January 20, 1981, was a pretty lousy day in American history. Since that Inauguration Day, the American economy has seen a redistribution of wealth---the middle class nearly has been eliminated and wages held in check to enable the one or two percent richest to grab more and more. There only are so many marbles on the table. The amount of wealth under United States control was phenomenal at the time. We controlled a lot of the marbles in the world. With only five percent (5%) of the World's population, we owned or controlled over half of its wealth. People in this country controlled a lot of the World's marbles.
Then Ronald Reagan took office. To say Reagan "did" anything would be to give him too much credit. Those around him and those who occupied high office in his administration took actions that were disastrous for the United States economy. The attack on PATCO, the flight controllers' union, marked war against unions in general. The worst move was his vaunted "trickle-down" economics policy. For those unfamiliar with what has been called the "Laffer Curve," named after an economist would drew up the concept on a cocktail napkin, if taxes on people in the highest income brackets are dropped, those people will have more money to spend and invest.
The problem is, trickle-down economics, by whatever name it goes, does not work. Reagan's apologists---those who would replace the profile of FDR on the dime with that of Reagan and who light a votive candle on their altar (available through ALEC) to archaic ideas---point to how well the economy in the 1980s functioned. There are a couple of problems to giving credit to Reagan or policies enacted in his name for those good times. One is that the economy was rosy for two principal reasons. First, Jimmy Carter shorted the supply of money to the economy to stem the "stagflation" that characterized the nation's economy of the1960s and 1970s. That was a contributing factor to Carter's loss in the 1980 election because a recession was the result. Shortly after that recession, the economy rebounded, and did so while Reagan was in office. A second reason Reagan should receive no credit for the 1980s economic boom here is the war between Iran and Iraq, fought from 1980 to 1988 between two of the World's major oil producers. Ours is an oil-driven economy. When those two countries fought, they needed money to buy weapons (Iraq bought from us) and intelligence (Iran got theirs from us) and sold as much oil as they could for the exercise. The World-wide price of oil dropped. Unless one considers the immoral act of fanning the flames of war, that provides an economic benefit to the "fanner," between to countries as a plus, Reagan gets no credit. I any event, his Laffer Curve/trickle-down policies did not result in the "boom."
At the same time, the evangelical "right," early-on in the form of Jerry Falwell and the ill-named Moral Majority, took the social agenda of the Reagan years and did all that could be done to rob women of choice and to frustrate availability of birth control.
Finally, civilization has become more mechanized. Machines have replaced people. As an example, factory assembly lines once manned by---well, men and women---either are operated by robots that require fewer human hands for their operation or are overseas. The places overseas are where the rich invested all those monies they saved thanks to Reagan's and Bush II's tax cuts.
That leaves us with a country in which education has been derided (make fun of eggheads and geeks but glorify jocks) or gutted (shovel all that money to vouchers and charter schools and leave public schools to rot) and jobs for those less-well educated have disappeared. UAW jobs at plants in Kokomo that once paid $50K/year with full bennies have been replaced by jobs that pay $12 to $14 per hour with few, if any, bennies. If kids want to go to college, they have to be from wealthy families or serve in the military and receive education benefits at the risk of life-long wounds or death. Of course, with the ways in which robots will replace humans on the battlefield and in the air, even the military will be out-of-bounds.
Still, the population of the World grows, there are fewer jobs, and the uber-rich become uber-richer.
So I hope you played the Lottery last night, or have had the good fortune (was that a pun?) to inherit from a wealthy relative or hook up with someone from a wealthy family (and don't worry about pre-nups). The years that lie ahead will be times of more people, fewer hands on the loot, and an economic system that protects those few hands.