Rehabbing Ronnie Raygun’s Reputation


The only Vile Prog that doesn’t despise Ronald Reagan is Barack Obama, and he wants to emulate him. I originally voted for The Gipper back in 1980, but he also has a lot to do with me becoming a liberal Democrat.

But truth does not have an ideology.

That’s why I feel the need to correct a common myth about old Ronnie:

Wasn’t it then governor Reagan that opened the doors of California’s nut houses after watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?

Au contraire mon frère.


THE policy that led to the release of most of the nation’s mentally ill patients from the hospital to the community is now widely regarded as a major failure. Sweeping critiques of the policy, notably the recent report of the American Psychiatric Association, have spread the blame everywhere, faulting politicians, civil libertarian lawyers and psychiatrists.


A detailed picture has emerged from a series of interviews and a review of public records, research reports and institutional recommendations. The picture is one of cost-conscious policy makers, who were quick to buy optimistic projections that were, in some instances, buttressed by misinformation and by a willingness to suspend skepticism.

Many of the psychiatrists involved as practitioners and policy makers in the 1950’s and 1960’s said in the interviews that heavy responsibility lay on a sometimes neglected aspect of the problem: the overreliance on drugs to do the work of society.

The records show that the politicians were dogged by the image and financial problems posed by the state hospitals and that the scientific and medical establishment sold Congress and the state legislatures a quick fix for a complicated problem that was bought sight unseen.


In California, for example, the number of patients in state mental hospitals reached a peak of 37,500 in 1959 when Edmund G. Brown was Governor, fell to 22,000 when Ronald Reagan attained that office in 1967, and continued to decline under his administration and that of his successor, Edmund G. Brown Jr. The senior Mr. Brown now expresses regret about the way the policy started and ultimately evolved. ”They’ve gone far, too far, in letting people out,” he said in an interview.

Dr. Robert H. Felix, who was then director of the National Institute of Mental Health and a major figure in the shift to community centers, says now on reflection: ”Many of those patients who left the state hospitals never should have done so. We psychiatrists saw too much of the old snake pit, saw too many people who shouldn’t have been there and we overreacted. The result is not what we intended, and perhaps we didn’t ask the questions that should have been asked when developing a new concept, but psychiatrists are human, too, and we tried our damnedest.”

Dr. John A. Talbott, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said, ”The psychiatrists involved in the policy making at that time certainly oversold community treatment, and our credibility today is probably damaged because of it.” He said the policies ”were based partly on wishful thinking, partly on the enormousness of the problem and the lack of a silver bullet to resolve it, then as now.”

The original policy changes were backed by scores of national professional and philanthropic organizations and several hundred people prominent in medicine, academia and politics. The belief then was widespread that the same scientific researchers who had conjured up antibiotics and vaccines during the outburst of medical discovery in the 50’s and 60’s had also developed penicillins to cure psychoses and thus revolutionize the treatment of the mentally ill.

And these leaders were prodded into action by a series of scientific studies in the 1950’s purporting to show that mental illness was far more prevalent than had previously been believed.

Finally, there was a growing economic and political liability faced by state legislators. Enormous amounts of tax revenues were being used to support the state mental hospitals, and the institutions themselves were increasingly thought of as ”snake pits” or facilities that few people wanted.

One of the most influential groups in bringing about the new national policy was the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health, an independent body set up by Congress in 1955. One of its two surviving members, Dr. M. Brewster Smith, a University of California psychologist who served as vice president, said the commission took the direction it did because of ”the sort of overselling that happens in almost every interchange between science and government.”

”Extravagant claims were made for the benefits of shifting from state hospitals to community clinics,” Dr. Smith said. ”The professional community made mistakes and was overly optimistic, but the political community wanted to save money.”

That article appeared in the New York times in October 1984. As you can see, the emptying out of California’s mental hospitals started under Democratic Governor Pat Brown and he was responsible for cutting the number of institutionalized mental patients nearly in half.

Reagan was governor of California from January 1967 until January 1975. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was released in November 1975. He had been out of office for 11 months when the movie came out.

Reagan did, however, sign the Lanterman–Petris–Short Act into law in 1967. That was a bipartisan bill that set the precedent for modern mental health commitment procedures in the United States. It was not anything that Reagan had proposed. Not to mention that in 1967 the Democrats ruled the statehouse in Sacramento under the leadership of the legendary Assembly Speaker Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh. Reagan could veto legislation but he needed Democratic support to pass it.

But . . but . . but . . what about when he was president? Maybe that’s when he did it!

Mmmmmm, no.

By the time Reagan became president in 1981 the closing of the nation’s mental hospitals was pretty much complete. Besides, Reagan didn’t cut government spending, he increased it.

Ronnie Raygun did a lot of things, but putting the mentally ill on the streets wasn’t one of them. But it’s a nice story and it fits the Vile Prog narrative so it hangs around as an urban myth. It’s not true, but it has truthiness.

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. – John 8:32


About Myiq2xu

If I had known this was the end of the world I would have brought refreshments.
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54 Responses to Rehabbing Ronnie Raygun’s Reputation

  1. myiq2xu (D) says:

    I shoulda titled this “Reluctantly Rehabbing Ronnie Raygun’s Reputation”

  2. yttik says:

    We also have to remember that some state hospitals were terrible places, that people could be committed on a whim. We put people in institutions because they had learning disabilities or developmental delays. And let’s not forget the sexism, too, women were disposed of institutions, Francis Farmer for example. Even Rosemary Kennedy was given a lobotomy. We have a long history of state sanctioned torture of the mentally ill.

