Ronald Reagan's Accomplishments

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  • 0:04 The Dynamism of Ronald Reagan
  • 0:58 Reaganomics & Tax Cuts
  • 2:10 The New Conservative Movement
  • 3:13 Foreign Policy & the Cold War
  • 4:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will learn about the accomplishments of President Ronald Reagan. We will highlight the achievements he made in regard to politics, society, economics, and foreign affairs.

The Dynamism of Ronald Reagan

When Republican Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States in the Election of 1980, he ushered in what's commonly referred to as the Reagan Revolution. His policies and approaches were so different from his Democratic predecessor, Jimmy Carter, that his administration was considered a sort of revolution. This Reagan Revolution was characterized by conservative free market economics, tax cuts, a bold foreign policy approach, and limitations on the power of the federal government. Reagan was a dynamic and popular president who served two terms, between 1981 and 1989. He had been a Hollywood actor before becoming involved in politics, and his ability to clearly communicate and resonate with the American people earned him the nickname ''the Great Communicator.'' Let's dig deeper and explore some of President Reagan's major accomplishments.

Reaganonomics and Tax Cuts

We'll highlight economic accomplishments first. President Reagan's conservative economic approach became known as Reaganomics. Reaganomics was a supply-side, or ''trickle-down'', economic approach. It emphasized tax cuts and deregulation as the means of reducing inflation and fostering economic growth. Reaganomics relied on a laissez-faire, or ''hands off'', approach. Reagan believed the federal government should have its ''hands off'' business, and that the government should not interfere in economic matters.

Early in his first term, Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, which lowered federal income tax. During his second term, he signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which simplified the tax code and closed tax loopholes. Under Reaganomics, inflation and unemployment declined, while millions of new jobs were created. Compared with the Carter Era, the American economy as a whole was on better footing. Of course, please keep in mind, that the effectiveness of Reaganomics continued to be debated by economists and historians, and the contours of this debate often fall along political or ideological lines.

The New Conservative Movement

Let's look at the social and cultural accomplishments of President Reagan. Let's go back to the term ''Reagan Revolution''. In a nutshell, Ronald Reagan revitalized the Republican Party. Before he had taken office, the most recent Republican president had been Richard Nixon, who was forced to resign from office after being involved in the Watergate Scandal. This was a low point for the GOP, an acronym for ''Grand Old Party'', a nickname for the Republican Party. With Reagan and his revolution came a new sense of enthusiasm for conservative values. Patriotism and American nationalism were high within conservative circles. During his reelection campaign in 1984, Reagan aired a television commercial containing the line, ''It's morning again in America.'' This line reflected an optimistic outlook: now that Reagan was president, things were once again good in America. Reagan's conservatism help solidify the ideals of the neo-conservative movement and have had a profound impact on the Republican Party that's felt to this day.

Foreign Policy & the Cold War

Reagan's accomplishments are probably most visible in the area of foreign policy. Reagan was staunchly opposed to communism, and he took a hard-line stance against the Soviet Union and other communist nations. He publicly called the Soviet Union an ''evil empire'', and in 1987, demanded that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall.

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