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A top economist from the Reagan administration finds Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s characterization of the 40th president as a racist, “vulgar and wrong.”
At the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, the New York Democrat said:
“One perfect example, I think a perfect example, of how special interests and the powerful have pitted white working-class Americans against brown and black working-class Americans in order to just screw over all working-class Americans, is Reaganism in the ’80s when he started talking about welfare queens.”
“So you think about this image of welfare queens and what (former President Ronald Reagan) was really trying to talk about was … this like really resentful vision of essentially black women who were doing nothing that were ‘sucks’ on our country,” the congresswoman added.
Ocasio-Cortez went on to argue, that Reagan and others like him were not trafficking in “explicit racism but still rooted in a racist caricature” that Americans are subconsciously primed to believe.
Art Laffer, who served on Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board during the Republican’s eight years in office, responded to the representative’s description of his former boss on Fox’s “America’s Newsroom” on Monday.
“Frankly, I’m very sorry she says that,” Laffer said. “You know, we created a prosperity in the 1980s that benefitted every group in society: Old, young, black, white, male, female, gay, straight.
“I mean this was a prosperity that was incredible in the 1980s,” he recounted. “To have it dissed right now as being racist is just vulgar and wrong. And I think she needs to change her story. … As entertaining as she is, she’s really saying stuff that’s not true and it’s hurtful.”
Watch Laffer below starting at 3:15.
During Reagan’s time in office, over 18 million new jobs were created, according to CNN.
By contrast, according to FactCheck, during Barack Obama’s two terms as president, 11.6 million jobs were created, though there were approximately 80 million more people living in the country.
Fox Business Network host Charles Payne also took exception to Ocasio-Cortez’s description of the economy under Reagan, saying instead it boomed, with GDP growth rates raging between 3.5 percent and 7 percent per year.
“When that tide lifts like that, people of all colors, races, creeds, nationalities get the benefit from it,” he said. (Watch at 19:32).
Payne further contended, “Beyond the factual inaccuracies of (Ocasio-Cortez’s description of Reaganism), it’s very dangerous if you’re saying the alternative is a system that’s failed every single time. Not just failed, but it’s left a bloody, miserable trail in its wake with socialism.”
— America's Newsroom (@AmericaNewsroom) March 11, 2019
The New York Times reported in 1976 that Reagan took on the issue of welfare abuse during his unsuccessful bid to replace President Gerald Ford as the Republican nominee that year.
He gave the example of “a woman in Chicago” who was collecting over $150,000 in tax-free benefits through fraud.
Reagan never mentioned her by name or race. Her race was in fact uncertain, because she posed as African American and white among other ethnicities, according to NPR.
CNN reported the woman was coined the original “welfare queen.”
In the 1964 speech credited with launching his political career, Reagan also told the story of a woman who divorced her husband because she calculated she could get more money in benefits from the government as a single woman than he was making.
Reagan related that she was following the example of two others in her neighborhood who had done the same thing.
“Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we are denounced as being against their humanitarian goals,” he said.
“They say we are always ‘against’ things, never ‘for’ anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so.”
Craig Smith, who was a speechwriter for Ford, told CNN he does not believe Reagan was trying to push a racist story during the ’76 campaign.
He stated that Reagan had a “terrific record” of combating racism as president of the Screen Actors Guild.
In an interview days before leaving office in January 1989, Reagan told NBC’s Tom Brokaw that allegations that he was racially insensitive as president were hurtful and false.
“That whole thing has been the hardest burden I think at all that I have borne here is that idea that I am not as sensitive and that somehow I am discriminating and so forth,” he said. “And it is not true.”
Watch below at 25:25.
“That household that I was raised in, my mother and father, the thing my brother and I grew up knowing is that there is no greater sin than prejudice or discrimination,” Reagan explained.
“And this was back in the days when there was discrimination generally.”
Brokaw asked him to retell a story about putting up two black teammates from his Eureka College football team for the night at his home, when a local hotel in Illinois refused to allow them to stay.
Reagan said he brought his teammates to his family’s home after the hotel turned them away. His parents had no forewarning that Reagan or his teammates would be showing up that night, but all were welcomed in his home.
He also pointed out as governor of California, in the late ’60s and ’70s, he placed more African-Americans in positions in his administration than all the previous governors of the state combined.