As governor of California in 1967-74, Ronald enthusiastically pushed the closing of California's state mental hospitals. Tens of thousands of deeply disturbed people were sent into "community care homes" which were so inadequate that many of these psychotic people soon were on the streets — homeless, unmedicated, filthy and frightening. The head of the largest chain of the new "community care homes" gave a big fund-raiser for his friend Ronald Reagan.
Some of those turned out of the state asylums became epically violent. One became a serial killer, raping, slaughtering and cannibalizing female students, one after another, at the University of California in Santa Cruz. Six of these deinstitutionalized killers murdered at least 40 people in the years immediately following Reagan's closing of the state mental hospitals. Ronald Reagan's shameful legacy: Violence, the homeless ... Across the country the toll is now unimaginable from those murderers who should have been hospitalized through the years since Reagan.
Enabling Reagan's insane budget-cutting method of dealing with the insane was a cadre of do-gooder "social workers" who were grievously ill-informed as to the danger the severely psychotic can pose. In the name of civil rights, they cheered on the closings and pushed a law making it virtually impossible to hospitalize the psychotic against their will. That California law, beloved and nurtured by Ronald Reagan, became the immediate model all across the country. Then, as president, he further encouraged the disastrous closings nationwide.
Both ends of the political spectrum bear some guilt for the fact that crazy people roam our society and can kill fifty in a bar in Orlando, nine Amish girls at their school in Pennsylvania, dozens and dozens of high school and college students all across our country, fourteen fellow workers at an office Christmas party in San Bernardino, nine Sikhs in Illinois, and twenty-six little first graders and their teachers in Connecticut. There were even more. No matter the immediate motive in the Orlano masacre, the killer was unhinged. Super-violent people are sick.
In announcing the guilty verdict in one of the most horrible of the California murders during Reagan's governorship, the jury foreman said:
"I hold the state executive and state legislative offices as responsible for these ten lives as I do the defendant himself—none of this need ever have happened….In recent years, mental hospitals all over this state have been closed down in an economy move by the Reagan administration. Where do you think these . . . patients went after their release? . . . The closing of our mental hospitals is, in my opinion, insanity itself."
Nothing more profound on the subject has been said since that foreman spoke so courageously over forty years ago.
Nothing has been so ruthlessly and sadly ignored.
Instead, the death toll from the criminally insane just keeps rising with no attempt to undo the idiocy of our past. I am a devoted champion of civil rights and liberties, even helping secure a significant federal law prohibiting mass detention without due process. Civil rights, however, do not encompass the right to kill.
But that is the right that has been secured by the irresponsible laws of the 1970s that virtually prohibit institutionalizing the insane. Reagan was an enormously stupid man about health care issues, e.g. stonewalling aboiut Aids and also dumping the disabled off Social Security medical benefits. He is responsible for thousands of death in these two categories, plus those slaughtered by the criminally insane he put back on the streets.
Nevertheless, we are far more to blame than he for the victims of the violence because we now know what happens when the mentally ill aren't restricted in some way. We are criminally negligent in not acting as a society to protect our own people.
Added to this criminal negligence on our part is the current shoddy tactic of Donald Trump in blaming Muslims. This is not only ugly and hateful. It too is criminal because it takes our eyes off the real culprit — our massive failure as a society to deal with psychosis.
In doing nothing, maybe we are as insane as the psychotic?
Maybe we are even as stupid as Ronald Reagan?
"People", Churchill said, "get the government they deserve."
If we want better, we must do better and must demand better.