Ronald Reagan The Great Communicator
In 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan defeats Jimmy Carter in the presidential election.
Ronald Reagan is sixty-nine when elected president. The oldest president ever elected, but few consider him a senior citizen.
He had been a Hollywood film star and he knows how to use television as no president before him.
A few months after he takes office, a wouldbe assassin takes aim at the president on a Washington street and puts a bullet into his lung.
As Reagan is wheeled into the operating room, he says to his wife, Nancy. “Honey, I forgot to duck.”
Reagan doesn’t joke when it comes to his ideas. He knows exactly what he believes, and he explains those beliefs clearly and simply.
It is 1981, and Reagan is about to bring a radical change of direction to American politics, and be very popular doing it.
Reagan is anti-tax, anti-union, and fiercely anti-communist. He wants to reduce the size of the government.
He wants to cut spending on welfare programs, eliminate most government regulation of business, take the federal government out of the field of education, and balance the budget.
Reagan also wants to build up the armed forces and increase military spending.
But in most inner cities, schools, bridges, roads, and buildings are falling apart. Urban crime is soaring. Some education statistics are in a free fall.
Access to good health care is not equal to that in most developed nations. Aids is ignored as it develops into a national epidemic.
Balancing the budget is one of Reagan’s key goals. He is very critical of the deficit (U.S. debt), which, under Carter in 1979, seemed very high.
Reagan believes that if he can cut taxes and public welfare programs, and eliminate as much regulation of business as possible, it will stimulate the economy and tax revenues will increase.
Increased revenues would pay for the huge increase in military spending that Reagan believes necessary to continue to fight the Cold War.
Under Reagan, Congress enacts the single largest tax cut in our history. That does stimulate the economy, which increases tax revenues and the total taxes paid by those in the higher income range.
Before Reagan’s tax reform, of each dollar the government collected in taxes, thirteen cents came from corporations, afterwards, the corporate share is eight cents.
Programs directed at the poor and middle class are reduced by $41 billion. The gap between rich and poor grows tremendously.
At the same time, Congress embarks on a $1.6 trillion military expansion.
What happens to the national debt? It goes from $383 billion in 1980 to $2.3 trillion in 1988. Reagan’s deficits total more than the deficits of all the presidents before him combined.
Some companies aren’t prepared for the responsibilities that go with their new freedom (no regulation). Savings & Loan associations, created to lend money to ordinary people to buy houses, make speculative investments.
At the same time, libraries, museums, national parks, and other public institutions find themselves with less government aid.
Spending on education drops 15 percent. And with the federal government doing less, city and state governments grow enormously during the Reagan years.
Again and again, Ronald Reagan speaks out on the dangers of Russian communism. He calls the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”
Then something remarkable happens, President Reagan and Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev begin talking to each other. They talk about the dangers of nuclear war, and about grandchildren.
The discussion leads to productive armscontrol agreements. The following year, the president visits Berlin, Germany. The city has been divided in two since 1961.
In West Berlin, people are free to come and go and practice democracy. In East Berlin, the communist government has fenced in its own people.
Ronald Reagan stands before it and says bluntly, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Gorbachev, who is a communist but also a realistic leader, is aware that Russia needs to change.
Reagan the Cold Warrior is anxious to become a peacemaker. In 1988, Reagan goes to Moscow, this time as a friend of the Russian premier. The two leaders realize they have a chance to change history.
They can end the insane arms race that has been so costly to both nations and has affected the whole world.
A year later, in 1989, the Soviet Union breaks into pieces. Yes, the Soviet Union, the U.S.S.R., the land we call Russia, falls apart.
The country doesn’t collapse militarily, but, as a political system, communism has failed. The Cold War is over.
The burden of ever-growing military expenditures wrecked Russia’s economy. The U.S. was spending trillions on military.
Television lets Soviet citizens, see the success of free nations. The Russian people have had enough of communist repression. It hasn’t worked.
They throw communism out. It is stunning and it is peaceful. The world had changed politically. There is no great giant for the United States to battle anymore.