Ronald Reagan's Political Views
The 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan served as the nation's chief executive from 1981-1989. Before serving as President, Reagan was governor of California from 1967-1975. For many Republicans, Reagan is one of America's most revered politicians, a man who was admired for his commitment to tax cuts, defense spending, and success at speeding the end of the Soviet Union and Cold War. Alternatively, many Democrats view Reagan's legacy critically, pointing out that his administration drastically cut social services at the expense of military programs, ran up huge budget deficits, and increased income inequality. These views continue to affect American politics in the present day, as Republican politicians, including many of those who ran for the 2016 Presidential Nomination, regularly proclaim their admiration for and commitment to Reagan's policies and political views. This hub will attempt to take an unbiased look at what those political views really are, so voters can decide for themselves how they feel about Reagan's political beliefs.
Ronald Reagan's Political Views
1. Health Care: Reagan was historically an opponent of all government supported health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. In 1961, Reagan made a series of speeches and recorded an album blasting the proposed creation of Medicare (which was ultimately launched in 1965), stating that "One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project, most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project, most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it" However, as President, Reagan only made limited changes to the Medicare programs funding. His views on a privately run health care system supported by the federal government (as was set up by Congress in 2010) are unknown, but a reasonable assumption can be made that he would have opposed such a bill, given his past statement on government's role in medicine.
2. Budget Deficits and Taxation: Reagan is well known for supply-side, "trickle-down economics", or "Reaganomics", an economic philosophy that suggests that reducing government spending, tax rates, and cutting regulation will result in increased economic growth. As President, Reagan dramatically reduced tax rates, cutting the top marginal tax rate from 70% when he took office to 28% in 1986, and dramatically overhauling the tax code to reduce deductions and exemptions in 1986. However, Reagan did not reduce government spending as President, as the national debt actually tripled during his Presidency, mainly due to increased military spending, a fact which Reagan described as the "greatest disappointment" of his Presidency.
3. Foreign Policy: Reagan is well known for his foreign policy accomplishments. Upon taking office in 1980, Reagan issued a massive build up of the American military, and generally adapted a more confrontational policy towards the Soviet Union (which he referred to as an "evil Empire" in a 1983 speech). than had been adapted by his predecessors in the White House. This policy is ultimately credited with helping speed the economic collapse and opening of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, which ultimately led to the break up of the former USSR under the first President Bush. However, Reagan's policy included provisions for providing covert support for anti-Communist resistance activities around the world, including giving weapons and arms to Mujaheddin guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan, some of whom led Afghan and Taliban resistance to the US invasion of Afghanistan a two decades later in the 2000s. Perhaps the biggest scandal of Reagan's presidency also resulted from this policy, as the CIA violated American law by selling guns and weapons to Iran to fund the "Contra" rebels in Nicaragua, an episode that became known as the Iran-Contra scandal.
4. Education: Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign platform included abolishing the federal Department of Education. However, as President, he made no moves to accomplish this promise, and generally did not make many statements on education during his presidency, though he did come out in favor of prayer in public schools, stating "Can it really be true that the first amendment can permit Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen to march on public property, advocate the extermination of people of the Jewish faith and the subjugation of blacks, while the same amendment forbids our children from saying a prayer in school?"
5. Gun Control: Reagan was a long time member of the NRA and generally favored relaxed restrictions on gun ownership. After leaving office, Reagan published an editorial supporting the passage of the Brady Bill in 1991, and later came out in support of the federal ban on assault rifles in 1994, which he called "absolutely necessary."
6. Immigration: In 1986, President Reagan signed the Immigration Control Act, which made it illegal for companies to knowingly hire or employ illegal immigrants, but which also granted amnesty to all illegal immigrants who had been living in the United States since 1982. On signing the bill, Reagan said that "The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans." Interestingly, Reagan's views on this issue contrast sharply with many current Republican politicians, a majority of whom have come out strongly against any amnesty provision for illegal immigrants, even those who have lived in the U.S. for a number of years.