On the plus side, here you have an example of a liberal not blaming George W. Bush for, well, whatever. Instead, this specific left winger, radio talker Thom Hartmann, is going with the liberal fallback position - It's All Reagan's Fault.
To earlier generations of leftists, Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy also proved useful as all-purpose boogeymen who could be cited repeatedly in vain attempts to end an argument. (Audio after the jump)
On his radio show Monday, Hartmann was talking with Austin Petersen of FreedomWorks when he offered up his novel theory that Reagan is responsible for episodes of mass violence in this country since the mid-1980s (h/t for audio, Brian Maloney, mrctv.org) --
If you go back to the decade and a half or so when we had fifteen or twenty of these mass shootings in the workplace after the mid-'80s, and we referred to them as 'going postal' because they all happened in post offices, this was right after Reagan privatized, semi-privatized the post office and started doing major cuts both in pay and benefits to postal workers. We've, you know, for 32 years now, 32 years of Reaganomics, we've seen the middle class get wiped out and along with it we're seeing incidents of this kind of violence (alluding to fatal shooting at Los Angeles Airport) and mental illness go up the same way that, you know, Pickens and Wilkinson (Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, co-authors of "The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better") document that happens in country after country when the social safety net gets frayed and the economy goes down.
PETERSEN: But you know, as to understanding social science, that causation, you know, correlation is not causation, Thom.
HARTMANN: I think in this case it is.
Unless one happens to look back beyond that 32-year time span cited by Hartmann. For example, what occurred in the two decades that preceded it, from 1960 to 1980? Spending on the "social safety net," courtesy of LBJ's vast Great Society expansion of the New Deal, soared -- as did crime. In fact, violent crime began to drop soon after Reagan took office in 1981, though you'll strain to hear that from Hartmann. It worsened again in the mid-'80s, largely as a result of the crack cocaine epidemic, and peaked in the early 1990s.
Not only that, welfare reform in 1996 was accompanied by predictable caterwauling from the left that it would unleash unspeakable pathologies -- single mothers and tots left to starve, depraved thugs on the loose, dogs living with cats, etc. Instead, crime kept plummeting.
Moreover, if crime inevitably worsens when "the economy goes down," as Hartmann claims, why did the murder rate drop to its lowest point in 20 years after the economy tanked in 2008?
A more obvious reason for America's generation-long epidemic of crime starting in the 1960s was the welfare state's steady erosion of the family. That grandfatherly figure in the White House during the 1980s inherited this problem -- and the growing absence of fathers from families across the nation caused it. Every time something horrible happens, I ask myself the same question -- where's the dad?