Form President Ronald Wilson Reagan has been called the transformational President by many scholars because he has such a lasting effect on many aspects of American life. He displayed great leadership qualities which helped to form a relationship with the Soviet Union that eventually led to the peaceful resolution of the Cold War. Scholars have debated for years and have come to various explanations as to why the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed. Although the scholars cannot agree upon an answer, it seems to be a consensus that former President Reagan’s policies directly affected the outcome. President Reagan was known to be an eloquent communicator who stood by conservative views. He wanted to restore traditional values; this idea was not taken well by all member of the American public. President Reagan’s conservative views greatly affected education, economic policy, and domestic affairs in the United States during the time he served as Commander in Chief.
President Reagan’s conservative views greatly affected the educational system in the United States during his terms in office. In early 1983, an educational report was released for the Department of Education that showed that the President had increased the spending budget by 6 billion dollars for the next three years. In 1988, he had cut nearly 50 percent from all educational sources. During his two terms in office President Reagan cut aid to schools by more than 1 billion dollars. According to Gary Clabaugh, the world should have been prepared for the cuts that the educational system would face under President Reagan. Clabaugh pointed out the drastic measure than Reagan, then governor of California, took on the University of California. Reagan demanded that the legislative investigate the University of California for alleged sexual misconduct and Communism ideals. In a public hearing, Reagan was quoted calling officials from the University “hippies, radicals, and filthy speech advocates”. He felt they had caused disorder on the campus and should “be taken by the scruff of the neck and thrown off campus permanently” (Clabaugh, p. 256-259) While Governor, Reagan cut spending for higher education as well as basic education in California. This resulted in the increase of local taxes and the downfall of public schools in California. The California School System had been the model for other systems aspiring greatness; nonetheless, when Reagan left California for the White House California schools had “overcrowded classrooms, ancient, worn-out textbooks, crumbling buildings, and badly demoralized teacher” ( Clabaugh, p. 256-259). Instead of advances the educational system, Reagan’s conservative views deteriorated the California School System.
Reagan’s economic policy became known as “Reagonomics”. Upon entering office, President Reagan promised to restore free market by eliminating excessive government regulations thus encouraging private enterprise. He also vowed to target waste and fraud in social programs. He became infamous for telling the racist myth about the fictitious “Chicago Welfare Queen”. According to Reagan, the “Queen” drove a Cadillac, had more than eighty different names, more than ten social security cards, and collected money from several deceased husbands (Campbell, p. 302). This woman was never found or identified, but the image of a black, uneducated, fraudulent woman driving a Cadillac remained in the minds of other conservatives. During his first year in office, President Reagan cut more than 39 billion dollars from government assistance. In October of 1982, unemployment exceeded 10 percent for the first time in more than forty years. Americans were buying more goods from foreign countries, but not selling nearly as much as they were buying. As a result, President reluctantly signed a bill open foreign markets to purchase U.S. made goods. Ironically, this was something he stated that he would do when he entered office. Although Reagan gained high approval rates in general, he was very unpopular with minorities. Blacks especially were unpleased with Reagan’s policies because they didn’t benefit from any of them. In 1986, more than 30 percent of the black population income was below the national poverty level (Haveman, J., Danzinger, S., & Plotnick, R p. 2-3).
Tax Reform Law of 1986 had a lasting effect on the American people. It was considered the largest tax cut in U.S. history. Economic conditions were fairly stable in 1986 America for nearly everyone who was of non-black origins. The average annual family income for non-black families in 1986 was 32, 251 dollars. The average annual income for a black family of four in 1986 was under 12, 092. Sadly, most black families were surviving on nearly three times less than what he average non-black family survived on. With rates like this and the myth about the Cadillac driving welfare recipient, many people of color were very disappointed with President Reagan’s conservative cuts. In the state of Alabama, 44 percent of black families were in poverty. In neighboring Mississippi, 49 percent of black families were living in poverty (Haveman, J., Danzinger, S., & Plotnick, R p. 2-3). In Alabama the overall poverty rate was 22 percent, but only 12 percent of those in poverty were White or non-Hispanic. In Mississippi, the overall poverty rate was 26 percent and 11 percent of those persons were White or non-Hispanic origins (Haveman, J., Danzinger, S., & Plotnick, R p. 2-3).
President Reagan’s conservative views greatly affected minority groups, especially blacks, in the United States during his two terms as President. President Reagan slashed educational funds considerably during his time as Governor of California and as President of the United States. He left the educational system in a worse condition than he found it. Cuts in public assistance to poor minorities left them lingering below national poverty levels. Racist myths about blacks who used the system to drive Cadillacs instead of feeding their hungry children forever changed the way blacks were viewed by their fellow Americans. Finally, Tax Reform Law of 1986 greatly affected blacks as far south as Alabama and Mississippi. During Reagan’s terms in office nearly half of black families were surviving on a third less than what White families were living with. Reagan’s policies targeted poor, black families that need assistance to survive. His policies nearly starved them while blocking their access to much needed education. His time in office was dire time to the average black person in the 1980s.
Campbell, A. (1971). White Attitudes toward black people. Ann Arbor, MI; Institute for Social Research. 295-312
Clabaugh, G. (2004). The Educational Legacy of Ronald Reagan. Educational Horizons. 256-259.
Haveman, J., Danzinger, S., & Plotnick, R. (1991). State Poverty Rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics in the late 1980’s. University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty. 1-19.