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Reagan's 100th

American History

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Dec 20, 2009, 5:14pm Top

2010 is Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday. Is anyone planning on reading anything this year about him or his presidency or have any suggestions?

Dec 29, 2009, 10:20pm Top

Wow. Surpised at the lack of response. I am just about to begin a new book called Rendezvous with Destiny by Craig Shirley. It's about the 1980 election -- "the campaign that changed America," as the subtitle says. Shirley wrote an earlier book on the 1976 campaign. For other recommendations suggest you check out my profile page. I have about 20 books about Reagan tagged. Enjoy.

Dec 29, 2009, 11:01pm Top

Not this year. I got too much for Christmas, and not a Reagan book among them. I suppose there'll be something of a surge around his birthday.

Dec 30, 2009, 4:32pm Top

I am working on the US Presidents Challenge so I am trying to read bios of all the presidents. I decided to do them in order and I am only at Andrew Jackson so I have a long way to go. But maybe for Reagan's birthday, I will just out of order.

Dec 30, 2009, 10:17pm Top

One small point. 2010 will be Reagan's 99th birthday. He was born in 1911.

Dec 31, 2009, 11:05am Top

Oh sorry my bad. I probably should have read one of these books before I made this post.

Dec 31, 2009, 7:32pm Top

That's great! It gives me another year to get to him

Jan 3, 2010, 12:54am Top

". . . (Reagan) was born in 1911" (*5)

Just what I always thought! So the title of this thread was a big surprise to me. I remember that RR was inaugurated in Jan. 1981, and was the oldest president ever inaugurated, being 69 years old and closely approaching his 70th birthday.

Other Reagan miscellenea:

Number of states carried by Reaganʻs opponent:

1980: 6 (including my native state (MA) and my
soon to be home state (HI). So, in a way I was in the local majority in voting against RR in that landslide.)
1984: 1

Othe 20th c. presidents who defeated an incumbent:
FDR (1932) Wilson (1912) Carter (1976)
Clinton (1992)

Presidents who never joined a church, or joined one only when they were close to inauguration:

Jefferson, Lincoln, A. Johnson (never joined)
Eisenhower, Reagan (did not join until near inauguration, both DDE and RR, finally joined a Presbyterian Church.

Jan 3, 2010, 4:06pm Top

Very interesting trivia. Goes to show how rarely sitting Presidents are defeated. Usually there is some strong extenuating circumstance.

FDR had the Depression going for him. Wilson and Clinton won with less than a majority in divided, three-way races. The incumbent that Carter defeated had never been elected to national office.

Interesting that Reagan was the only one to depose a sitting Democtrat. Never knew that.

Edited: Jan 3, 2010, 5:02pm Top

In 1975 you could say that only 2 20th c. incumbents have ever been defeated. 18 years later, in 1993 you could say: 5.

William Howard Taft, incidentally, was the only incumbent of the 20th c. who failed to finish either 1st OR 2nd. (He was 3rd behind Woodrow Wilson
(D, NJ) and Theodore Roosevelt (R? NY)

Jan 5, 2010, 9:45pm Top

Thanks Roland. Shouldn't the "R" after TR be "BM"?

Jan 5, 2010, 10:35pm Top

". . .after Tr be BM?"

Yes, I thought of that, but I wasnʻt sure if Bull Moose was an official party name, or if TR thought that he and not Taft was the "real" Republican: parallel to Strom Thurmondʻs considering himself the "real" Democrat, against harry truman in 1948, although the media usually called Thurmond a "Dixiecrat", as if that were a party name.

Jan 6, 2010, 1:21pm Top

I thought that he ran for the Progressive Party and that Bull Moose was symbolic, like the donkey and the elephant.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Jan 6, 2010, 4:05pm Top

". . .(TR) ran for the Progressive Party" #13

I think youʻre right. (Thatʻs why I put a ? next to R, for TR in the 1912 election.) "Progessive", in the 1st and 2nd decades of the 20th c. was more a movement than a party, but they probably did form a party. I donʻt know that it lasted as an organized party beyond the 1912 election; it had no continuity with the Progressive Party (name changed to "Peace Progressive in the 1950s) organized in about 1947 for Henry A. Wallaceʻs presidential campaign.

Jan 6, 2010, 10:45pm Top

Didn't LaFolette (sp?) run under the Progressive Party banner in the 1910's? And Hiriam Johnson in California, too? I know Johnson served as Republican senator. But something tells me he ran as a Progressive at one time. I suppose I should just Google it, but speculating is more fun. I am confident some more knowledgeable person will post the right answer. I am enjoying this thread, anyway.

