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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 633

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This is the grave of Donald Regan.

Born in 1918 in Cambridge, Massachuestts, Regan grew up in an Irish Catholic family. He managed to make it to Harvard, where he graduated in 1940. He then went to Harvard Law but dropped out to join the Marines in World War II. He was in the Pacific Theater and was a very successful officer, leading troops at Guadalcanal and Okinawa, among other places, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by the end of the war in 1945.

He didn’t return to the law after the war. Instead, he went to work for Merrill Lynch. He worked his way up that postwar corporate ladder and became the company’s president in 1968 and CEO in 1973, staying in that position until 1980. He was a proponent of public offerings for big financial firms and promoted that as the VP of the New York Stock Exchange from 1973-75. He led Merrill Lynch’s initial public offering in 1971. He also worked to end fixed commissions for brokers, seeing them as a cartel restriction that limited investment. As Ronald Reagan rose in the Republican Party, Regan became a big supporter. Reagan’s absurd supply-side economics, an abomination of a policy that came out of the rise of Friedman-influenced economics and which devastated the lives of the American poor, was appealing to both Reagan and Regan. So when Reagan became president in 1981, he named Regan as his Secretary of the Treasury.

At Treasury, Regan became the point person for this disaster. Slashing taxes was his mania and he hid gargantuan tax cuts to the rich inside smaller tax cuts to the poor. While he did push back on those in the administration and on Wall Street that tax cuts for themselves could be compensated for by higher taxes on the middle-class, which perhaps makes him less monstrous than some, he still had that anti-tax obsession that has so undermined the American body politic over the past half-century. The 1981 Economic Recovery Act, which decimated tax rates, was his baby. So was the initial stages of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Both of these prioritizes Regan’s desire that rich people should be able to keep all of their money. While the lies of supply-side economics have been amply demonstrated in the last four decades, their power among the rich remain as healthy as ever because they serve the larger purposes of allowing the Regan class of American to buy more ivory backscratchers while kicking the poor off of food stamps and other of the nation’s extremely limited welfare programs. Yet in the awful Reagan administration, Regan was seen as suspicious by the hard right folks, who noted that he had donated to Democrats from time to time and also had been OK with the 1970s attempts to engage in wage and price controls. Shows just what a sewer the Reagan years were if Don Regan is considered one of the good(er) guys.

When Reagan was reelected in 1985, he asked James Baker and Regan to switch jobs. Regan became White House Chief of Staff. Regan’s time as Chief of Staff was fairly disastrous. Some of this was not of his own making. Iran-Contra rightfully undermined Reagan’s approval ratings and the later Reagan years were pretty bad in ways that are largely forgotten today. Moreover, Regan hated Nancy Reagan and the feeling was extremely mutual. In fact, when Regan wrote his memoir in 1988, after being forced out in 1987 during the bad press around Iran-Contra, it was he who told the public about Nancy’s infatuation with astrology and the influence of the astrologer Joan Quigley on the Reagan administration in these years. Regan had a lot of power–Reagan didn’t want to work very hard and he deletaged a lot of authority, so Regan was arguably the most powerful Chief of Staff in history, at least to that point. Regan and Nancy fought over how to counter Iran-Contra. He believed the president should aggressively counterattack and Nancy wanted him fired and Ronnie to rest to recover from cancer. Well, she won that battle and he was canned in 1987. He was very bitter about this. Regan was not charged with a crime for Iran-Contra, though there were lots of legitimate questions whether he was involved with the cover up. Of course his job was to spin Reagan the right way. The Independent Counsel, for what it’s worth, noted Regan’s honesty in answering questions, especially in 1992, after it became known that the vile Ed Meese did orchestrate a cover-up over what Reagan knew about the arms sales.

After Regan wrote his memoirs, he basically retired from public life. He owned a big farm in Virginia and he went there, spending much of his time painting landscapes. He died of cancer in 2003, at the age of 84. In conclusion, as this is posted on Lincoln’s Birthday, the Party of Lincoln sure has been a tire fire for a very long time.

Donald Regan is buried on the confiscated lands of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

If you would like this series to visit other White House Chiefs of Staff, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Howard Baker, who replaced Regan, is in Huntsville, Tennessee and Marvin Watson, who held the job under LBJ when it was still called White House Appointments Secretary, is in Austin, Texas. It’s surprising how many of the people who held this position are still alive. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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