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THE REAGAN PRESIDENCY

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 " In response to the serious problems facing the country, both foreign and domestic, he asserted his familiar campaign phrase! ""o#ernment is not the solution to our problem, go#ernment is the problem " $e hoped that America "will again be the e%emplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not ha#e freedom " Arguably the first conser#ati#e & ' president in o#er (0 years, Reagan ad#anced domestic policies that featured a lessening of federal go#ernment responsibility in sol#ing social problems, reducing restrictions on business, and implementing ta% cuts Internationally, Reagan demonstrated a fierce opposition to the spread of communism throughout the world and a strong distrust of the 'o#iet &nion, which in )*+, he labeled an "e#il empire " $e championed a rearmed and strong military and was especially supporti#e of the -. missile system and the 'trategic /efense Initiati#e 0"'tar 1ars"2 program Economic Policy 1hen Reagan took office the economy was one of the double3digit inflation and high interest rates /uring the campaign Reagan promised to restore the free market from e%cessi#e go#ernment regulation and encourage pri#ate initiati#e and enterprise Reagan4s economic policies came to be known as "Reaganomics," an attempt, according to 5ou 6annon, to "balance the federal budget, increase defense spending, and cut income ta%es " 7he 8resident #owed to protect entitlement programs 0such as -edicare and 'ocial 'ecurity2 while cutting the outlays for social programs by targeting "waste, fraud and abuse " Reagan embraced the theory of "supply side economics," which postulated that ta% cuts encouraged economic e%pansion which in turn increased the go#ernment4s re#enue at a lower ta% rate /uring his first year in office, Reagan engineered the passage of 9,* billion in budget cuts into law, as well as a massi#e 2( percent ta% cut spread o#er three years for indi#idual, and faster write3offs for capital in#estment for business At the same time, he insisted on, and for the most part, was successful in gaining increased funding for defense Although inflation dropped from ), (: in )*+0 to ( ): in )*+2, a se#ere recession set in, with unemployment e%ceeding )0: in ;ctober, )*+2 for the first time in forty years 7he administration modified its economic policy after two years by proposing selected ta% increases and budget cuts to control rising deficits and higher interest rates After the )*+2 downturn, the reduced inflation rate 0under (: for the remainder of the administration2 sparked record economic growth, and produced one of the lowest unemployment rates in modern & ' history 0unemployment hit a )< year low in June of )*++2 As Reagan left office, the nation was e%periencing its si%th consecuti#e year of economic prosperity 7he economic gains, howe#er, came at a cost of a record annual deficit and a ballooning national debt 7he budget deficit was e%acerbated by a trade deficit Americans continued to buy more foreign3made goods than they were selling Reagan, howe#er adhered to his free trade stance, and signed an agreement to that effect with 6anada $e also signed, reluctantly, trade legislation designed to open foreign markets to & ' goods

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Domestic Affairs Reagan4s domestic policies had a ma?or impact on the American people and will ha#e for many years $e followed p the passage of the largest ta% cut in & ' history by supporting and signing into law the 7a% Reform law of )*+@ Reagan led the battle for a 'ocial 'ecurity reform bill designed to ensure the long3term sol#ency of the system, and o#ersaw the passage of immigration reform legislation, as well as the e%pansion of the -edicare program to protect the elderly and disabled against "catastrophic" health costs Reagan ele#ated 1illiam RehnAuist to the position of the 6hief Justice of the 'upreme 6ourt and appointed three ?ustices to the bench! Anthony Bennedy, Antonin 'calia, and the first woman named to the 'upreme 6ourt, 'andra /ay ;4 6onnor In all of the court appointments, Reagan chose indi#iduals who he belie#ed would e%ercise "?udicial restraint " Reagan consistently recei#ed #ery high appro#al ratings, although he was not popular with some minority groups, particularly blacks, many of whom did not benefit from the economic prosperity In )*+@, o#er ,0 percent of the black population had an income below the official po#erty le#el 1hile many labor leaders disliked Reagan, especially after he fired the air traffic controllers, when they refused to end their strike 0)*+)2, he was popular with labor union members Reagan encouraged the de#elopment of "pri#ate sector initiati#es" as well as federalism, with the ob?ecti#e of transferring from the federal go#ernment some of the responsibilities belie#ed to be better ser#ed by pri#ate business or state and local go#ernment As the president called for international cooperation to stop the influ% of illegal drugs, especially cocaine, into the & ' , =irst 5ady Cancy Reagan led the campaign against drug abuse, urging the nation4s youth to "?ust say no " Foreign Policy At the heart of Reagan4s foreign policy was the pre#ention of communist e%pansion 7his was demonstrated in the 1estern $emisphere by the strong financial and military support of the 6ontras against the communist Cicaraguan go#ernment, the aid gi#en to the go#ernment of Dl 'al#ador in their fight against the communist guerrillas, and the & ' in#asion of "renada when that nation was percei#ed as falling under 6uban domination in )*+,, and the support gi#en to rebels fighting 'o#iet troops in Afghanistan 1hile effort for peace in 6entral America faltered, the 'o#iets announced the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan in )*++, ending their futile eight year war Reagan belie#ed that the nation should negotiate with the 'o#iet &nion from a position of strength 7o such an end, the administration embarked on a strategic moderniEation program which included the production of intercontinental missile and a feasibility study for the 'trategic /efense Initiati#e 7he increase in military spending, and the rise of -ikhail "orbache# as "eneral 'ecretary of the 'o#iet &nion at the beginning of Reagan4s second term, opened a new era of relations between the two superpowers After a number of meetings between Reagan and "orbache#, the two men signed an Intermediate Cuclear =orce 0IC=2 7reaty at the 1ashington 'ummit in /ecember, )*+F 7he agreement promised to eliminate an entire class of intermediate3 range nuclear missiles and was the first arms control agreement in history to reduce the nuclear