Edited: Jan 7, 2010, 7:23am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Jan 7, 2010, 7:25am Top

Gah - links weren't working well. Anyway, the wikipedia pages for the 1912 Progressive Party and the slightly later version associated with LaFollette might be of interest (in a quick read, they seem accurate).

Jun 19, 2010, 8:48am Top

I so liked Reagan as a man with wit and good humor, but that is what allowed him to convince Usanians to keep believing in the Invisible Hand and faithful to a Dream of high consumption anyone thoughtful already knew to be a nightmare for the world in the long run.

Jun 22, 2010, 10:47pm Top

Love that man - I had no idea it was his 100th birthday.

Jun 24, 2010, 10:00pm Top

#18 Your post is totally incoherent.

Audrey, you go girl! The 100th is coming up this February.

Jun 24, 2010, 11:59pm Top

" # 18 . . . is totally incoherent."

Not so. I understood it perfectly, ,although it could use a "that" or a "which" after "consumption". (I was taken aback at first by "Usanians". I suppose these are better known as "Americans". There is a difficulty if you donʻt know what is meant by the Invisible Hand, or are getting nothing out of the metaphorical "Dream of high consumption". But those points donʻt make it incoherent.

I happen to agree with 18, but Iʻm talking here just about coherence -- agree with it or not --
not about accuracy.

Jun 27, 2010, 7:39pm Top

Well I still don't get it. Maybe you can translate?

Jun 27, 2010, 8:06pm Top

He said:
Regan was a charming and charismatic fellow. This made him the perfect foil for enabling fundamentalism (control of the masses) and unfairly tip the balance of power to the benefit of corporate sponsors. It was plainly obvious to reasonable, thinking, caring people what sort of hardships it would cause to the middle and lower class people of our nation, yet no one was able to prevent it within the legal confines of the laws of our land.

... or something like that...

Jun 27, 2010, 8:26pm Top

On 21, 23:

Good "translation", WholeHouseLibrary.

Jun 29, 2010, 10:47pm Top

You guys are right. The nation was much better off when Jimmy Carter was in charge. Double digit inflation. 20% interest rates. Stagnant economy. A veritable paradise for "middle and lower class people."

Jun 29, 2010, 11:57pm Top

No one was making any comparisons. No doubt, Carter was a weak leader, and he didn't have trustworthy people working under him. The latter clause would probably apply to ~every~ President...

On the other hand, Carter wasn't two-faced. And Regan made things worse. Trickle-down economy has NEVER been helpful - short-term OR long-term. The downfall of every civilization has been the fact that the vast majority of the wealth was in the hands of just a very few. It is the single common thread of all of them.

Jun 30, 2010, 12:13am Top

To stelac:

#25 is said sarcastically, I assume? The main failure of the Carter Administration economically was that it didnʻt do much to smooth out the already wide discrepancy between rich and poor.
Itʻs much easier to cope with double digit inflation and a stagnant economy when youʻre in a high income bracket. The inflation hurts you in your spending, but necessities make up a lower percentage OF your spending, compared to spending by the middle and lower.

WholeHouseLibrary (26) sums up this dichotomy very well.

Edited: Jun 30, 2010, 5:54pm Top

Let's keep in mind that Reagan had virtually nothing to do with resolving the economic problems cited in #25. Fed Chairman Paul Volcker (appointed by Carter) starting raising interest rates even before the 1980 election to wring the inflation out of the economy. He was very successful. Of course, he plunged the economy into the worst postwar economic recession (to that point!) in 1981-82, but by the time Reagan was up for reelection in 1984, inflation was under control and the economy on the rebound. Ironically, Volcker's prudent monetary policies, which continued through the 1980s, helped offset the inflationary impact of Reagan's huge budget deficits, the result of his reckless "borrow and spend" fiscal policies. This is the source of that timeless wisdom Dick Cheney claimed to have learned from Reagan: "Deficits don't matter."

Jul 2, 2010, 9:45pm Top

Where to begin? Reagan had "nothing to do" with ending stagflation? Suggest you read Robert Samuelson's The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath. The fact is that several times throughout the 70s the Fed had tried to break inflation but each time the policy was quickly abandoned because the political leaders (both parties) could not stand the short term pain. Reagan gave Volcker the political cover to do what needed to be done. It's hard to think of another leader -- then or now -- who would have accepted the consequences of a deep recession. Reagan knew that, as #27 states, inflation's most pernicious impact is on the lower and middle classes. Coming out of the 1982 recession, we had several quarters of 8 to 9% economic growth because of the fiscal policies Reagan put in place. Compare that to today's tepic 2-3% rebound from an equally deep recession.

