Ronald Reagan
The Great Communicator
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In 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan defeats
Jimmy Carter in the presidential election.
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Ronald Reagan is sixty-nine when elected
president. The oldest president ever elected,
but few consider him a senior citizen.
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He had been a Hollywood film star and he
knows how to use television as no
president before him.
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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.
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As Reagan is wheeled into the operating
room, he says to his wife, Nancy. “Honey, I
forgot to duck.”
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Reagan doesn’t joke when it comes to his
ideas. He knows exactly what he believes,
and he explains those beliefs clearly and
simply.
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It is 1981, and Reagan is about to bring a
radical change of direction to American
politics, and be very popular doing it.
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Reagan is anti-tax, anti-union, and fiercely
anti-communist. He wants to reduce the
size of the government.
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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.
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Reagan also wants to build up the armed
forces and increase military spending.
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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.
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Access to good health care is not equal to
that in most developed nations. Aids is
ignored as it develops into a national
epidemic.
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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.
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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.
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Increased revenues would pay for the huge
increase in military spending that Reagan
believes necessary to continue to fight the
Cold War.
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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.
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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.
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Programs directed at the poor and middle
class are reduced by $41 billion. The gap
between rich and poor grows
tremendously.
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At the same time, Congress embarks on a
$1.6 trillion military expansion.
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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.
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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.
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At the same time, libraries, museums,
national parks, and other public institutions
find themselves with less government aid.
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Spending on education drops 15 percent.
And with the federal government doing
less, city and state governments grow
enormously during the Reagan years.
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Again and again, Ronald Reagan speaks
out on the dangers of Russian
communism. He calls the Soviet Union an
“evil empire.”
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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.
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The discussion leads to productive armscontrol agreements. The following year, the
president visits Berlin, Germany. The city
has been divided in two since 1961.
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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.
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Ronald Reagan stands before it and says
bluntly, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this
wall.”
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Gorbachev, who is a communist but also a
realistic leader, is aware that Russia needs
to change.
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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.
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They can end the insane arms race that has
been so costly to both nations and has
affected the whole world.
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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.
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The country doesn’t collapse militarily, but,
as a political system, communism has
failed. The Cold War is over.
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The burden of ever-growing military
expenditures wrecked Russia’s economy.
The U.S. was spending trillions on military.
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Television lets Soviet citizens, see the
success of free nations. The Russian
people have had enough of communist
repression. It hasn’t worked.
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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.
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