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Essay/Term paper: The reagan tax cuts and foreign policy

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Political Science

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The Reagan Tax Cuts and Foreign Policy

During the 1980's President Ronald Reagan's (our 40th president from
1981 to 1989) domestic policy of a substantial tax cut led to greatly increased
economic prosperity for our country. During Reagan's administration marked
changes were made to the tax code and economic statistics showed a major change
for the better. However, at the same time, the Democrats controlled the Congress
and continued increased spending against Reagan's wishes. The Joint Economic
Committee stated that an across-the-board tax cut was not new. In the 20's the
Mellon tax cuts were implemented by Secretary of Treasury Andrew Mellon during
the Administrations of Hoover, Harding, and Coolidge. In the 60's Kennedy
introduced tax cuts. In both instances the decrease of high marginal tax rates
somehow increased tax payments by the rich. Perhaps a foreshadow of things to
come. Debates were raging over the Reagan tax cuts, known as the Economic
Recovery Tax Act of 1981 (or, ERTA). This act was designed to spur savings,
investment, work, and economic efficiency. This policy would impose a 25%
across-the-board cut in personal marginal tax rates. In the act of decreasing
marginal tax rates, and stimulating economic incentives, ERTA would increase the
flow of resources into production, thus lifting economic growth. This policy
received much criticism because its opponents argued that ERTA would be a
giveaway to the rich, because their tax payments would collapse. Reagan worked
hard and skillfully with the congress to obtain legislation to stimulate
economic growth and curb inflation, he embarked upon a course to cut taxes and
curb inflation. President Reagan was able to sign into law a tax cut in late
1981 even though congressional Democrats tried to block his cuts. All tax payers
received these cuts which helped to spur the economy. The cuts were taken over
three years with a 5% cut in 1981, a 10% cut for 1982, and in 1983 another 10%
cut. Reagan's call for extensive changes in the federal income tax laws helped
bring about passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. In 1986 Reagan introduced the
Tax Reform act of 1986. The tax reform act of 1986 chopped taxes, and indexed
taxes for inflation as well. During Reagan's first term the inflation rate was
at -5.7%, unemployment was at1.4%, interest rates were at -.7, and the gross
national product was 7%.
Reagan signed the tax reform bill entitled the Tax Reform act of 1986.
This act simplified and reduced taxes, but the democrats wanted to claim equal
credit for the bill as well. A stock market crash in 1987 raised questions about
the nation's economic health. A new bill to balance the federal budget became
law in 1987, but the huge deficit continued to be a concern to the government.
Congress passed Reagan's requests for cuts in taxes and in some government
programs. Reagan also won increased funds for defense. By 1982, however, the
country was in an recession, which meant that there was an extended decline in
general business activity, typically three consecutive quarters of falling real
gross national product. The economy improved in 1983. But the increased defense
spending and tax cut had led to a record budget deficit. Democrats attacked
Reagan for cutting social welfare programs and called for reduced defense
spending and a tax increase in order to lower the deficit.

Foreign Policy

President Reagan through foreign policy sought to achieve peace through
strength. He had learned how to deal skillfully with Congress and obtain
legislation to strengthen our national defense. In 1983, Reagan sent U.S.
Marines to Lebanon as part of a peacekeeping force. The Marines were recalled in
1984, after some 240 had been killed in a terrorist attack. Reagan also sent U.S.
troops to Grenada in 1983, to prevent what the he saw as a Cuban attempt to take
over the Caribbean island nation. The President denounced the left-wing
Sandinista government of Nicaragua as a threat to peace in Central America, and
he repeatedly requested military aid for the anti-Sandinista guerrillas, known
as contras. In November of 1986 President Reagan confirmed reports that the
United States had secretly sold arms to Iran. He stated that the goal was to
improve relations with Iran, not to obtain release of U.S. hostages held in the
Middle East by terrorists. Later in November, Attorney General Edwin Meese
discovered that some of the arms profits had been diverted to aid the Nicaraguan
"contra" rebels--at a time when Congress had prohibited such aid. An independent
special prosecutor, former federal judge Lawrence E. Walsh, was appointed to
investigate the activities of persons involved in the arms sale or contra aid or
both, including marine Lt. Col. Oliver North of the National Security Council
(NSC) staff. In May 1989 North was tried and convicted of obstructing Congress
and unlawfully destroying government documents, but his conviction was
subsequently overturned. Reagan ordered the bombing of military targets in
Libya in 1986 in retaliation for its role in international terrorism. His policy
of reflagging (flying the U.S. flag on) Kuwaiti oil tankers and providing them
with a U.S. naval escort in the Persian Gulf led to clashes with Iran in 1987.
President Reagan during his administration sought to improve relation with the
Former Soviet Union, and foreign relations did improve greatly. Reagan and
Gorbachev paved the way to the end of the cold war. They accomplished this by
means of Summit Conferences. Several of these conferences were held from 1985
to 1987. The President and Mr. Gorbachev conducted this summit in Geneva in
1985. As the result of a U.S. initiative, President Reagan and General Secretary
Gorbachev agreed at the November 1985 Geneva Summit to have experts explore the
possibility of establishing centers to reduce the risk of nuclear war. The
impetus for this initiative grew out of consultations between the Executive
Branch and Congress, particularly Senators Sam Nunn and John Warner. U.S. and
Soviet experts held informal meetings in Geneva on May 5-6 and August 25, 1986.
In October 1986, at their meeting in Reykjavik, President Reagan and General
Secretary Gorbachev indicated satisfaction with the progress made at the experts
meetings and agreed to begin formal negotiations to establish Nuclear Risk
Reduction Centers. Those negotiations were held in Geneva on January 13 and May
3-4, 1987. The negotiations resulted in the Agreement that was signed in
Washington September 15, 1987, by Secretary of State Shultz and Foreign Minister
Shevardnadze. Under the Agreement, which is of unlimited duration, each party
agreed to establish a Nuclear Risk Reduction Center in its capital and to
establish a special facsimile communications link between these Centers. These
Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers became operational on April 1, 1988. The American
National Center (known as the NRRC) is located in Washington, DC in the
Department of State. The Soviet National Center became the Russian National
Center with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and is located in Moscow in the
Russian Federation Ministry of Defense. Reagan's greatest diplomatic achievement
was the 1987 treaty with the Soviet Union banning intermediate-range nuclear
forces (INF), it was approved by the Senate in 1988. The Iran-contra affair
proved embarrassing to the congress. Congressional hearings in 1987 revealed
that presidential aides had secretly sold arms to Iran in an effort to free U.S.
citizens being held hostage in the Middle East. The aides had then illegally
given some of the arms money to contra guerrillas.


The Reagan Tax cuts showed that reducing excessive tax rates stimulates
growth, reduces tax avoidance, and can increase the share of tax payments given
by the rich. With respect to foreign policy Reagan's performances especially
with Mikhail Gorbachev showed a high approval of performance with the people.
Reagan had the highest poll ratings for performance of any president since World
War 2. It appears that his leadership helped to make the feeling of the country
to have a more confident outlook on the future.


"Iran-Contra Affair," Microsoft® Encarta® 96 Encyclopedia 1993-1995. 1996
Grolier Interactive Inc.

Edition copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company.




Hyland, W.G., ed., The Reagan Foreign Policy (1987).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third

The Atlantic Monthly, February 1994; Reagan and the Russians; Volume 273.

The Joint Economic Committee reports on the Reagan Tax Cuts


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