|January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989|
|Vice President||George H. W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Jimmy Carter|
|Suceeded by||George H. W. Bush|
|January 3, 1967 – January 7, 1975|
|Born||February 6, 1911
|Alma Mater||Eureka College|
|Religon||Baptized Disciples of Christ, later attended Presbyterian churches|
|Spouse||(1) Jane Wyman (married 1940, divorced 1948)
(2) Nancy Davis (married 1952)
Christine Reagan Michael Reagan (adopted) Patti Reagan Ron Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989) and the 33rd Governor of California (1967–1975). Born in Illinois, Reagan moved to Los Angeles, California in the 1930s, where he was an actor, president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and a spokesman for General Electric (GE). His start in politics occurred during his work for GE; originally a member of the Democratic Party, he switched to the Republican Party in 1962. After delivering a rousing speech in support of Barry Goldwater's presidential candidacy in 1964, he was persuaded to seek the California governorship, winning two years later and again in 1970. He was defeated in his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 as well as 1976, but won both the nomination and election in 1980.
As president, Reagan implemented new political initiatives as well as economic policies, advocating a limited government and economic laissez-faire philosophy, but the extent to which the implementation of these ideas was successful is debated. The supply side economic policies, dubbed "Reaganomics", included substantial tax cuts implemented in 1981. After surviving an assassination attempt and ordering military actions in Grenada, he was re-elected in a landslide victory in 1984.
Reagan's second term was marked by the ending of the Cold War, as well as the revelation of the Iran-Contra affair. The president ordered a massive military buildup in an arms race with the Soviet Union, forgoing the previous strategy of détente. He publicly portrayed the USSR as an "evil empire" and supported anti-Communist movements worldwide. Despite his rejection of détente, he negotiated with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to shrink both countries' nuclear arsenals. Reagan left office in 1989; in 1994 the former president disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He died ten years later at the age of ninety-three, and ranks highly among former U.S. presidents in terms of approval rating.
To date, Reagan is the oldest man elected to the office of the presidency. In his first inaugural address on January 20, 1981, which Reagan himself wrote, he addressed the country's economic malaise arguing: "Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem."
The Reagan Presidency began in a dramatic manner: as Reagan was giving his inaugural address, 52 U.S. hostages, held by Iran for 444 days were set free.
On March 30, 1981, Reagan, along with his press secretary James Brady and two others, were shot by a would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr. Missing Reagan’s heart by less than one inch, the bullet instead pierced his left lung. He began coughing up blood in the limousine and was rushed to George Washington University Hospital, where it was determined that his lung had collapsed; he endured emergency surgery to remove the bullet. In the operating room, Reagan joked to the surgeons, "I hope you're all Republicans!" Though they were not, Joseph Giordano replied, "Today, Mr. President, we're all Republicans."
The bullet was removed and the surgery was deemed a success. It was later determined, however, that the president's life had been in serious danger due to rapid blood loss and severe breathing difficulties. He was able to turn the grave situation into a more light-hearted one though, for when Nancy Reagan came to see him he told her, "Honey, I forgot to duck" (using Jack Dempsey's quip).
The president was released from the hospital on April 11 and recovered relatively quickly, becoming the first serving U.S. President to survive being shot in an assassination attempt. The attempt had great influence on Reagan's popularity; polls indicated his approval rating to be around 73%. Reagan believed that God had spared his life so that he may go on to fulfill a greater purpose.
When Reagan entered office, the United States inflation rate stood at 11.83% and unemployment at 7.5%. Reagan implemented policies based on supply-side economics and advocated a classical liberal and laissez-faire philosophy, seeking to stimulate the economy with large, across-the-board tax cuts. Citing the economic theories of Arthur Laffer, Reagan promoted the proposed tax cuts as potentially stimulating the economy enough to expand the tax base, offsetting the revenue loss due to reduced rates of taxation, a theory that entered political discussion as the Laffer curve. Reaganomics was the subject of debate with supporters pointing to improvements in certain key economic indicators as evidence of success, and critics pointing to large increases in federal budget deficits and the national debt. His policy of "peace through strength" (also described as "firm but fair") resulted in a record peacetime defense buildup including a 40% real increase in defense spending between 1981 and 1985.
