George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan: Contrasts and Parallels

When it first became known a couple of decades ago that mediocre character actor Ronald Reagan was running for President of the United States of America, I recall chuckling a bit. I had seen some of his movies and never been impressed by an “spark” in the man’s demeanor, or even impressive charisma. He seemed like just another mediocre character actor from Hollywood. And then I heard his platform — boost the military, cut taxes and balance the budget. I knew immediately that this man was not only mediocre, but stupid, if he thought he could balance the federal budget (a major issue at the time), while sharply increasing military spending and simultaneously gutting government revenues by cutting taxes. And, I was right! He could not do it! I was wrong in believing that fellow Americans would never vote into office a man with such anti-credentials for the good of the public welfare — the amiable dunce was elected.

Then, a couple of years ago, another amiable dunce came campaigning for President of the United State presidency. This one, George W. Bush, was a different sort of mediocre actor — he played the role of a businessman in a very mediocre set of performances. At least Reagan was self-made; Bush was made by his birth name and nothing else, and his “talent” as a businessman was in using his family name and connections with the Bundys and the bin Ladens to raise money for (usually) ill-fated business ventures that left him wealthy and indebted to his investors. The idea was the Bush political power could be used to reward generous business investments, so that even if the root business failed, the later rewards by the exercise of power by the Bushes in political office would more than offset the initial losses. Some of the favorable exercise of Bush political power for its own investors would be to lower tax burdens on the corporate rich, and George W. is working hard to repay his financial investors in spades.

So, there are some real parallels in the general programs of the Reagan and G. W. Bush policies. Rebuilding the military/industrial complex is always important to these people, because the contractors involved are gigantic corporations whose contributions make possible to rise to power of even mediocre actors who can then make favorable policies and appointments. Cutting taxes on the wealthy is an integral part of this process. Balancing the budget can be a pseudo-concern, but reality always shows that it is not a concern of the Bush administration any more than it was a real concern of the Reagan administration. Both administrations have enacted the highest annual federal budget deficits in history, and both have raised the cumulative federal budget deficit to levels not only obscene, but stratospheric. And both Reagan and G. W. Bush like to trash the environment, particularly by weakening, if not removing regulative and legislative protections for endangered species and habitat quality for wildlife and for humans. Again, this is primarily done for corporate benefit, as the less investment the corporate world has to make in preventing or in mitigating environmental damage, the higher their profits and salaries and dividends can be. Both Reagan and Bush, in their perverse way, visualize themselves as “lovers of nature”, in the case of Reagan as demonstrated by riding horses on his ranch and chopping trees with an axe. Bush thinks of himself as an environmentalist when he drives his 4 x 4 vehicle across the range and sees flies and cows and considers that a nature tour.

It is also a matter of some fascination to see how differently the two men “sell” their programs to the American public in the context of current times and events. Reagan had a very positive approach. “It’s morning in America.” “America’s greatest days are just ahead.” “Be proud to be an American.” These are the sort of positive images Bush and his handlers projected in order to sell his program. Americans slurped them up like the milk in the bottom of a bowl of Wheaties. America took the bait, hook, line and sinker and paid for it with enormous deficits and a newly enlarged military that had all the latest tools, while the public infrastructure wilted and people in need were made to do without.

George W. Bush has a different approach. His is called “The Fear Factor” approach. “America is at war.” “Terror is everywhere.” “Danger! Danger!” “Be afraid if you are an American.” These are the Bush selling points. And, once again, the American people have bought into this program, authorizing the expenditures of more tens and hundreds of billions of dollars for “Homeland Security”. Yet, when experts test the security at airports, they find that public security is somewhat a myth. When the public files are checked, we find that the pre-9/11 intelligence services had all the necessary information on the threats to American security and acted on their knowledge. We find that the lack of prevention of the 9/11 attacks were due to failures at the highest levels, the political levels of the security apparatus, and no changes in the administration of “Homeland Security” can possibly improve the situation. Thus, once again, vast money is paid to corporations in the defense sector, and predictably, the nations infrastructure in its public schools, social welfare, and environment are gutted for the benefit of the wealthy corporate elite.

Reagan and Bush; Bush and Reagan. Big spenders both. Big deficit builders both. Enemies of the natural environment. Rewarders of their corporate sponsors. Taxing the unborn to fatten the hogs at the public trough.

Reagan sold his program with positive images. Bush sells with intimidation and fear.

The writer is a member of several falconry and ornithological clubs and organizations. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from California, USA.