Ronald Reagan, God of the Sea

Chris LehmannAugust 01, 2013

Who says that the GOP House majority is a nihilist band of ideological hacks, professionally averse to the act of governing? Why just look at the heroic labors of House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa! The famously gun-toting, car-alarm-voicing lawmaker has apparently wearied of his crusade to torture some whiff of partisan scandal from the inner sanctums of IRS policymaking. But the California Republican is not deterred by momentary setbacks–otherwise, how could he be counted as the very richest member of our lawmaking class?

No, he has turned with redoubled energy to the people’s business, by sponsoring a bill to name some 3.4 million square miles of ocean waters abutting our nation’s shores after the patron saint of the American right, Ronald Reagan.

As Ben Geman explains in The Hill, the water in question belongs to America’s Exclusive Economic Zone, a 200-mile-wide stretch of coastal sovereignty that Reagan summoned into being via an executive order in 1983. Surely the least we can do for this Prospero of American capitalism is to let the raging waters of the ocean be graced with his awesome name.

Oh, some congressional Democrats have cavilled over Issa’s proposal, in that disgusting, whingeing way of theirs. “naming the entire EEZ after anyone seems a bit much,” said Issa’s Democratic California colleague Alan Lowenthal. “After all, we’re talking about 3.4 million square miles of ocean, an area larger than the combined land mass of all 50 states. We don’t live in the United States of Coolidge, or fly through the Warren G. Harding airspace. Why should we steam or sail on the Reagan ocean?”

Why, indeed? It’s like these impudent churls have never heard of seasteading, for God’s sake!
Fortunately, the bill’s supporters set their faithless colleagues straight. “While certain left-wing organizations have characterized this legislation as trivial, there is no debate our 40th president served with highest distinction,” preached Louisiana GOP Rep. John Fleming. “During his eight years in office, the Cold War ended, the Soviet Union began to collapse, the American people lived in prosperity, and our national debt was less than $3 trillion.”

Never mind that every one of those claims is factually incorrect–save for the irrelevant, but nevertheless still misleading, factoid about the national debt. Never mind as well that the very existence of the concept of ocean waters as exclusive economic zones arises from the internationalist social engineers at the United Nations, who cooked it up in an international treaty of the seas that Reagan himself refused to sign. Because, really, when you think about it, this is truly a fitting tribute to Reagan’s supply-side legacy. Not only is it an exclusive zone–not unlike the many Sunbelt communites that the Gipper himself used to haunt.

But more to the point, thanks to the steady financialization of the American economy that Reagan helped to inagurate–by, among other things, deregulating the S & L industry in a fiasco that required massive federal bailouts, and campaigning tirelessly for the repeal of the 1933 Glass-Steagall restrictions on the fusion of investment and commercial banking–much of our jobs and housing economy is now under water. Eventually, the ocean waters will rise up to claim our seaboards, anyway, in the final victory of economic exclusion over the common weal. It will be something of a sweet relief, come the next Hurricane Sandy, that the feckless coastal elites of our liberal oligarchy will be immersed at last in the healing waters blessed by St. Reagan.

Chris Lehmann is editor in chief of The Baffler and author of Rich People Things. His latest book, The Money Cult, is out now from Melville House.