Where #27 errs is in fretting over income inequality. In our economic system, there will ALWAYS be income inequality. The Soviets solved this problem quite efficiently. I doubt anyone in their right mind wants to emulate them. The key is economic mobility. In the US, people move up and down the income scale regularly. The same people are not on the top and bottom rungs generation to generation.

Cheney said reasonable deficits of 2% to 3% of GDP don't matter. And they don't. It's like taking out a modest mortgage to buy a bigger house. The problem is Obama's deficits of 20+% of GDP as far as the eye can see. That gets us into subprime territory and we know how that story ended.

Edited: Jul 2, 2010, 10:58pm Top

Modern political and economic situations are so complex--so full of different inputs and signals--that a partisan can decide that their presidents are responsible for everything good that happened when they were president, and nothing bad, and the other guys' president the reverse. The situational-politics whiplash that results is really something to see! Republicans argue that Reagan made the economy grow, Clinton's economy grew in spite of the president. Liberals believe exactly the opposite. Sensible people should give give even the devil his due.

In that spirit, I nominate Reagan's economics. Something worked, that's for sure. And I nominate "Obama's deficits." While Obama's stimulus kicked things up a notch, for sure, little of the present sorry debt situation can be laid at his door.

If you're interested in the deficit, I recommend the Frontline "Ten Trillion and Counting" (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tentrillion/view/?utm_campaign=homepage&...)

Edited: Jul 3, 2010, 1:33pm Top

As I said, Reagan had virtually nothing to do with bringing down inflation. Paul Volcker was installed as Fed chairman on August 6, 1979 (17 months before Reagan took office) and began raising interest rates immediately. By the time Reagan assumed the presidency, short-term interest rates were already over 15 percent and heading higher. The extraordinarily high interest rates of the Volcker Counter-shock, as it is generally known, lasted for nearly three years, and prompted similar policies around the globe that effectively eliminated inflation as a world-wide economic problem. It also severely impacted the Soviet economy, encouraging reformers like Gorbachev to begin to rethink Soviet policies.

Presidents, as we know, nominally have no power over the Fed (other than to appoint its leadership), though in practice they can bring considerable pressure to bear. Nixon browbeat Fed chairman Arthur Burns into lowering interest rates in the mid-1970s, to assist in his reeelection, despite the fact that inflationary pressure was already strong. But Volcker was no Arthur Burns, and anyway by 1981 business was screaming for relief from inflation and probably encouraged the White House to accept Volcker's policies. After all, labor was hurt much more deeply by the recession than capital; real wages in the United States dropped by more than 10 percent between 1978 and 1982. By the time Volcker's first term as Fed chairman was up, inflation was under control, the economy was humming, and Volcker was the darling of Wall Street. There was no reason not to keep him on.

Fiscal policy was where Reagan made unprecedented "contributions". By cutting taxes while increasing military spending, Reagan turned the budget surplus he inherited from Carter into annual deficits of more than 3 percent over the 12 Reagan-Bush years. During that same period, government debt went from less than $1 trillion to over $4 trillion, equivalent to 66 percent of GDP in 1993. This was a complete turn around from previous policy; the national debt had, to that point, decreased steadily since 1945.

Here's Paul Volcker's take on it: "The more starry-eyed Reaganauts argued that reducing taxes would provide a kind of magic elixir for the economy that would make the deficits go away, or at least not matter.... But some of their arguments made me wonder why we bothered to collect taxes at all. The more realistic advisers (everything is relative) apparently thought the risk of a ballooning deficit was a reasonable price to pay for passing their radical program; any damage could be repaired later, helped by a novel theory that the way to keep spending down was not by insisting taxes be adequate to pay for it but by scaring the Congress and the American people with deficits." (The quote is from Paul Volcker and Toyoo Gyohten, Changing Fortunes, 1992)

One of those "Reaganauts" was Dick Cheney, and Volcker's analysis is the best explanation for his famous "deficits don't matter" remark.

Now, of course, everyone agrees that deficits do matter, but comparing Reagan's policies with Obama's is meaningless. Reagan pushed deficit spending to unprecedent levels and accumulated historically high levels of debt after the 1981-82 recession was long over, business was booming, and employment was rebounding. Other than providing economic stimulus that was not really needed, there were no good economic reasons for this policy. Obama, on the other hand, inheriting record deficits and debt and the worst recession since the 1930s, endorsed the expansionary monetary policies of yet another Republican Fed chairman (Ben Bernanke), supported the financial bailout policies of the Bush Administration, and pressed for fiscal stimulus measures to offset rocketing unemployment. Prudent policymakers were unanimous that these steps were necessary to prevent a repeat (or worse) of the Great Depression, when by 1933 the financial system had collapsed and unemployed was well over 25 percent.

