Categories for Conservatism

Remember Reagan Essay

Remember Reagan Essay

The 1980 US presidential campaign pitted Republican Ronald Reagan against Democrat Jimmy Carter. Why do you think Reagan beat Carter? Reagan inherited an economy that was in bad shape. The prime lending rate was like 15%, credit cards were 15-25%, there was gas rationing and soaring inflation that was 20%. He had an economic plan that was about cutting government size, taxes and building the US military back up. People got fed up with Carter and the government taxes. Sounds kind of like the Tea Party movement…

Sort of. The Tea Party is about following the Constitution and amendments, cutting taxes and government size. But it is not a political party despite what most people think. They have conservative values for the most part like the Republican Party. Reagan linked his campaign to the spreading tax revolt by promising substantial tax cuts. Equally important, he called for restoration of American “strength” and “pride.” (Brinkley, Chapter 31, 2012). What did he actually do about this while in office? He had Reaganomics (supply-side economics).

He cut taxes on the premise that businesses and investors could push the economy into growing after the energy crisis of the 70’s, high taxes and high interest rates on loans. The US economy blew up in the mid/ late 80’s. What about the size of the government? What did he do about that and what were the results? He cut government programs. I am not sure which. I think he did some cuts on Medicare and Medicaid. Low income housing.

He broke the air traffic controller union after they tried to strike for better wages. They made way more than most already so he canned most of them. There were reductions in food stamps, subsidized low-income housing, limitations on Medicare and Medicaid payments, reductions in student loans, school lunches, and other educational programs; and an end to many forms of federal assistance to the states and cities (Brinkley, Chapter 31, 2012). He increased military spending tremendously instead. Why? The military was maligned by the media and most of the US population after Vietnam.

There were huge defense cuts on programs that were deemed unnecessary like the F-15 fighter which is now seen as a renowned fighter platform. According to the book Reagan’s War, one of his most important campaign promises had been to restore American military might. After much internal debate over domestic policy, increased military spending and reduced social programs with his cabinet, Reagan is quoted as saying “I am the commander in chief; my primary responsibility is the security of the United States… if we don’t have security, we’ll have no need for social programs”. But he made the national debt go up a lot.

Yes he did. Part of Reagan’s plan was to combat the Soviet expansion by out spending them militarily. His advisors figured that the Soviet economy could not take much more due to huge expenses on their side. After the SALT treaty was negotiated, the Soviets continued to build 48,000 nuclear weapons. The agreed upon number was 25,000. The US stopped at the 15,000 units from the SALT treaty. KGB documents confirmed this after the Soviet breakup in the 90’s. Reagan just spent them into collapse knowing that they would try to keep up. The evil empire is no longer a threat. What about the Iran-Contra affair? What do you know about why and who? Reagan spent so much effort on the Soviet theatre that he was not able to do the same with third world threats like Nicaragua or the PLO. So he funded covert operations and weapons to prop up governments or oppose them depending on if they supported America.

In the Iran Contra affair, he had the Israelis sell weapons to Iran who were to work to get hostages released from a terrorist organization. The money would then be funneled to pay for the Contras in Nicaragua that were fighting the communist Sandinistas. The administration was weakened as it was seen that hostages could be taken to get money and weapons. This is kind of the like the initial release of the hostages in 1980. What do you know about that? The US government tried to negotiate, rescue and embargo Iran for the hostages taken under Carters administration. They were released when Reagan was elected. He dealt from a position of power and the Iranians respected that.

The US government eased economic sanctions prior to the release too… What about religion? What did the new right and religious right have to do with the era of Reagan? Well, born again Christians were becoming more vocal in the 70’s. Pat Robertson, Falwell, Jim and Tammy Fay Baker. They had a lot of followers and money and they were conservative in their views. Abortion, feminism, homosexuality and the separation of church and state were all fought over. The right was for traditional values of the bible, against abortion, gays and some views of feminism. Reagan supported the same conservative views so he gathered much of their support. It also allowed him to tap into the financial support of this branch. How about the assassination attempt? Why did that happen?

Sirhan Sirhan? No, John Hinkley, Jr. I think he (Hinkley) was in love with Jodie Foster and thought that Reagan was in the way. Shot him with a .22, but Reagan survived. He bounced back pretty quickly and became even more driven.


Brinkley, A. (2012). American History (14th ed.). Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database. Schewizer, P. (2002). Reagan’s War. New York, NY: Double Day.