Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) was the 40th President of the United States. But he did not start out as a politician. After graduating from college, the young American became a radio host, commenting on football. Then there were screen tests and a contract with Warner Bros. By 1940, the charming guy had starred in 19 films. During World War II, Reagan was in military service, but did not get to the front due to his myopia.
And in 1947, the actor headed the professional guild of cinema workers. At first, Reagan was a member of the Democratic Party, but his views became more conservative in the 1950s. He began to support Republican candidates, first Dwight D. Eisenhower, and then Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater. California Conservatives were impressed by Reagan's performance and charisma, nominating him for governor.
In 1967 he became head of state. And in 1976, Reagan tried to become a candidate for the presidency, but then in the party elections he lost to incumbent President Ford. And in 1981, Ronald Reagan became President, remaining in this post for two terms. Today, according to opinion polls, he is the most popular head of state in its entire history. Reagan was able to peacefully end the Cold War, he embraced America in crisis, but he helped citizens believe in the greatness of his country.
The Republican Party itself received a new look, more people began to vote for it. And the institution of the presidency has changed. The country's economy, built by Reagan, was called "Reigonomics". But his importance grew after he left the political scene.
Today, Republican leaders cannot succeed unless they refer to Reagan as a role model. Let's try to figure out better what kind of person and politician he was.
Reagan's foreign policy had nothing to do with the collapse of the USSR. It is believed that Mikhail Gorbachev is more responsible for the peaceful end of the Cold War than Reagan. But back in the 1970s, the American politician formulated the key ideas of relations with the USSR and the Cold War. It was worth discussing Soviet expansionist policies before thinking about arms control. In Reagan's view, America had a responsibility to promote freedom around the world. Given the lack of a vast base in the USSR, the country could fuel global crises to maintain control. Reagan believed that the USSR had an inefficient economy and could not compete with the United States in terms of technology. After becoming President, Reagan began to build a strategy of relations with the main enemy based on these ideas. This was reflected in the build-up of army forces, in the development of new medium-range missiles. Reagan psychologically attacked the USSR, claiming that the evil empire was about to go to the dustbin of history. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) has become the cornerstone of his doctrine. Reagan did not yield even at the famous Reykjavik summit. America strongly supported anti-communist forces in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia. Nicaragua. It was Reagan who led the crusade against the Soviet Union. Standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in 1987, the President challenged the Kremlin to tear down the Wall. This happened two years later. Lech Walesa, the leader of Poland, said that his country owed its freedom to Reagan. Democracy won the Cold War. Reagan himself wrote in his autobiography that it was a battle of ideologies. The power of the state gave way to the ideas of the primacy of the individual and freedom.
The 1980s were a decade of rapid accumulation of funds that benefited only the rich, not the middle class. Reagan inherited a weakened economy. High tax rates limited jobs and investment, giving the government less than expected income. The President intervened decisively. Following the 1981 Recovery Tax Act, unemployment fell by 45% over the following years. In the 1980s, the consumer price index rose by only 17%, and private investment by 77%. The country grew by an average of 4.6% per year. Every American's real income has gone up. Tax collection has grown from 500 billion in 1980 to 1 trillion in 1990. Reagan deregulated oil prices, which made it possible to obtain cheap energy. He laid the foundation for the American-Canadian free trade zone, later expanding it to all of North America. Most importantly, thanks to Reagan, individual retirement accounts have appeared. New industries have emerged in the industry, computers, programs, new communications and the Internet. All this promoted the country's economy.