Deficits and debt are serious, but the risk of systemic failure remains real. We could yet see a repeat of 1930-31, when the Fed reversed its initial easing of monetary policy in the wake of the Great Crash and the financial system and the industrial economy imploded, or of 1936-37, when the Roosevelt administration adopted tighter fiscal policies in a misguided effort to balance the budget and threw the recovering economy back into deep recession. That those lessons were learned and acted upon in 2008 is why we are not in worse shape now, but the simple-minded notion that we should put on the brakes immediately, regardless of the consequences, ignores the danger that things could get much, much worse. Even Reagan, I would hazard to guess, would not have gone down that road.

By the way, there are many sources for the facts and figures I mentioned for the Reagan era, but I drew on a book that I happened to have at hand: Jeffry Frieden's Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century.

Edited: Jul 5, 2010, 8:48pm Top

Again, read Samuelson. Volcker, under pressure from the White House, had backed off from his monetary tightening in 1980 with Carter's reelection prospect on the line. The tightening began again in earnest in 1981. Volcker deserves credit for applying the medicine. But he needed a President who would support him or his policy would quickly become untenable. Pointedly, Reagan chose NOT to take to the bullypulpit to browbeat Volcker -- as politicians across the spectrum, Jack Kemp to Tip O'Neill, were doing -- or to blame the FED for the lousy economy even as the 1982 midterm elections loom. As Samuelson observes, it is unfathomable to envision any other plausible would-be President at the time -- Kennedy, Howard Baker, Papa Bush and certainly not Carter -- taking this same position. If anyone other than Reagan had been elected in 1980, the country would have been destined to who-knows how many more years of sluggish economic growth and soaring inflation. Credit where it's due -- to Volcker and Reagan.

Edited: Jul 21, 2010, 4:10pm Top

steiac - I took your advice and read Robert Samuelson's The Great Inflation. Not a bad book, though a little over-focused on inflation as the cause of all economic malaise, before Reagan and since. And he seems unable to make up his mind whether it was arrogant economists or pusillanimous politicians who were the most at fault for the Great Inflation. But he makes a good case for Reagan's political courage in backing Volcker in 1982-83, when the economy was in the tank and others were screaming for Volcker's head. I find other sources agree with him on this, so I must, as you say, give "credit where it's due -- to Volcker and Reagan."

Samuelson views Reagan's backing of Volcker as the president's "most definitive" economic achievement, concluding that "the rest of his economic record was mixed." That's ironic, since most Reagan fans remember only his tax cuts and other fiscal policies. While I probably would have chosen a somewhat stronger word than "mixed" to characterize the success of Reagan's economic programs, I can't really disagree with Samuelson's summation: "Although he reduced tax rates and simplified the tax code, federal government spending as a share of national income barely changed during his two terms; tax burdens did drop and budget deficits rose" (p. 135). The question Samuelson doesn't address is why these fiscal stimulus measures were necessary or how they helped the economy, given his conclusion that "the taming of inflation reinvigorated the economy as nothing else" and that price stability was the most important factor behind the 1983-1990 economic expansion (p. 136).

Oct 9, 2010, 5:24pm Top

Oh, Reagan was a true hero. He built up the military, without which we might never have saved Grenada. However, I believe I'll wait until his image is carved into Mount Rushmore to read anything more about him.

Nov 8, 2010, 7:27pm Top

My grandfather was a Bull-Mooser, and never tired of telling me about torchlight parades and riding the trolley to downtown Providence, R.I., on election night to hear the returns being read out from ticker tape outside the Providence Journal office.

About enthusiasm for long-gone Presidents, he convinced me (by dinning it into my young ears) that our greatest president had been Grover Cleveland. Whose birthday I duly celebrate on March 18, in devoted memory of both.

Plus ça change . . .

Nov 8, 2010, 10:44pm Top

I'd put Cleveland up there...

Feb 13, 2011, 8:06am Top

I want to read Reagan, just have to work him in with all the others that are in my TBR pile. I just finished 2 books on Harding, about his shenanigans, both sexually and politically. There is a 3rd written by the mother of the child he fathered while in office, but I've had enough of him for awhile. Next on my history list is The Contested Election of 1912: Wilson, Taft, and the re-emergence of Teddy Roosevelt. Following that I must read Bush's book that I received as a gift for Christmas....then perhaps on to Reagan, but I still haven't read John Adams yet, either! So many books.........

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