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US History: President Ronald Reagan (1981 - 1988)

Updated on June 9, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

In many ways, music saved my life, and I have the most famous director of the USMC bands to thank for it!

The 1980s


The Reagan Reforms and Legacy

The Christian Science Monitor summed up Ronald Reagan's presidential legacy in the following way on December 18, 1997 by columnist Murray Weidenbaum :

Ronald Reagan's legacy was a fascinating mixture: lower inflation and higher deficits; lower taxes and higher levels of government spending; less unemployment and bigger trade deficits; fewer strikes and more government jobs; reduced economic regulation and expanded social regulation; the deepest recession in half a century and the longest peacetime recovery ever.

A Radio and Film Star

Click thumbnail to view full-size
(Photos this page, public domain)In the film "Knute Rockne, All American", 1940
(Photos this page, public domain)
(Photos this page, public domain)
In the film "Knute Rockne, All American", 1940
In the film "Knute Rockne, All American", 1940

In the US Army Air Force, 1940s

This shot of Reagan was used in a training film to instruct American flyers against the plane called the "Japanese Zero."
This shot of Reagan was used in a training film to instruct American flyers against the plane called the "Japanese Zero."

In the Joe McCarthy Witch-Hunts

Reagan testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee and Joseph McCarthy in 1947
Reagan testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee and Joseph McCarthy in 1947

Ronald Reagan Timeline


January 20, 1981 -- Inaugurated as US President. Iran releases 52 hostages after over one year in captivity, on the same day.

July - US Congress passes the Reagan Tax Bill with a 25% tax cut.

August 3 - Air Traffic Controllers go on strike and Reagan fires any not back to work within 48 hours.

September - First Female US Supreme Court Justice is added: Sandra Day O'Connor. Immortalized in the film First Monday.


Autumn - "The worst recession since the 1930s", but this sentiment was repeated about the recession of 2008 - 2010. [Note: businesses in Central Ohio began to close down in early 1982, including some McDonald's restaurants.]


Reagan speaks out against the "evil empire" of Communism, while he increases the US Defense Budget. Several armed conflicts occur that include the US and Communist forces.


Reagan asks for peace talks with the USSR and aide for the Nicaraguan Contras. That Contra aid request is defeated in Congress. The request became more controversial when journalist Gary Webb uncovered facts that the CIA trained and funded Contras with drug money raised by traffickers in Los Angeles and elsewhere, which the CIA ignored, leading to a cocaine epidemic in America. This is concurrent to the Reagan "Just Say No to Drugs" campaign. (See the book and film Killing the Messenger.) High US unemployment continues in 1984, with increasing numbers of people apply for Public Assistance and Social Security Disability payments.


January - Regan is inaugurated again, at age 73.

June - Terrorists begin a history of hijacking airplanes with TWA flight 847.

November - Reagan and Gorbachev meet in Geneva, but disagree on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Talk is made of nuclear reductions, but this meeting and one in 1986 lead to no agreements.


January - The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes within 2 minutes of launch, because of a faulty O-ring. The entire crew, including Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe are killed. The families each receives $1 million from insurance policies.

November - US arms sales to Iran results in money funneled to the Nicaraguan Contras. Money confiscated from illegal drug dealing in America was also funneled their way. NOTE: In the TV news, I heard Reagan say, "I'm a Contra, too."


February - The Tower Report allows that President Reagan could have been unaware of the funding of the Contras. [Note: Saturday Nigh Live skits portrayed the President as fluent in many world languages and planning the government initiatives of all players.]

June - Reagan demands that Gorbachev tear down the Berlin wall.

December - Gorbachev agrees to reduce nuclear arms by only 4%.


The USSR withdraws troops from Afghanistan.

First Lady Nancy Reagan admits to using astrologers for booking the President's public appearances.

May - The US Senate passes the INF arms control treaty, the first since SALT II in 1972.

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

In The Oval Office Study

President of the United States
President of the United States

A Top 100 Leader and Revolutionary in the 20th Century

As decreed by TIME Magazine, most of the leaders in the following list of twenty most politically influential people were active during the years that Ronald Reagan was Governor of California and President of the United States; or, their prior influence carried into the political world of the President.

Himself on the list, Reagan had major interactions with many of the others, finally resulting in the fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet Union Communism in 1989.