Under Reagan, there are more civil servants and the national debt has tripled. With this president, domestic spending rose. But spending on education, medicine, social programs and food has doubled. But federal spending on regional development, trade and housing loans decreased by 22%. The number of civil servants decreased by 5%. True, the number of the military has increased significantly. The annual federal budget deficit fell from 6.3% in 1983 to 2.9% in 1989. And the growth of the national debt threefold was due to spending on defense. In the last budget of President Carter, America spent 160 billion on this item, and in 1988 already 304 billion. During his tenure, Reagan invested a total of $ 1,720 billion in the army. He considered such spending to be fundamentally necessary. The Cabinet of Ministers insisted on cutting military spending. Reagan replied that he was the head of the country and the commander-in-chief of its army. His main responsibility is the security of the United States. If it is not there, then social programs will not be needed. Was the world worth this money on the planet? Most Americans approve of Reagan's approach, which won the war at the negotiating table, not on the battlefield. If we consider the economic performance of all post-war presidents, Reagan is ranked first. He lowered the unhappiness index (based on inflation and unemployment). The 1980s can be considered the best decade in American history.
Reagan did not pay attention to the problems of African Americans. Black journalist Joseph Perkins calculated that African American unemployment fell from 19.5% in 1983 to 11.4% in 1989. Black business income rose by a third during this period. The African American middle class itself expanded from 3.6 million to 4.8 million under Reagan. Real cash income adjusted for inflation increased by 12%. And under Obama, from 2010 to 2013, they fell 2.2%. In the 1970s, Reagan urged some of his colleagues to leave the party in order to attract black voters to it. In 1977, the politician stated that the party pays attention to all citizens, and not to its groups or blocs. Immediately after winning the elections in 1980, Reagan confirmed that he was ready to protect and defend the rights of blacks in every program he proposed.
Reagan was one of the most popular presidents in the country's history. It is true that two decades after Reagan left office, he is still popular. According to polls, among all post-war presidents, he is second only to John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. However, the average estimate of support throughout the eight years of his rule was only 52.8%. This leaves him behind not only Kennedy and Clinton, but also Eisenhower, Johnson and Bush Sr. During Reagan's rule, his rating soared (after the 1981 assassination attempt), then fell. So, in 1982, when unemployment rose to 10%, the president was supported by only 35% of Americans. In the midst of the Iran-Contra scandal, a third of Americans wanted Reagan to resign. And only after the news in 1994 about Alzheimer's disease with the former president, his popularity began to grow.
Reagan cut taxes. One of the most daring steps taken by a politician in the country's economy was radical tax reforms. He cut taxes for the richest Americans from 70% to 50%, introduced tax holidays for corporations and the oil industry, and eased the burden on small businessmen. But the next year, the economy was mired in recession, and the federal budget deficit spiraled out of control. Then Reagan had to raise taxes. 1982 saw the largest peacetime tax increase in the country's history. Ultimately, Reagan raised federal taxes every year of his two terms (except the first and last). 1986 saw the largest increase in corporate taxes in the country's history, and in 1983 there was a significant increase in payroll deductions. This helped maintain social security. And while wealthy Americans generally benefited from Reagan's tax policies, blue-collar workers are paying more.
Reagan pursued an aggressive, militant foreign policy. And although Reagan increased the military budget by increasing the army, in the Cold War he preferred to act in negotiations with Gorbachev, rather than weapons. Four days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, 43% of Americans considered it a credit to the Soviet leader, and only 14% to their president. With the exception of the 1986 bombing of Libya, Reagan did not use military means to combat terrorism in the Middle East. He believed that terrorism suspects should be charged first by civilian courts in order to strip them of legitimacy. And in 1988, Reagan signed the UN convention, which excluded the use of torture under any circumstances.
Reagan has become an icon of conservatism. The place of the politician in the culture of the 1980s, as the main conservative, is exaggerated and symbolic. And even if Reagan published a book in 1983 about how he zealously opposed abortion, but in the late 1960s, as governor of California, they were allowed to do so. The politician never sought to implement the ban constitutionally. He laid down the odd practice of speaking out against abortion over the telephone rather than at rallies. The politician advocated prayer in public schools, but never proposed to resolve the issue at the legislative level.
Reagan never negotiated with terrorists. The Reagan administration has bargained for the hostages several times, not only with outright terrorists, but also with Iranian mullahs and ayatollahs.