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arsenal In addition, the administration began the 'trategic Arms Reduction 7alks 0'7AR72 which would reduce the strategic nuclear arsenals by (0:, including large multiple warhead missiles 1hen pro3& ' dictators in $aiti and the 8hilippines appeared on the #erge of being toppled from power, Reagan engineered their safe remo#al from their countries, ensuring bloodless coups and new go#ernment which, he hoped, would be friendly to the & ' In -iddle Dast affairs, Reagan reported in his inaugural address that the (2 American hostages held in Iran for <<< days were at that moment being released and would soon return to freedom 7he 8resident maintained a firm stance against terrorism, e%emplified by the American retaliating against 5ibya for an air attack in )*+) and again in )*+@ for the death of Americans in a Gerlin discotheAue Reagan4s peacekeeping force in war3torn 5ebanon e%perienced tragedy in )*+, when a truck bomb killed 2<) soldiers 7ragedy struck again in )*+F when a missile from an IraAi warplane killed ,F sailors aboard the & ' ' 'tark, part of a & ' na#al taskforce which had been sent to the 8ersian "ulf to keep that waterway open during the Iran3IraA war 7he darkest hour of the Reagan administration would become known as the Iran36ontra affair After lengthy, nationally tele#ised hearings, a special congressional hearings re#iew board reported that Reagan authoriEed the sale of arms to Iran in e%change for help in freeing & ' hostages in 5ebanon It was re#ealed that the money gained from the arms sale illegally di#erted to aid the 6ontras, opponents of the Cicaraguan 'andinista go#ernment 7he congressional report criticiEed Reagan for his detached, hands3off style of management In the aftermath of the affair, Cational 'ecurity Ad#isors Robert -c=arlane and John 8oinde%ter, as well as Cational 'ecurity 6ouncil aide 6olonel ;li#er Corth were indicted by a federal grand ?ury and con#icted of lying to 6ongress The Reagan Legacy 7he eight years of the Reagan presidency was one of the most dynamic periods, in recent & ' history, resulting in a ma?or refocusing of the nation4s social, business, and international agenda =ew presidents ha#e en?oyed the affection of so many of the American people 'upport for Ronald Reagan grew when he was seriously wounded by an assassin4s bullet in )*+) and during ma?or surgical procedures in )*+( and )*+F Reagan was known as the ""reat 6ommunicator," and often went on tele#ision to ask the #iewers for their support for a particular piece of legislation 1hen he ran for a second term in )*+< against former Hice38resident 1alter -ondale, Reagan stood by his record and asked the #oters if they were better off now than they were four years ago At F, years of age, Reagan became the oldest man e#er elected president, recei#ing (2( electoral #otes, the most of any presidential candidate As his second term ended, polls showed that more than half of the American people ga#e him a fa#orable rating 1hen Ronald Reagan became president, he had a clear #ision of what the nation should be and spelled out the direction he hoped it would take during his administration Reagan had a clear social, economic, and foreign policy agenda, and with political guile and personal persuasi#eness he was able to achie#e many of his goals Darly in his presidency, Reagan remarked! "1hat I4d really like to do is go down in history as the 8resident who made Americans belie#e in themsel#es again " A month before the election of his successor, Reagan looked back on his eight years in office! "I am the same man I was when I came to 1ashington," he said, "I belie#e the same things I belie#ed when I came to 1ashington, and I think those beliefs ha#e been #indicated by the success of the policies to which we hold fast " About his foreign policy, he said, "At e#ery point

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on the map that the 'o#iets ha#e applied pressure, we4#e done all we can to apply pressure against them " $e went on "And now we are seeing a sight many belie#ed they would ne#er see in our lifetime! the receding of the tide of totalitarianism " 7here is little doubt that the many changes effected by the Reagan presidency will play a ma?or role in shaping America4s future as it concludes the 20th century > 0=rederick, 20)02

=rederick, Ryan, Jr "7he Reagan 8residency> Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, National Archives and Records Administration Ronald Reagan 8residential =oundation and 5ibrary, 20)0 1eb 02 -ar 20)<