Domestic and Foreign Affairs
I have decided to write my research paper on the topic of Ronald Reagan’s Domestic and Foreign Affairs. The reason that I choose this topic was because I have always been personally interested in Ronald Reagan’s time in office and the national crisis he had to deal with. Reagan was awesome when it came to foreign policy because he knew how to negotiate with foreign leaders and their countries to get what he wanted. There were several instances during his time in office that he had the chance to use his ability to get the country out of danger. Domestic Affairs is another part of Reagan’s presidency that was very important. He was able to take the country, which seemed to be in an economic slump and turn their economic status around. The economic growth of the United States is still holding true today. There is only one question that I wanted to answer with this paper. Was Ronald Reagan an effective leader when it came to domestic and foreign affairs?
From the day that Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States, in November 1980, he had a huge task ahead of him, to develop an economic plan or policy to implement into the national economy. President Reagan felt that he needed to base his economic program on the basis of supply side economics (Encyclopedia Britannica, Britannica.com, 2000). This theory is a very complex idea that President Reagan developed himself, so many people gave it the name of Reaganomics (Encyclopedia American, gi.grolier.com , 2000). The theory of Reaganomics called for a significant reduction in all forms of taxes and an adequate cutback on governmental spending so there will be more money in the hands of the American citizens. The main goal of the supply side economic theory is to give a boost to the United States economy, which would cause the economy to expand. This economic expansion and boost would occur through citizens who would spend the extra tax money on products and services in their geographical region or who would invest money into businesses in their area. The only problem for the government using this theory would be the initial revenues that the government would lose from the tax cuts. In theory the economic growth would eventually increase taxable incomes, this increase in taxable incomes should cause the governmental revenues to grow in the long run. With the idea of Reaganomics in mind President Reagan persuaded Congress to pass the Economic Recovery Tax Act, which is the first major step in his plan. This Tax Act called for a 25 percent tax cut that was implemented over a three-year period (David Mervin, 1990, 133-7). The only problem with this tax cut is the fact that it mainly benefited the upper – income taxpayers and large corporations. The reason that these groups were targeted is because there is more of a chance that they will invest their money in business programs that will promote economic growth. After this tax cut took effect the American people in the lower – income tax brackets were not pleased with the results. They seemed to be faced with an increase in their tax rates even though most of them were in the income categories below the national average. On the other end of the spectrum the people that were in the upper tax brackets were experiencing significant tax cuts. The largest tax break that the upper class experienced was about 6 percent. The second part of Reagan’s plan was to cut government spending on a variety of different programs. I have listed some of the most significant and recognizable programs: job training, college loans, medical programs, child daycare centers, and nursing homes (Encyclopedia Britannica, Britannica.com, 2000). The main reason that Reagan targeted these programs was because he felt that they made individuals more dependent on governmental support and in turn was weakening the structure of American families.
President Reagan, after long speeches and deliberations, persuaded congress to lift some of the many regulations that were placed on industries. The main objective of this deregulation was to help the industries save money as well as time when it came to complying and meeting the government’s regulations. To go along with this deregulation President Reagan also lifted environmental and safety standards. His reason for lifting these regulations was due to the time and expense that the industries spent complying with these regulations caused hardships for the American businesses. All these actions seemed to reverse the growing trend of more governmental legislation and regulatory bodies designed to help protect and improve the quality of the environment. Reagan then appointed Anne Burford, a woman who opposes many regulations on air quality and the disposal of toxic waste, to be the head of the EPA (Encyclopedia Britannica, Britannica.com, 2000). The initial EPA stands for Environmental Protection Agency. Reagan also had many people on his administrative staff that believed in little fewer government regulation so the businesses will be able to flourish with will in-turn help the economy.
After all Reagan’s policy and plans over tax cuts, deregulation, and relaxing of the governments regulations on environment and safety standards were implemented the economy flourished. This time of economic growth started a growth in the stock market that lasted through the decade. The main reason for the stock market explosion was the fact that many investors realized that they could make money by investing it into high-risk businesses. This investment was not allowed under the old government regulations. The stock market surge was intensified by billion dollar mergers and company takeovers (Encyclopedia Britannica, Britannica.com, 2000). As a result of the Reagan Era many Americans prospered, especially the upper class, who benefited the most from the tax cuts. Critics charged the tax cuts and the fruits of economic growth benefited mainly the wealthy, and that the gap between rich and poor grown wider (Encyclopedia Britannica, Britannica.com, 2000).
