Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Ronald Reagan | The Sad Legacy of Ronald Reagan - October 1988

The Sad Legacy of Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, 1981 - 1989

After browsing the web for numerous hours I finally came across an article that was from the era in which Ronald Reagan sat in office. I thought that by finding an article from the 1980’s it would give us with an opinion whether positive or negative on President Reagan because it would be a contemporary article from the era. Therefore it can provide us with opinions that were felt about him during his presidency rather than those that were formed after he left his legacy and retrospectively the ways that he may have affected the US economy and politics.

The article is from The Mises Institute monthly and was written in October 1988; what must be known is that this would be written at the point where Reagan’s presidency was coming to an end, therefore most of his impact in politics would have been felt and likewise scrutinised by those who did not necessarily support him, and so looking towards the upcoming candidates campaigning to become the new president of the United States.

The article titled The Sad Legacy of Ronald Reagan by Sheldon L. Richman comments on the after effects of the eight years in which he was President, also labelled as Reaganism. Richman looks back and subdivided his argument into five areas that Reagan has failed to improve; Spending, Taxes, Regulation, Bureaucracy and Trade. The two areas that are most densely written about are Spending and Taxes so these are the two that I will summerise; if you want to read about the other then click on this link.

Spending – Richman highlights that even from the previous president Jimmy Carter the federal government spent 27.9% of the "national income", but this has however increased with the Reagan administration as at the end of the first quarter of 1988, federal spending accounted for 28.7% of "national income."

Here are some more statistics that Richman uses to verify his argument; Social Security spending has increased from $179 billion in 1981 to $269 billion in 1986, Medicare spending in 1981 was $43.5 billion and in 1987 it was $80 billion. Federal entitlements cost $197.1 billion in 1981 and $477 billion in 1987. Conclusively in spending, Reagan’s impact in 1988 had been disastrous and Richman wants to make this known. And so the Gross Federal Debt proves just this because in his eight years as President it went from $900 billion to $2.7 billion.

Taxes – According to Richman, Reagan came into office proposing to cut personal income and business taxes. In 1982 Reagan supported a five-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax and higher taxes on the trucking industry. This had a total increase of $5.5 billion a year. In 1983, Reagan called for, and received, Social Security tax increases of $165 billion over seven years. A year later came Reagan's Deficit Reduction Act to raise $50 billion. Again to Richman’s statistics, which in effect provide us with an easier understanding of visual impact Reagan had over his Presidency. Richman shows that the taxes by the end of the Reagan era will be as large a chunk of GNP (Gross National Product) as when he took office, if not larger at 19.4%, but the country’s historic average is 18.3%.

What to take away from all the evidence that Richman provides is that this is the impact of Reagan’s legacy. As Richman finalises, “he [Reagan] was to be the man who would turn things around. But he didn't even try. As he so dramatically illustrated when he accepted the plant-closing bill, there has been no sea-change in thinking about the role of government”.

Link to Article Website:

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