Ronald Wilson Reagan
Ronald Reagan had a very successful life. He was the 40th president of the United States (1981-1989). He was an actor for 30 years before he became involved with politics and starred in more than 50 movies. Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois.
Reagan was raised by his traveling shoe salesman father John Reagan, and his mother Nelle. John was an alcoholic and was saved from the Great Depression by the Works Progress Administration. Reagan was strongly influenced by his mother, who taught him to read at an early age.
After High School, Ronald Reagan won a Scholarship to Eureka College in Peoria, Illinois. He was very active at Eureka. He majored in economics, student body president, captain of the swimming team, and was on the football. He became interested in acting, but after his graduation in 1932 the only job available that was related to show biz was a local radio sportscaster. In 1936 he took the job as a sportscaster for WHO radio station in Des Moines, Iowa.
Reagan moved to Hollywood in 1937 and began a 25 year acting career. Some of his noted movies were Knute Rockne-All American, Kings Row, and Bedtime for Bozo. During his acting career, Reagan was elected as the president of the Screen Actors Guild (the union for film actors) six times. He married Jane Wyman, had two children, but divorced her eight years later. He married Nancy Davis in 1952 and they had two more children. As president of the union, he tried to remove communists from the movie industry.
Reagans first national political scene was when he did a speech supporting Republican presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater. Even though Goldwater lost the election, he brought in money and praise from fellow Republicans around the country.
Governor of California
Reagan decided to run for Governor of California in 1966 and defeated Edmund G. Brown, Sr., by nearly one million votes. His two terms as governor were tough because six of the eight years he served the legislature was controlled by Democrats, him being a Republican. As governor, Reagan became known as a conservative politician who wanted to restrict government involvement in economy and society.
Ronald Reagan made a last-minute effort to get the 1968 Republican presidential nomination. He was defeated by Richard Nixon who became president. Reagan also tried to win the presidential nomination again in 1976 but lost to Gerald Ford.
The Election of 1980
Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy in November
1979, after making political friends at party fund-raising dinners around the country. He easily defeated the other nominees for the Republican nomination.He chose Gerald Ford as his vice-president. But when Fords negotiators proposed that the vice-president should share presidential powers, Reagan chose George Bush instead.
During the campaign against Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter, the biggest issue was the economy. Reagan blamed Carter for weaknesses in foreign policy and a weak army. During the time of the election Reagan had great public support, which made it easier to push his program through congress.
When Reagan became president he started out in a recession. 11 percent of the work force was unemployed in fall, 1982. This recession reduced inflation significantly, but the interest rates remained high.
During the next two years the economic recovery began. The unemployment came down, but thousands of factory jobs disappeared. The new jobs, which were mostly in….. service industries, paid less, leaving inflation low.
Economic Policy- Reagans economic policy worked on the claim that investment in industry and spending by consumers would eventually increase tax revenues. With this policy, he persuaded Congress to pass the Economic Recovery Tax Act. This enacted tax cuts that benefited upper-income taxpayers and large corporations. He also made cuts in spending for job training, college loans, food and medical programs, payments for those with disabilities, child daycare centers, and centers for the elderly.
Reagan relaxed environmental and safety standards and helped struggling savings and loan institution. He also believed that labor unions interfered with economic efficiency. When 11,800 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers went on strike in August 1981 wanting higher pay and a shorter work week. Reagan just dismissed all 11,800 strikers. All of Reagans actions fueled a 5-year stock market increase.
During his run, he had very high military bills and was forced to borrow money from different countries, especially Japan. The huge deficit kept interest rates very high which made the value of the U.S. dollar soar. But a large devaluation of the dollar in 1986 failed to overcome the huge trade deficit. This caused a panic on Wall St. as the stock market fell as it had in 1929. After this Congress stopped approving increases in the military budget.
Social Policy- Reagan had a powerful impact on civil liberties and rights. The Justice Department cut back its efforts in enforcing job discrimination and fair housing laws. After a public alarm about drug use he suggested that all employers test their workers for drug use and they fire them if caught more than once. He also pushed for a law to be passed allowing no discrimination for people with AIDS, but it wasnt passed.
Fighting Communism- Reagan fought communism as a president hard. With Detente, a peaceful policy for coexistence with the USSR, and called it “an evil empire.” He launched a crusade against governments and movements under Soviet influence.
Another point of Reagans foreign policy was to reverse the momentum of the Marxist revolution in Central America. After a revolution in Nicaragua had disposed of former leader Anatosio Somoza, the U.S. accused the new Sandinista government of aiding rebels in El Salvador with weapons. So the Reagan cut his aid to Nicaragua and started supporting anti-Sandinista guerilla movements known as the contras. Then Nicaragua signed an aid pact with USSR. He then supplied El Salvador with arms.
Reagan also sent a huge amount of military equipment to Muslim guerillas fighting the communist government of Afghanistan.
In 1982, in an effort to strengthen the Lebanon government, he sent marines to Lebanon. In October 1983, 250 marines were killed when their Beirut headquarters was bombed.Reagan removed his troops. Those remaining were often captured by Muslim radicals.
In 1987 Kuwait asked for Soviet and U.S. aid during the Iran-Iraq war in the Persian Gulf.
Iran-Contra Scandal- The last two years of Reagans presidency were marred by a political scandal which badly damaged his reputation as a honest person and committed to principle. The scandal was that the U.S. had secretly sold weapons to Iran and had diverted the profits from the sale to help the contras. Reagan denied the allegations. There was also said to be a law saying that the U.S. couldnt aid the contras. This revealed to be true and Reagan lost his image.