Was Ronald Reagan one of the top 3 presidents after WW II?


I ran across the question in the title on Quora this morning. I’ve decided to post my answer.No.

Ronald Reagan presided over the real beginnings of American wealth polarization, which has resulted in the vast majority of Americans not seeing gains in America’s economy. Let me give you an idea of the result:

The middle class in America hasn’t seen real gains in standard of living since the Nixon administration. At that point, there were a whole lot of single earner families, something you don’t see so much any more because families needed a second earner to stay afloat. What’s happened since then?

The population since then has been multiplied by about 1.5. So, if wealth distribution had stayed at Nixon era levels, we’d expect GDP since then to have been multiplied by about 1.5.

GDP since then has been multiplied by about 13.

All of those gains went to the wealthy. If wealth distribution had remained constant, average Americans would be roughly 8 times richer than they are now. Think what that would mean for American businesses. Think what that would mean for our tax base. Think what that would mean in terms of all the things this nation has trouble affording, including infrastructure, health care, and retirement. Think what this would mean about your money worries.

What kind of concentration are we looking at? Let me set up a model for you, so you can visualize it:

1″ = $10,000. That’s the scale of the model.

So, a relatively expensive luxury car would cost seven or eight inches.

The average home cost as of about a year ago (the most recent figures I could find) in the US is about 3′8″, and is of course mortgaged.

A million dollars, or a hundred inches, is 8′4″.

According to Forbes, Elon Musk in 2023 is worth about $180 billion. That’s about 270 MILES.

Want to see my arithmetic? If a million dollars is 8 1/3′, then a billion dollars is a thousand times that, or $8,333′ 4″, just over a mile and a half. 180 x 1.5 miles = 270 miles.

The hundredth richest American, according to Forbes, is only worth 12.6 miles.

I used distance, but I can use time if you like. One second equals one dollar. An average home is worth about five days, mortgaged. A million dollars happens at about 11.5 days. Elon Musk is worth a little over 5,700 years. The hundredth richest American is worth about 265 years.

My American wealth distribution figures are about ten years old. They’re far more skewed now, thanks in large part to Donald Trump. At that point, the poorest 60% of the population collectively had less than 5% of America’s wealth. The poorest 40% of the population had less than 1/3 of 1% of America’s wealth. The richest 20% of the population had 84% of America’s wealth. Again, it’s way worse now.

The majority of Americans want tax policy to make this spread less draconian. They can’t get that because campaigns are very expensive and the only efficient way to finance them is to go to people with a lot of money, because asking one person takes less time than asking a hundred or a thousand. That of course means that major contributors have way more pull with elected officials than average Americans do, and so a small population now calls the shots in America. This has resulted in our ceasing to function as a democracy, as the majority does not rule, and this is true on a lot more than tax policy. Why, for example, do you think we can’t get any national gun control, even though a significant majority of the population wants it?

Look at this distribution and remember that one party would like to eliminate inheritance taxes. This would mean that, to a far greater extent than now, most of you would struggle and worry while the Eric Trumps of the world get way, way richer.

That is Ronald Reagan’s biggest legacy.