the reagan revolution. a conservative revolution how should we interpret the 1980s? –reagan led a...
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The Reagan Revolution
A Conservative RevolutionHow should we interpret the 1980s?Reagan led a conservative revolution to roll-back New Deal/Great Society legacy.Positive or Negative effects?My argument:Reagan mostly achieved goals, but at great social and economic cost to women, poor, and minorities.Left U.S. economically and socially divided.
Reagan: The Man, the MythEarly YearsGrew up poor in Dixon, ILHeld onto small town values his whole life.Hollywood B ActorPresident of Screen Actors GuildFBI InformantSpokesman for General ElectricPreached small government, traditional values, and anticommunism.Governor of California 1966-1974
Reagan: The Man, the MythGoals: weaken big government, increase defense spending, reassert American world dominance.
Early YearsElected President in 1980Told Americans: Government is not the solution. Government is the problem.
Reagan: The Man, the MythThe Acting PresidentUnderstood the constant entertainment culture of the 1980sThe Great CommunicatorPerformance over substance.Master of imagery and a superb speaker.Used personal reflections and symbols to persuade.Assassination attempt (March 31, 1981)A political plus for Reagan.
The Reagan RevolutionConservative Social AgendaSought a return to traditional values circa 1950s.Goal: make government smaller through spending cuts in: Environment, consumer, protection, poverty programs, education, transportation.Reagan appointed conservative judges to help dismantle Warren/Burger courts legacy piece by piece.
The Reagan RevolutionEnvironmental PoliciesCorporations/ranchers vs. environmentalists Logging/mining/grazing vs. scenic/recreational use.Reagan sided with corporations and ranchers Paid fees below market value.Reagan appointees openly hostile to environmentalists.But not reflective of mainstream view which was pro-environment.
The Reagan RevolutionIdeological UnderpinningsA conservative ideological devotion to free markets, smaller government, and individual responsibility (circa 19th century).Liberal CriticsReagan agenda unrealistic for complex social/economic problems of 20th century.Federal government needs to take a role.
The Reagan RevolutionReaganomicsTop tax rate reduced from 70% to 28%Supply-side economicsTheory that if you cut taxes, Americans will invest more and tax revenues will increase (NOT!)Annual Budget deficit reached $220 billion a year in 1986. $1.8 trillion added to National Debt
The Reagan RevolutionThe Decade of GreedReagans economic policies reflected mood of country in 1980s.Stock market was overvalued and personal debt increased.Corporate tycoons were the American heroesMichael Milken, Leona Helmsly, and Ivan BoeskyThe Material Girl in a Material WorldIvan BoeskyMaterial Girl
The Reagan RevolutionMorning in AmericaDeep recession in 1981-82, but economy steamed ahead as inflation declined.Inflation went from 12.4% in 1980 to 4% in 1982.1984 ElectionReagan won a 49 state victory against Democrats Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro (first woman VP for a major party).
Reagans Style of LeadershipA Hidden-Hand Presidency?Reagan called out of touch and lost without a script.A Detached PresidencyA lack of leadership at the top.Uninterested in minutia of policyDelegated authority.Administrations second term nearly brought down by Iran-Contra Scandal in 1986.Oliver North testifies to Congress.
The Revolutions ImpactA Stratified SocietyTop 1% received 60% of after-tax income.Top 1% controlled 39% of nations wealth in 1989.(15% for bottom 80%)20 million jobs created, but most were non-unionized low wage service sector jobs.
The Revolutions ImpactEconomic Consequences to PoorMinimum wage was poverty wage.24% increase in homelessness (1979-1987)20% of children (and 50% of Black children) lived in poverty.Reagan not solely responsible, but his policies contribute greatly to a stratified society between haves and have-nots.
Final ThoughtsReagan could look back in 1989 with satisfaction:Growing economy.Conservative judiciary.Even an advantage to spiraling deficitAmericans had to rely on other sources for assistance besides federal government.But could the Revolution continue under George Bush without Ronald Reagan?