    So getting people out of involuntary commitments was a liberal issue and a feminist issue and a libertarian one. People who know anything about the past would not be advocating for national registries and giving the government the power to lock you up. We do need to re-examine how we respond to the mentally ill, but civil liberties are very important and should not be casually dismissed.

    • myiq2xu (D) says:

      So getting people out of involuntary commitments was a liberal issue

      When good intentions go awry, pin the blame on someone else.

    • Lulu says:

      Then they went to prison. Those who cannot participate in a civil society because of mental issues, whether learning, developmental or psychiatric have a much higher probability of violation of law which is trampling others civil liberties. The prison population explosion began at about the same time as the closing of institutions and shuffling then to often inadequate treatment in community based centers. While conditions in mental institutions are not what they should be ( and never have been) prisons are much worse. The average IQ of a death row inmate is about 70-80. The problem with transferring the responsibility of the mentally challenged to the penal system is that they are not dealt with until they have harmed someone else. I agree that people should not just be locked away on a whim, but how much harm to others is allowed before they are humanely dealt with is the issue.

    • DandyTiger says:

      Turns out the main group against privacy is the Dems. Who knew.

      • smile says:

        Yup. Every new issue only reveals to me how much I misunderstood the democrats when I was one of them. I keep asking myself, was I that ignorant when I was a dem, or has the dem party really transformed so much, or did I just “undem’ed” myself as I got older. I still can’t figure it out. But I feel so good being an indie now – so much more political/voting freedom.

  3. HELENK says:

    Suspect responsible for shooting 4 firefighters, 2 fatally, in Webster, New York, was found dead at scene, authorities say – @news10nbc

    37 mins ago by editor

    ongoing in Webster NY, gunman opens fire on firefighters responding to a call

  4. HELENK says:

    wonder if this is the same deal as susan rice. put out name that is so totally unacceptable that when you name who you really want, opposition is silenced

  5. tommy says:

    My view is diametrically the opposite. To me, Ronald Reagan was one of the best modern era Presidents, ever. And so was William Jefferson Clinton. Lol, when I state this to the partisans (on both sides), they go nuts. Its extremely amusing when try to slot or compartmentalize my political views.

    • DeniseVB says:

      Obama makes every former President look better. True story 😉

    • angienc (D) says:

      Honestly, I get that too — I was a kid when Reagan was POTUS but after the Carter days & long gas lines, I remember things being better after Reagan — I remember his toast in the Rose Garden re: the hostages being released, how he handled the Challenger exploding, etc. I had a feeling of calm & safety when he was POTUS that I still remember & like. I got the same feeling with Clinton too — like things were running well in the federal government. Doesn’t matter if I liked every policy, scandal etc. (upon reflection with Reagan; IRL with Clinton) — overall things went well.
      I wish we could get that back — with Obama every.fucking.thing is a huge crisis — his ‘enemies’ are out to get him, blah, blah, blah. A feeling of calm was one thing I knew Romney would bring to the job — the hell with the details.

      • swanspirit says:

        Obama is too messed up to bring any serenity or stability to the country , he is an excitement addict . He gets the wooden spoon award , for stirring up shit . These people are very unsettling . Everyone knows one , or more . Unfortunately he was re-elected .
        All I want for Christmas is a complete break from him . A single day without his face , his voice , his name , would be lovely .

      • DeniseVB says:

        We respected our Presidents because they earned it. Obama’s nothing more than an Eddie Haskell, which could seem like an insult to Eddie Haskell. 😀

  6. DeniseVB says:

    The National Yule Log is no longer …. needed more seats to see the Obamas? <—– no, I won't give them a break or benefit of the doubt 😉

    I saw it as a kid, it truly was magical, and definitely needed for those cold nights in DC when you're hanging outside for an hour or two.

  7. leslie says:

    I’ll be leaving for church shortly and before I go, I want to wish everyone at TCH a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday – whatever you celebrate. Safe travels, good food, great conversation with good people to everyone.

  8. myiq2xu (D) says:

    If you aren’t busy on New Year’s Eve, be sure to catch the Honey Boo Boo Holiday Special on TLC.

    Just another sign of the apocalypse.

  9. angienc (D) says:

    BTW I’m in NOLA for Christmas & will be here through January 2nd so will not be on-line too much. I want to wish everyone here a Merry Christmas and best wishes for a healthy & happy New Year.

  10. myiq2xu (D) says:

    I bought the first two seasons of Justified so now I’m holding my own marathon.

  11. westcoaster says:

    OT: Henri the depressive realist cat from “Paw de Deux” has been busy making videos. This one is about his political views. It turns out that he lives in Seattle:

  12. myiq2xu (D) says:

    RIP Jack Klugman.

    Oscar and Quincy.

  13. westcoaster says:

    catchy tune- “wasting away in Obamaville”:

  14. Jessie Britton says:

    I wish to take this opportunity to wish all of you viewers a very merry Christmas and a most happy New Year. Not much of a talker, but a daily viewer and I find I have so much in common with all of you.

  15. smile says:

    Merry Christmas everyone. So glad I can say it and be politically incorrect. I love this new freedom over at this blog. And I am not even a christian, and I love being able to say it to people. Thanks to all of you for making this place like this.

Comments are closed.