During Reagan's presidency, federal income tax rates were lowered significantly with the signing of the bipartisan Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981. Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth recovered strongly after the 1982 recession and grew during his eight years in office at an annual rate of 3.4% per year. Unemployment peaked at 10.8% percent in December 1982—higher than any time since the Great Depression—then dropped during the rest of Reagan's presidency. Sixteen million new jobs were created, while inflation significantly decreased. The net effect of all Reagan-era tax bills was a 1% decrease in government revenues. Reagan also revised the tax code with the bipartisan Tax Reform Act of 1986.
The policies proposed that economic growth would occur when marginal tax rates were low enough to spur investment, which would then lead to increased economic growth, higher employment and wages. Critics labeled this "trickle-down economics"—the belief that tax policies that benefit the wealthy will create a "trickle-down" effect to the poor. Questions arose as to whether Reagan's policies benefitted the wealthy more than those living in poverty, and many poor and minority citizens viewed Reagan as indifferent to their struggles.
In accordance with Reagan's less-government intervention views, Reagan cut the budgets of non-military programs including Medicaid, food stamps, federal education programs and the EPA. Reagan protected entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. However, his administration attempted to purge tens of thousands of allegedly disabled people from the Social Security disability rolls.
The administration's stance toward the Savings and Loan industry contributed to the Savings and Loan crisis. It is also suggested, by a minority of Reaganomics critics, that the policies partially influenced the stock market crash of 1987, but there is no consensus regarding a single source for the crash. In order to cover newly spawned federal budget deficits, the United States borrowed heavily both domestically and abroad, raising the national debt from $700 billion to $3 trillion. Reagan described the new debt as the "greatest disappointment" of his presidency.
He reappointed Paul Volcker as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and in 1987 he appointed monetarist Alan Greenspan to succeed him. Reagan ended the price controls on domestic oil which had contributed to energy crises in the 1970s. The price of oil subsequently dropped, and the 1980s did not see the fuel shortages that the 1970s had. Reagan also fulfilled a 1980 campaign promise to repeal the Windfall profit tax in 1988, which had previously increased dependence on foreign oil. Some economists, such as Nobel Prize winners Milton Friedman and Robert A. Mundell, argue that Reagan's tax policies invigorated America's economy and contributed to the economic boom of the 1990s. Other economists, such as Nobel Prize winner Robert Solow, argue that the deficits were a major reason why Reagan's successor, George H. W. Bush, reneged on a campaign promise and raised taxes.
Reagan was sworn in as president for the second time on January 20, 1985, in a private ceremony at the White House. The public ceremony took place in the Capitol Rotunda the next day, because January 20 fell on a Sunday, thus no public celebration was held. January 21 was one of the coldest days on record in Washington, D.C., and due to the low temperatures and large snowfall the night before, inaugural celebrations were held inside the Capitol.
In 1985, Reagan visited a German military cemetery in Bitburg to lay a wreath with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. It was determined that the cemetery held the graves of 49 members of the Waffen-SS. Reagan issued a statement that called the Nazi soldiers buried in that cemetery "victims," which ignited a stir over whether Reagan had equated the SS men to Holocaust victims; Pat Buchanan, Director of Communications under Reagan, argued that the notion was false. Now strongly urged to cancel the visit, the president responded that it would be wrong to back down on a promise he had made to Chancellor Kohl. He attended the ceremony where two military generals laid a wreath.
The Reagan administration was criticized for its slow response to the growing HIV-AIDS epidemic. As thousands became infected with the virus, President Reagan did not increase funding to try and discover cures, rather he downplayed the situation and only acknowledged that it was an issue of concern at the May 31, 1987 Third International Conference on AIDS in Washington.