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The Reagan Legacy

January 11, 1987

This is in response to Ben Wattenberg's column (Editorial Pages, Jan. 1), "Reagan's Legacy Is Intact, and Only Temporarily Eclipsed." He closes his column with the statement: "In sum, President Reagan's philosophy changed America--mostly but not entirely for the better. The delegitimizers will have to prove otherwise." Count me as a "delegitimizer".

Wattenberg, on the plus side for Reagan, gives him credit for the military buildup, increasing the Reagan budget from $200 billion to $300 billion. He praises his policies for bringing down inflation. He claims Reagan's ". . . oratorical extremism has left a healthy--and changed--dialogue about what government's proper role ought to be."

When we examine the realities of Wattenberg's claims, a very different picture is revealed.

Take the military buildup: What do we have to show for the increase? Have we lessened tensions, are we more secure? What have we accomplished with the militaristic foreign policy? When we become arms suppliers are we helping a situation, or do we bear the responsibility for the untold numbers of men, women and children murdered with weapons bearing "Made in the U.S.A." label?

As for bringing down inflation, at what a cost! At the present time there are 35.4 million people living in poverty. That is 15% of the population, or about one out of six. Poverty has risen under Reagan. About 12% were in poverty when he came to office, now the figure is 15.2%.

And as for the economy, some headlines from The Times: "More Bad Times for Basic Industry" (Aug. 19). "Monumental Debt Is No Monument" (Nov. 17). On the Jan. 1 front page: "Trade Deficit Hits Record $19 Billion" with the disturbing news that in 11 months the trade deficit has exceeded the entire year of 1985, and will probably be more than $160 billion for 1986. The "guns not butter" policy turned us from a No. 1 industrial nation to a debtor nation.

As for that "healthy and changed dialogue" about the role of government, Wattenberg needs to refer to the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson said: "A nation can be judged by its treatment of the sick, the elderly and the poor." It would seem that America under the Reagan Administration with its drastic cuts for the sick, the elderly and the poor, would not get high marks.

When he was campaigning in 1980, Reagan asked, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" If that question were now asked of those who are suffering, the unemployed, the farmers, the elderly, the blacks, the hungry, the homeless, it would not be difficult to guess the answer.

Reagan's foreign, economic and domestic policies are a failure. The past six years have seen deterioration of our cities, of our infrastructure, of our basic industries. And to add to the sad picture of a nation in decline, is the latest disclosure of a White House in disarray, of covert operations and disregard for the laws of the land.

This, Mr. Wattenberg, is the reality of the Reagan legacy, and may it be permanently eclipsed.


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