Benjamin Hooks,
Ronald Reagan,
and Economic Inequality

by William C. Love

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On March 10, 1981, Benjamin L. Hooks, Executive Director of the NAACP, stood before the third annual NAACP Legislative Mobilization at a Baptist church in Washington, D.C. to address what to him were the shortcomings of newly inaugurated president Ronald Reagan’s political agenda. Reagan in his inaugural address, less than two months earlier, had presented his case that the two main challenges to the current United States economy were runaway inflation and federal regulation, both of which stemmed from the governmental overreach of the 1970s. To stimulate the economy, Reagan proposed policies he believed would decrease the role of government and augment the private self-rule of its citizens, including lowering marginal tax rates and ending the manipulation of government by special interest groups. To quote one of Reagan’s most memorable lines, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Hooks’ rebuttal to Reagan before the Legislative Mobilization was not a clarion call for more governmental intervention in the lives of African-Americans. Rather, Hooks argued for the inevitable wealth disparity that would continue should we approach the United States economy as an egalitarian market place, where all citizens exercise their self-rule equally. Hooks noted in his speech that “We are in a dual economy, because we are still in a dual society—still separate, still unequal.”Read more


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