Exit with Honor: The Life and Presidency of Ronald Reagan

By William E. Pemberton | Go to book overview

Managing Big Government, 1981-1985

Ronald Reagan's budget and tax victories in 1981 established him as a formidable political power and put Congress, liberal Democrats, and Republican moderates on the defensive for eight years. His victories convinced most Americans that Reagan had put the nation on the right track, and even during the severe recession of 1981 and 1982 he retained a solid base of supporters who believed, or hoped, that Reaganomics would eventually work the way he promised.

The " Reagan revolution" that his admirers believed he had begun in 1981 was more a matter of perception than reality. During the two decades prior to the Reagan presidency, for example, federal tax receipts had averaged about 19 percent of gross national product (GNP). Under Carter, Social Security tax increases and inflation-driven bracket creep pushed tax levels to 20.8 percent of GNP and were projected to rise to 24 percent by 1986. Reagan's tax cuts restored the federal tax share to about 19 percent of GNP, returning revenues to the level of the recent past. Reagan's reputation as a budget slasher was overstated as well. Spending rose under Reagan, even for many social welfare programs, but at a slower rate than under recent presidents. Reagan, said Martin Anderson, turned large planned increases into moderate ones.

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Exit with Honor: The Life and Presidency of Ronald Reagan
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • THE RIGHT WING IN AMERICA ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Series Editor's Foreword xi
  • Preface xiii
  • 1 - Growing Up in the Heartland, 1911-1937 3
  • 2 - Finding Fame and Fortune in Hollywood, 1937-1966 21
  • 3 - The Turn Toward Conservatism, 1947-1980 44
  • 4 - Governing California, 1967-1974 64
  • 5 - Changing the National Agenda, 1981 85
  • Managing Big Government, 1981-1985 105
  • 7 - Facing Defeats, Winning Victories, 1982-1989 125
  • 8 - Engaging the Soviets, 1981-1985 149
  • 9 - Coping with Scandal, Exiting with Honor, 1985-1989 172
  • 10 - Evaluating Reagan 198
  • Notes 215
  • Bibliography 259
  • Index 283
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