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US History: President Ronald Reagan (1981 - 1988)

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

Ms. Inglish offers 30 years successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

The 1980s

Source

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

1981

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.

1982

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.]

1983

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.

1984

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.

1985

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.

1986

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."

1987

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%.

1988

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, to...car-wash 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

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      1) The increased homelessness, 2) Savings & Loan fiasco, and 3) throwing 1000s of severely and totally crippled people off SSI and SSDI for NO reason were unforgiveable sins of this administration. Quadraplegics here received White House letters to go start their own businesses.

      The economy in Ohio was not healthy and in fact, in one of the largest markets for fast food - here in my state - McDonald's closed restaurants during the Reagan Admin that were big money-makers before he took the White House.

      I think the Berlin Wall and the USSR were at a tipping point already and Reagan dashed in with the televised plea to bring down the wall. I think his words reinforced what would happen naturally and brought it about more quickly. But he absolutely did not bring down the wall.

      In addition, he was threatened by J. Edgar Hoover's friend/colleague gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (according to her grandson, William Hopper's/"Paul Drake", son and his documents) to switch to Republican from Democrat or lose his career. I don't see that as a particularly great man.

      Thanks for comments!

    • profile image

      Jay daniels 6 years ago

      During Ronald Reagans Presidency the one thing I can remember is the amount of homeless people in Dallas Texas. If the Economy was so great why did Dallas, Texas have so many homeless people. I still respect him for the fact that he got the Berlin wall torn down. That was incredible. He was a great man. I don't know personally if I would call him a great president I was too young at the time of his presidency. I can only remember the amount of homeless people in Dallas, Texas at this time.

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      April Flores 8 years ago

      Love this article. Anyone who doesn't know a little something of Reagan surely knows something now. My grandmother loved to tell stories of stories she remembers when she was a young girl "growing up with reagan" as she would say.

      Thanks Patty.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thank you for your valuable insights and experiences, Bob Hechler. i watched several of my disabled patients in Reagan years lose their disability income permanently, True, some could return to work, but nost of mine could not. Those (of mine) disabled in their 50s lost all income until the age of 62 at early retirement. In addition, other clients lost all of their savings in the Savings & Loan scandal of the era. When Clinton was running for Prez, I felt that the worst he could do would be to shake things up -- and he did good as well.

      America is actually having a larger underground economy during Republican years. That speaks to the successes and failures of the GOP in economics, doesn't it?

    • profile image

      Bob Hechler 9 years ago

      I was working for Catholic Social Services during the Reagan years, directing foster care and providing counseling. We also had a food, clothing and furnishings bank next door. We saw the food lines growing dramatically, to the point where there were long lines out on the sidewalks. The State Hospital was closed as well. All of this led to a huge increase in homeless persons and many were mentally ill and obtaining no services any longer. Reagan ended some programs and attempted to end others that actually saved money for taxpayers. His ideological approach to problems prevented him from looking at things logically. This was very destabilizing in my state and I have heard in other states as well. Reagan lied about trading arms for hostages in Iran. His colleagues eventually were prosecuted for selling arms that they personally profited from, selling to Iran and using some of the money to finance a mercenary army to go up against rebels in El Salvador and Nicaraugua who were attempting to overthrow malicious dictators. We were told later that his decline in mental health due to alzheimers allowed those around him to take actions that he was not aware of; such as Oliver North's destruction of records regarding the Iran/Contra scam. From my vantage point, Reagan was not a positive influence on this country. It was good to see him go and things improved a lot under the leadership of Clinton. Since Bush II, things have gone back to the ways of Reagan, only much worse. Bush has repeated the same mistakes.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Perhaps he was a better actor, as you say; until McCarthy got hold of him.

      The McCarthy communist witch-hunts made some people pursue their own agendas for survival out of fear and mistrust. I think being a target himself of McCarthy did not help hom form good values. Some targets broke down and gave the names of non-comuunists as communists, just to be set free themselves. This happneed in my father's company as well. If you did not turn in anyone, you became a target yourself. These were most unhappy and ridiculous times in the US.

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 9 years ago from Sydney

      Great information.

      Maybe he was a better actor

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks Flashfire; I was hoping this information would be useful!

      Patty

    • Flashfire profile image

      Flashfire 9 years ago from United States

      My God Patti. I love you for your informative articles. Viva Reaganomics.