Was Reagan a bad president? Why? If you think Reagan was a bad President, what were his failures and shortcomings?

If you think Reagan was a lousy President, what were his failures and shortcomings? Please pass on attributing later diagnosis of Alzheimer's with in-office policy and other parlor tricks.

Reagan was criminally negligent during the cold war with his stupid militaristic rhetoric, and needlessly escalated nuclear tensions at a time when the Soviet Union was very paranoid. This led to nuclear panics and inched the world closer to war in 1983, and personally, as a 10 year old, it caused me endless nightmares. The Soviets had a scare in 1983 during the ridiculously provocative NATO maneuvers, their radar malfunctioned. If that meteorite that landed in Siberia this year had instead landed in 1983, we wouldn't be chatting online, we would be hairless and vomiting over our rat stew. This stuff is a joke now, it's hard to remember that 30 years ago, everyone day to day had to factor into their calculations a non-negligible probability for complete annihilation.

I was 10, but I knew what kind of bullshit he was doing, and this is unforgivable. For this alone, reversing Carter's detente, he qualifies as a terrible president, since increasing the chance of that kind of catastrophe by even 1% outweighs everything else. Reagan changed course in 1985, after a slew of nuclear-war films and warnings, but does a person really need that much of a kick in the pants just to not stir up trouble?

Reagan often gets credit for market-oriented reforms that are entirely due to Carter, airline deregulation and austerity to curb inflation. The monetary policy of the early 80s which ended the inflationary 1970s was due to Volcker, who was a Carter appointee. The inflation was a relic of Nixonian hyperstimulation of the economy when all the big industrial production sucked up by the war in Vietnam.

What Reagan added to Carter's modern policies was a nonsensical tax-cut and anti-union component that decimated working wages in the 1980s, leading to the modern polarized economy. The idea here was to reverse Keynsian policies and make a flat tax. The extreme of Reaganomics was the 1987 budget deal, where top brackets were slashed to 28%. That's as flat as the tax system ever got, and Reaganites like Jack Kemp, wanted to take it further, and make a pure 25% flat tax.

The idea of a flat tax flies in the face of modern economics. The purpose of taxation in a post-depression economy is to redistribute incomes, which are always distributed completely lopsidedly, to come closer to economic equilibrium, so that economic demand can keep up with industrial capacity. Without tax and spend redistribution, the spontaneous segregation of wealth in the economy makes all the income go to certain people in certain social classes.

This segregation of wealth is theoretically forbidden in economic textbooks, it should be reversed by competition, but experience shows that it happens anyway. In every free-market economy ever formed, people who control capital can turn capital into income, despite the fact that other people are willing to do the same job for less, they just don't accept bids from those people. This siphoning off of income means that the workers do not make as much as they would in a competitive equilibrium, which means they can't purchase all the goods the economy can theoretically produce, and this means people working for dropping wages, only controlled by minimum wage and working-day limits, without the benefits of economic growth.

Reagan encouraged this polarization in incomes, since he thought it would improve economic activity. The idea was "whatever happens in an unregulated market is getting you closer to equilibrium", and this is a farce.

Reagan's economy was bracketed by two immense recessions, in 1981 and in 1991, and a minor stock-market crash in 1987. The era saw a rise in homelessness and childhood poverty, and an increase in racial tensions, things which subsided in the 1970s. The market changed when the tax rates went back up under Bush then Clinton, and especially when Clinton expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit to make it a true income redistribution program. Clinton's economy ran circles around Reagan's, in fact, it produced levels of growth and employment which had been declared to be impossible in a modern economy. The US was growing at 5-6% a year during this era, and unemployment was at 4% by the time Clinton left office.

The income redistribution allowed the economy to function at full capacity, for the first time since the 1960s. Entirely new industries, like internet sales, and telecommunications companies, took root and prosper in conditions where consumers had enough money to demand the services these companies provided. These economic policies were explicitly redistributive, and hated by the Reaganites, who considered Clinton's economy a lucky streak. or attributed it to Reagan's policies.

I have no doubt that if Clinton's tax rates were kept, and increased somewhat at the high end, and the EITC was doubled again, the economy would have grown proportionately. It is also not clear to me that if Gore was elected, that the internet growth would have ever stopped. The internet boom of the 1990s is essentially repeated today, more slowly, and it was not really a bubble as much as an actual reconfiguration of the economy.

Inflation is the marker of when the government is doing too much redistribution, and there was no hint of inflation in the 1990s. Unemployment and falling wages are the sign of the government doing too little redistribution, and these could be seen in spades in Reagan's economy, and Bush's.

It is obvious to anyone who knows anything about the functioning of markets that income redistribution is necessary in markets with inequality on a vast scale, so as to allow the market to produce at peak capacity. This was advocated by conservatives as a substitute for government spending in Nixon's day--- the negative income tax was a replacement for unnecessary spending on military contracts, or onerous bureaucratic social spending with strings attached. With a negative income tax, all you are doing is removing income from people who have a monopoly on their labor and can charge exhorbitant rates for this labor, and redistributing to people who are not laboring in a closed position, and who deal with competition from others. In other words, you are taking undeserved monopolistic income, and distributing to those who work hard and efficiently under competition from others, and so deserve it.

Reagan was the first modern conservative to oppose redistribution of income. He opposed Keynsianism, replacing it with his own brand of voodoo nonsense. Keynes is about demand, so Reagan called his vision "supply side economics", meaning, you have to make the climate nice for the suppliers. This is only true in those cases where the suppliers are somehow inhibited because there are not sufficient incentives for people to join their ranks. If you asked random people whether they would like to run a company, at any time in the 1950s-1990s, I don't think at any point they would say "no, it's not enough reward for the work". There has never been a supply-side incentive loss.

Reagan's appointees gutted anti-trust law. In the 1980s, the definition of "competitor" was relaxed so that even very distant companies which offer a vaguely similar product suddenly became "competitors", and the requirements for a competitive industry was that only 1 or 2 other large firms compete. This was a retrenchement of Teddy Roosevelt's hard-won gains.

So Reagan was appealing to big pockets, saying, "look, we can reverse the Roosevelts, finally!" And they did. The growth with Reaganite policies has been tepid and lopsided, the incomes of working people do not suffice to purchase all the goods that the US economy could be producing today. You can see it, because there are people sleeping on the streets who could be making golfballs instead, but their labor is not needed, because consumers have too little money.

Reagan also came to power with a religious socially conservative coalition that opposed the social advances of the late 1960s. The only thing they were right on was the drugs, but the left figured that out without their help.

I think a few of the answers on this page belie a strong ideological dislike of Reagan that biases their point of view.

For a peacetime president, Reagan was good, and arguably great.

His presidency coincided or just preceded:

Reagan's policies played a critical part in achieving each of these outcomes.

He also picked an awesome Vice President (George H.W. Bush), who won subsequent election as President and did an awesome job during the Iraq-Kuwait crisis.

To be clear, my view is shared by historians in several recent surveys. In these surveys, Reagan ranks between 6th and 18th among our 43 past presidents.

It's hard to crack the "great list" if you aren't a wartime president. Of peacetime / post-Revolutionary period presidents, it's clear that Teddy Roosevelt is on the list, and probably Eisenhower also. Other than that, Reagan looks pretty good.