In his inaugural address after taking the oath of office on January 20, Ronald Reagan called upon Americans to "begin an era of national renewal. When Reagan took office the economy was one of the double-digit inflation and high interest rates. During the campaign Reagan promised to restore the free market from excessive government regulation and encourage private initiative and enterprise.
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Reagan's economic policies came to be known as "Reaganomics," an attempt, according to Lou Cannon, to "balance the federal budget, increase defense spending, and cut income taxes. At the same time, he insisted on, and for the most part, was successful in gaining increased funding for defense. Although inflation dropped from The administration modified its economic policy after two years by proposing selected tax increases and budget cuts to control rising deficits and higher interest rates. As Reagan left office, the nation was experiencing its sixth consecutive year of economic prosperity.
The economic gains, however, came at a cost of a record annual deficit and a ballooning national debt. The budget deficit was exacerbated by a trade deficit. Americans continued to buy more foreign-made goods than they were selling. Reagan's domestic policies had a major impact on the American people and will have for many years. Reagan led the battle for a Social Security reform bill designed to ensure the long-term solvency of the system, and oversaw the passage of immigration reform legislation, as well as the expansion of the Medicare program to protect the elderly and disabled against "catastrophic" health costs.
In all of the court appointments, Reagan chose individuals who he believed would exercise "judicial restraint. Reagan consistently received very high approval ratings, although he was not popular with some minority groups, particularly blacks, many of whom did not benefit from the economic prosperity.
In , over 30 percent of the black population had an income below the official poverty level. While many labor leaders disliked Reagan, especially after he fired the air traffic controllers, when they refused to end their strike , he was popular with labor union members.
Reagan encouraged the development of "private sector initiatives" as well as federalism, with the objective of transferring from the federal government some of the responsibilities believed to be better served by private business or state and local government. As the president called for international cooperation to stop the influx of illegal drugs, especially cocaine, into the U.
At the heart of Reagan's foreign policy was the prevention of communist expansion. This was demonstrated in the Western Hemisphere by the strong financial and military support of the Contras against the communist Nicaraguan government, the aid given to the government of El Salvador in their fight against the communist guerrillas, and the U.
Some politicians have won second contests after previously losing runs for the Presidency: Andrew Jackson, Richard Nixon. Reagan failed twice to get the Republican nomination—in and —before lightning struck. Repeat losers, from Henry Clay to Bob Dole, usually go on losing.
Only Reagan broke the pattern. The literature of management is filled with variations on the polarity between big-picture men and detail men; in the realm of philosophy, Isaiah Berlin taught us to think of hedgehogs the thinkers who see in the universe one big thing and foxes the thinkers who see multiplicity.
The characteristic mistake of bigpicture hedgehogs is to ignore details that are in fact crucial; the characteristic mistake of detail foxes is to assume that hedgehogs see nothing at all. Reagan indeed was about as far over in the direction of the big picture and hedgehog as it is possible to be. Reagan obviously was the star of his own administration, but he was also its producer. The writing, even the directing, could always be left to someone else. He was responsible for Reaganism.
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Reagan’s Berlin Wall strategy was simple and could work today: ‘We win, they lose’
Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. Reaganism could be jotted down on the back of a business card. What fell off the card, Reagan believed, could safely be ignored. Pat Buchanan, another speechwriter, remembered sitting in on a cabinet-level debate between Secretary of State George Shultz and Secretary of Agriculture John Block on grain exports.
While it raged, Reagan reached for a bowl of jellybeans, his favorite snack food, and began picking out his favorite colors. In either case, Mr. Shultz and Mr.
Block were not attended to. That was safe enough when the subject was grain exports; less safe when it was the money shuffling of Lt. Oliver North. On the issues that constituted Reaganism, Reagan batted two for three.
Who Was Ronald Reagan?
It became the fashion, after their collapse, to dismiss Communism and the Soviet Union as threats. It is easy to be wise after the fact. In the late seventies, Cuban soldiers patrolled the former Portuguese empire in Africa. The Soviets had acquired two new client states in the Western Hemisphere, Nicaragua and Grenada, and had invaded Afghanistan.
Western Europe was rocked by a pro-Communist peace movement, terrified by the introduction of Soviet and American intermediate-range missiles on European soil. Reagan was not well read, but what he read lodged in his mind.
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Because of his optimism, he never adopted the defensive power-sharing strategy of longtime anti-Communists like Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. He thought Communism was bad, and he thought it was doomed. The steps he took to bring this about included rolling back Communist gains at the margins, invading Grenada, supporting a counterrevolution in Nicaragua, and sending Stinger missiles to the Afghan resistance.
As in all wars, there were unintended consequences, as the Taliban and Osama bin Laden demonstrate. Critics derided the Strategic Defense Initiative as a fantasy from Star Wars ; Reagan embraced the pop-culture reference. He never deployed the system, and tests of its effectiveness continue to this day, as do arguments over the results.
On the other hand, the Cold War postmortem at which Bessmertnykh and Carlucci spoke was hosted by the victors, in Princeton, New Jersey, not Leningrad. No one thing wins a war by itself. When he came into office, the Soviet Union was an aggressive hard-line state; when he left, it was a reforming, improvising one partly in response to his pressures.
Less than a year after he retired, the Berlin Wall was torn down; two years after that, the Soviet Union was no more. It is hard to think of a comparably rapid collapse of a major power without major bloodletting. When Reagan came into office, the American economy seemed as weak as the Yeltsin-era Russian army. They too had a curve, shaped like a croquet wicket and named after one of their number, Arthur Laffer, which they said showed the diminishing returns of revenue that resulted from ever-higher rates.
If you cut tax rates, they argued, the economy would be stimulated, and the federal government would collect more money in tax revenues. Making use of a post-shooting wave of good feeling, Reagan was able to persuade Congress to implement something like their program. In the event, the Laffer curve, like the Phillips curve, had some kinks in it. Both Bush and then Bill Clinton repudiated supply-side doctrine, though they did not in fact raise tax rates that much.
The deficit, contrary to predictions, rose alarmingly, until the late nineties, when politicians began talking of surplus. Still, the eighties and nineties were economically vastly different from the seventies. Americans worried less about OPEC or the potency of Asian models of capitalism and profited from their own. Success has many fathers. The Federal Reserve, which always goes its own way, deserves credit.
So, more recently, does the computer economy, which was a spinoff of high-tech military spending.