywhere near the rate at which they accumulate it, so it just keeps making more for them.
As I said before, it wasn’t all Reagan’s fault. It couldn’t be. He couldn’t have devised this Machiavellian absurdity that’s endangering American viability. He was a dupe, easily lead by his handlers.
Just a note or two to illustrate what this means:
According to a recent Huffington Post article, since 2008, there’s been a 65% increase in homeless children in New York City to more than 77, 000. In Queens alone the total has increased by 90%. This number applies only to kids attending public schools, so the actual number is likely much higher.
The Koch brothers have pledged $889,000,000 to the 2016 “conservative” Presidential election.
And to end on a non-sequitor:
Reagan (the prick) died the same week as Ray Charles. In doing so, he robbed attention from, and respect for, a national treasure who had overcome unthinkable obstacles to become a world-renowned figure. Ray Charles provided joy and hope to everyone he or his music came in contact with. Where’s the justice?