Iran Contra Affair
The last two years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency were spent dealing with the Iran Contra Affair. The Iran Contra Affair was an American political scandal, that took place in 1985 and 1986, where high-ranking officials in President Reagan’s administration made secret arrangements for the sale of arms to Iran. (Encyclopedia American, gi.grolier.com , 2000) This sale of guns and supplies directly violated United States policy and law. This scandal, in the public’s eye, turned attention to the effectiveness of Reagan’s leadership style and severely damaged his reputation. The profits earned from the illegal sale of arms went directly to the Nicaraguan right-wing guerrillas to help purchase supplies and arms to use in the battle they were fighting against the leftist Sandinista government (Encyclopedia American, gi.grolier.com , 2000). The action of supplying the Nicaraguan guerrillas with funds is also a direct violation of U.S. policy. This policy came about in 1979 and 1980 as a result of the Iranian hostage crisis. The U.S. Congress labeled Iran as a terrorist country and then outlawed all sales of arms and supplies to any Iranian governmental agency. The main person behind these sales was Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. He was a military aide to the National Security Council. Lieutenant Colonel North did not come up with the plans himself; the Israeli government aided him in his efforts. The sale of these weapons was initially expected to improve the relationship between the United States and Iran. North thought that his improved relationship with Iran would increase the chances of rescuing the American hostages that were initially held in Lebanon by Iranian terrorists. Lieutenant North was very sneaky when it came to setting up a system for providing the needed support to the contras, with the use of their own ships, airplanes, airfields and secret bank accounts in their own name.
In late November 1986, a Lebanese magazine and an American Newspaper printed that the United States government had sold weapons to Iran in hopes it would help gain Iranian support in releasing the U.S. hostages in Lebanon by Iran friendly Lebanese terrorists. After the leak of this secret information, the U.S. Attorney General, Edwin Meese, admitted that millions of dollars from these sales had been sent directly to the contras in Nicaragua (George C Edwards III and Stephan J. Wayne, 1999, 160). These actions were in direct violation of the Boland Amendment. Congress passed this Amendment in 1984 to prevent the U.S. government or any U.S. military agency from directly or indirectly aiding Iran in any way (David Mervin, 1990, 156-7). This particular incident was detrimental to Ronald Reagan and his administration because they took a strong public stand against governments that helped support terrorism and had been urging other governments not to deal with nations that supported terrorists. As this scandal continued to emerge the U.S. government started a series of congressional and legal investigations. As these investigations continued President Reagan denied any knowledge of the diversion of funds to the Contras, along with the claim that it did not involve negotiations over hostages in Lebanon. Reagan claimed that the weapons deal with Iran was an attempt to open a dialogue with modern elements in the Iranian Government. In February 1987 a special group of investigators, headed by a former U.S. Senator John Tower, issued a report attacking President Reagan and his advisers for their lack of control over the National Security Councils actions. This committee was called the Towner Commission (Encyclopedia Britannica, Britannica.com, 2000). This committee collected more than 300,000 documents, conducted 500 investigations and depositions, and listened to 28 witnesses in 40 days of public hearings. In November 1987 the Towner Commission reported that President Reagan took the ultimate responsibility for the administrations actions but they found no evidence that he knew of the diversions of funds to the contras. An independent prosecutor, Lawrence Walsh, published a report on the investigation of the Iran Contra Affair. Walsh’s findings showed that there was absolutely no evidence that President Reagan had broke the law in any way, but he did conclude that Reagan may have participated in or knew about a cover up operation that took place.
Involvement in the Middle East
During Presidents Reagan’s time in office, he dealt with a lot of problems in the Middle East. Several of these times Reagan had to send troops to the aid of the people. In the early 1980’s a conflict broke out between a Muslim group and the Christian government. In 1982 Reagan sent U.S. marines to the Middle East in hopes to help improve the strength of the Christian government. In late 1983 a bomb exploded at the Beirut headquarters that killed around 250 marines and other American servicemen (Lou Cannon, 1991, 389-93). After this incident President Reagan withdrew American troops from Lebanon, which left their government in a bad situation. The bombing that took place at the Beirut headquarters outraged the American citizens and this sparked a strong reaction against any terrorists in the U.S., especially the Middle East based groups.
In 1986 several American soldiers were killed in a bombing that took place in a West German dance club. After the extensive investigation the United States concluded that Libya was responsible for the bombing and other terrorists activities that were taking place in that area during the same time. President Reagan and his administration decided to take action by bombing several Libyan cities on April 15, 1986. They figured if they did not take action the terrorist attacks would not stop.
In 1987 the Kuwaiti government requested the United States naval presence so they could insure that its shipping activities during this time of war would be safe. The American government had a direct interest in the shipping of natural resources because several billions of dollars of oil are shipped out of Kuwait to the United States every year. The Reagan administrations main goal with this involvement was to help prevent Iran from defeating Iraq. They feared that the defeat of Iraq would demolish the U.S. influence in that area of the world.
Ronald Reagan spent a very successful eight years in the white house. He was faced with several national crises and he handled them with a calm and cool attitude. As we learned in class every U.S. President has special powers that only he can exercise and some of the include; Commander in Chief, Treaty making power, Judicial appointment power, and Chief Administrator. He had to exercise a few of these special powers when it came down to him dealing directly with foreign affairs and policy. Chief Administrator and the judicial appointment powers are used in Domestic Affairs. The other major way that this paper is related to class is the fact that Ronald Reagan was the 40th president in United States history. This class, the books, and the lectures all dealt with the American Presidents and how they handled their time in office. Ronald Reagan had a very high approval rate from the American public. He handled his time in office and the issues that came up while he was in office with great success. He is definitely one of the Greatest American Presidents in history.