Some of us don't deserve this

Wiley A. Hall 3rd

October 29, 1991|By Wiley A. Hall 3rd

I know and can accept the fact that people are supposed to get the government they deserve. But please! This is getting ridiculous.

More than a decade has passed since the Reagan-Bush administrations first enchanted the country with their "voodoo economics" and sure enough, millions of Americans are beginning to feel like little clay dolls -- pinched and pulled and perforated by malevolent witch doctors.

The recession continues and may even be deepening. Unemployment remains high. Consumer spending remains low. Industries have been rocked by layoffs. State and local governments are cutting services. Paying for the savage greed of the savings and loan scandal is draining what little cash the country is able to generate.

And everyday brings fresh new evidence of urban despair -- drug abuse, violence and crime -- as if our cities were in the grip of a riot in slow motion.

In Washington, the voodoo shamans have tried all of the traditional remedies to cure an ailing economy, but to no avail.

In January, for instance, President Bush sent the country to war, but the dreaded Iraqi army folded virtually without firing a shot -- too soon to really jump-start the economy.

In June, Bush announced that the recession had ended, hoping that the announcement would spark consumer spending, but the people didn't buy it.

Now, some members of Congress are urging Bush to back a tax cut for the middle class. But government, private industry and families are all so deeply in debt that it is very doubtful that a tax cut would provide the stimulus the economy needs.

None of this should surprise anyone, of course.

The last two Democratic presidential candidates -- Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis -- predicted that the high-flying 1980s would end in a crash once the bills became due.

And starting with Jimmy Carter in 1980, the Democrats haven't just lost presidential elections, they've lost big time. They got demolished. They got slaughtered.

The Republicans, as the old folks used to say, clouded up and rained all over them.

So, I suppose the majority of the voters now are getting what they deserve. But gee whiz! What about the rest of us? Why do we have to suffer?

In retrospect, it is surprising Ronald Reagan and Bush got any votes at all since you would think there was something in their policies to offend virtually everyone.

Early in Reagan's presidency, he fired the air traffic controllers -- a move with an anti-union message. There also was talk of cutting Social Security benefits to the elderly. Reagan also gutted attempts to provide help to victims of crime.

Law-and-order buffs should have been alarmed to see the Reagan-Bush administrations and the nation's police chiefs on opposite sides of issues such as gun control and drug enforcement.

Parents of school-age children should have been suspicious when the Reagan-Bush version of education reform amounted to little more than bashing teachers for 10 years.

Patriots should have been outraged by the Iran-contra scandal.

And as for Reagan's supply-side economics theory that Bush dismissed as "voodoo economics," the former president's budget director put it best: "The numbers just don't add up."

In fact, the only thing our last two presidents did consistently was to bash the liberal and civil-rights establishments.

You might say their attacks on liberals and blacks provided the unifying theme that pulled the rest of the country together. You might say it provided the bait that hooked voters into the voodoo economics thing.

Carter, Mondale and Dukakis aren't blameless in this either. They may have seen through voodoo economics, but none of them were very effective getting their message across.

In fact, they tiptoed through their campaigns as if they wished that they, too, could bash liberals and blacks and thus unify the country.

Liberals and blacks, I suppose, can hold their heads high. While everyone else lurches about moaning like the chorus from "Les Miserables," liberals and blacks can comfort themselves with the thought that they alone voted for the losing side.

But that's scant comfort in this, our democracy.

Here we all are today, 10 years older and deeper in debt -- getting the government that only some of us deserve.

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