Ronald Reagan

Michael Nehme

Election of Reagan

The Presidential Election of 1980

  • Ronald Reagan (Rep.) vs. Jimmy Carter (Dem.)
  • Reagan was well suited to lead the gathering conservative crusade
  • He denounced the activist government and failed "social engineering" of the 1960s
  • drew on the ideas of an influential group of thinkers known as the "neoconservatives"
  • Reagan collected 489 electoral votes and 50.8% of the popular votes
  • Carter collected 49 electoral votes and 41% of the popular votes

The Presidential Election of 1984

  • Ronald Reagan (Rep.) vs. Walter Mondale (Dem.)
  • Reagan received 525 electoral votes and 58.8% of the popular vote
  • Mondale received 13 electoral votes and 40.6% of the popular vote
  • Mondale is famous for naming as his running mate Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro

The National Budget

  • Congress swallowed Reagan's budget proposals with a projected deficit of about $38 million
  • Reagan's triumph amazed political observers
  • He also called for deep tax cuts that amounted to 24% across-the-board reductions over a period of three years
  • August 1981, Congress approved a set of far-reaching tax reforms
  • The economy slid into its deepest recession since the 1930s, Reagan's "supply-side" economics began to fail him
  • Many charged the presidents budget cuts for causing the recession
  • Reagan was accused of making the poverty stricken Americans carry the heaviest burden
  • Reagan waited for the "supply-side" economic policies (Reaganomics) to produce its promised results
  • Income gaps widened between the rich and the poor
  • "Yuppies" or young, urban professionals began to emerge symbolic of the new income stratification
  • Reagan cascaded 2 trillion budget dollars onto the Pentagon in the 1980
  • Federal budget deficits topped $100 billion in 1982
  • Americans became the world's heaviest borrowers in the global economy in the 1980s

Reagan and the Cold War

  • Reagan continued to condemn Kremlin as the Soviets carried on their war in Afghanistan
  • Reagan claimed that the Soviets were "prepared to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat"
  • He believed in negotiating with the Soviets from a position of strength
  • By expanding the US military capabilities, he planned to threaten the Soviets with an expensive new round of the arms race
  • Reagan announced in March 1983 his intention to pursue a high-technology missile-defense system called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)
  • Scientists considered his intention an impossible goal
  • Relations further nose dived in late 1981 when the government of Poland organized into a massive union called "Solidarity"
  • September 1983, The Soviets blasted a Korean passenger airline that inexplicably crossed into Soviet airspace
  • By the end of 1983, all arms control negotiations with the Soviets were broken off

Iran-Contra Imbroglio

Iran-Contra Affair

  • Two foreign policy problems troubled Reagan: the captivity of American hostages seized by Muslim extremist groups in Lebanon; and the grip of power of the left-wing Sandinista government in Nicaragua
  • Reagan repeatedly requested military aid to the contra rebels in Nicaragua, and Congress refused
  • Washington officials saw a link between the two problems in the Middle East and in Nicaragua
  • In 1985, the US arranged arms sales to Iranians in return for Iranian aid in releasing the American hostages
  • At least one was eventually set free
  • The money from the payment for the arms was diverted to the contras
  • These actions violated a congressional ban on military aid to the rebels
  • The news of these secret dealings broke in November 1986 and controversy broke out
  • Reagan claimed he was innocent of wrongdoing and was ignorant about the activities of his subordinates
  • Criminal indictments were brought against several individuals tarred by the Iran-contra scandal, but all the convictions were reversed
  • The affair cast a dark shadow over the Reagan record in foreign policy

Reagan's Economic Legacy

  • Had vowed to invigorate the American economy by rolling back government regulations, lowering taxes, and balancing the budget
  • He did push major tax reform bills through Congress in 1981 and 1986, and eased many regulatory rules
  • Reagan added nearly $2 trillion to the national debt
  • The deficit constituted a great economic failure
  • He guaranteed that the future generations would have to work harder in order to overcome this debt
  • The deficits prompted Congress in 1986 to pass legislation mandating a balanced budget by 1991
  • They also constituted a kind of political triumph
  • The deficits served to slow the growth of government and block the social programs set up by LBJ
  • They achieved Reagan's highest political objective: the containment of the welfare state
  • Another legacy was a sharp reversal of a long term trend toward a more equitable distribution of income and an increasing squeeze on the middle class