  • David Ben-Gurion: Prime Minister and leader of the formation of the Israeli State in 1948.
  • Ho Chi Minh: Founder and President of Communist North Viet Nam during much of a 30-year armed conflict.
  • Winston Churchill: British Prime Minister during WWII.
  • Mohandas Gandhi: The ultimate in nonviolent resistance in India.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev: General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the Reagan years. Some Russians believed him to be an Emissary form God because of the port wine birthmark on his forehead. Soviet Communism fell under his term of office.
  • Adolf Hitler: The disturbed, yet charismatic, Nazi leader that produced the Jewish Holocaust that killed millions of all minorities, created human-skin lampshades, and inhumane scientific experiments on human beings, including Twin Studies in which body parts were removed from one twin and grafted onto another.
  • Martin Luther King, JR.: Pastor and Civil rights Leader during the 1950s - 1960s that followed radical Pastor Vernon Johns in the Movement at his home church.
  • Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini: Middle East Muslim autocrat that revived Muslim traditions and culture against advancing influences of the West.
  • Vladimir I. Lenin: Russian Communist leader after the Russian Revolution and the formation of the Soviet State. He invented the concentration camp and influenced other dictators, including Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tsetong, and Pol Pot.
  • Nelson Mandela: Political leader and hero of South Africa.
  • Pope John Paul II: Head of the Catholic Church in the Vatican for many decades. He instituted the new Mysteries of Light into the rosary celebration.
  • Ronald Reagan: US President that fought Communism as a political system rather than as a people to be contained and controlled, and asked that the Berlin Wall come down. Instituted the failed Reaganomics.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt: A tireless social issues advocate, often considered a co-president with husband and cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Four-term President during the Great Depression and WWII. He served the US even though he had poliolitic paralysis of the legs.
  • Teddy Roosevelt: Progressive and Rough Rider in the Spanish-American War, US President, and Uncle to Franklin and Eleanor.
  • Margaret Thatcher: Prime Minister of England during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. She advanced capitalism in the world marketplace and applied pressure with Ronald Reagan against the Soviet Union to dismantle itself under Gorbachev.
  • The Tank Man: At Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989 in Beijing a lone male shopper stood in front of a line of 18 tanks and stopped their progress. He climbed the first and told the driver that the military was creating chaos. After that, no one knows what happened to him.
  • Margaret Sanger: The Irish LPN in NYC that observed her own mother die after 11 live births and 7 stillborn or spontaneously aborted fetuses. Though illegal, she promoted the use of barrier and spermicidal contraceptives in the early 1910s, culminating in the founding of the precursor to Planned Parenthood and the development of the birth control pill, all designed (in her own words) to reduce the number of African Americans in the USA.
  • Lech Walesa: An electrician from Poland, he won the presidency and led his country out of Communism.
  • Mao Tsetong: A Chinese Communist Premier, he established Beijing as the capital of the new country in 1949 and required the Chinese to carry his Little Red Book.

Reaganomics Failure in Personal Experience

The Reagan Administration has been well known for "Reaganomics," a system purported to be one of cutting waste, reducing taxes, and enhancing free enterprise and capitalism.

However, to shore up this program and to increase the US Defense Budget, government budget cuts in some vital areas were instituted that enhanced America's strengths, but hurt an even killed some innocent people.

One of the moves under this system was to place disability recipients, especially patients supported by SSI and SSDI funds, under a microscope of analysis and cross examination.

In Ohio, such disability recipients were summarily cut from benefits without preamble. They received a letter stating that they had already received their last check.

One of my profoundly disabled SSDI patients was in a body cast, with all limbs casted and tied to the ceiling in traction. During a long hospital stay, she was cut off from financial support, was evicted from her apartment, but received a letter from President Reagan telling her she was cut off from income, insurance, and housing help, and to start her own business. She died homeless.

I had copied Reagan's letter and placed it in her file with an extensive report to the Social Security Administration that requested her reinstatement of benefits, but they came too late.

They became homeless and some of them simply died on the streets as the local homeless shelters filled to over-capacity.

Operation Coffee Cup, Against Socialized Medicine

"Start Your Own Business"

Just as in President Clinton's welfare reform in the late 1990s, some former recipients under Reagan decided not to reapply for SSDI and SSI and were able to either find jobs or living arrangements with friends or relatives.

Many others were left without income, health insurance, homes, or families. This was the era of the savings and loan crisis as well, so many lost their small savings. They became homeless and some of them simply died on the streets as the local homeless shelters filled to over-capacity and some even closed down.

Left High, Dry, and Homeless

Hundreds of individuals had been left without family and with a rough time of surviving. Local attorneys set up additional offices in trailers all over southern Ohio, recruiting thee individuals to help recover their disability payments. Some, indeed, received a lump sum of back pay along with a reinstatement, and the attorneys took 1/3 of these amounts.

Frustratingly, I also witnessed a 21-year old client receive Total and Permanent Disability, because he had a heart murmur that his own physician stated was not a barrier to work. Another 21-year-old received "Total and Permanent" on the basis of drug addiction. Reaganomics was not working.

Simultaneously, the designation of ADD/ADHD was granted in Ohio and for the first tie in the US to children diagnosed with these conditions. In fact, there were a lot of forces encouraging and coaching children to be diagnosed and paid for having "ADD." Interestingly, some of these children were teens whose parents had been cut out of their own disability payments. Reaganomics was not working.

Trickle Down

Reaganomics Finally Trickles Down

"26 yrs after...the president's massive tax cuts for the ultrarich at last trickled all the way down to deliver their bounty, in the form of a $10 bonus, attendant Frank Kellener." -- The Columbus Dispatch

Doctor, Paraplegic, and Olympian Ronan Tynan Sings at Reagan State Funeral 6/11/2004. (He had his own business.)

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS


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