When Ronald Reagan became President in 1981 and brought in a Republican controlled Senate for the first time in twenty-six years led by Leader Howard Baker, he had a fairly basic agenda when he came in and was very disciplined in how he accomplished it. Turn the economy around, get it growing and creating jobs again and end the Cold War with the Soviet Union. His economic plan was centered around cutting taxes and regulations drastically and ending the Cold War by expanding the military in hopes of bringing the Russians to the negotiating table. And he didn’t really care about how this was accomplished as long as he did it.
As much as Ron Reagan spoke as a Conservative as a private citizen, he was a pragmatist as a Governor and President. He knew for everything that he was going to get out of Congress, where Democrats controlled the House for all eight years and the Senate for two years and had a large minority in the Senate for six years, he knew he was going to have to give some things to get what he wanted. Tip O’Neil a Democrat who was Speaker of the House for six of President Reagan’s eight years as President, both men who have almost nothing in common other than being Irish-American. Worked very well together.
President Reagan also worked very well with Bob Byrd who was the Democratic Leader of the Senate for President Reagan’s entire Presidency. Six years as Minority Leader and two years as Leader and he had a very good working relationship with Leader Baker as well. As ideological as Ron Reagan might of sounded and Howard Baker and him had a lot in common politically, Leader Baker was Leader of the Senate and was a legislator more than anything else. And knew he had to work with Bob Byrd, Speaker O’Neil and President Reagan in order to get anything done. President Reagan was a great politician and was very pragmatic and knew he had to work with Congressional Democrats as well as his own Congressional Leadership to pass anything out of Congress.
As much as President Reagan spoke about the need for fiscal responsibility, balancing the budget and a Balance Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the opposite was true. When he became President back in 1981, he inherited an awful economy from President Carter. But a small budget deficit of 40B$ or so and a manageable Federal debt of 32.5% of GDP, or 4.55T$, or less than a third of today’s Federal debt. When he left office in 1989, he left President George H.W. Bush with a Federal deficit of around 200B$ and a Federal debt of of 53.1% of GDP or 7.43T$ in today’s terms. Still small compared with the Federal debt of today.
When President Reagan became President in 1981, the Federal budget was 22.7% of GDP and when he left office in 1989 the Federal budget was 27.3% of GDP. Ronald Reagan did not run for President to balance the budget, but to make the economy strong, get the Federal Government off our backs as he put it and end the Cold War with Russia. And if that means running large budget deficits debts and that’s a small price to pay for a strong economy and ending the Cold War.