Reagan, Ronald (b. Feb. 6, 1911 d. June 5 , 2004), 40th president of the United States, who over two terms in office tripled the national debt, funded the group that would become al-Qaeda while trying to expel the Russian military from Afghanistan, and vastly expanded the federal government, making him the least Reaganesque president in history. Though the Illinois native set himself up to be the quintessential Reaganite president by promising in his 1981 inaugural speech to reduce the size of government and rein in spending, he actually built up an enormous peacetime military and drove the federal deficit to unprecedented levels, a decidedly un-Reaganesque move. Reagan went on to violate almost every tenet of traditional, small-government Reaganism by approving 61,000 new federal jobs, reneging on his pledge to cut taxes, and then increasing payroll and gasoline taxes. Even when Reagan was at his most Reaganesque—authorizing covert military operations against the communist Sandinista government—he only managed it by illegally trading arms to Iran to fund the Nicaraguan rebel Contras, who in turn trafficked narcotics to the United States, effectively negating his Reaganesque antidrug policies. Most historians agree that by balancing the federal budget and shrinking the federal government by 373,000 workers, Bill Clinton was the most Reaganesque president of all time.The Sad Legacy of Ronald Reagan:
Reagan's fans argue that he has changed the terms of public-policy debate, that no one today dares propose big spending programs. I contend that the alleged spending-shyness of politicians is not the result of an ideological sea-change, but rather of their constituents' fiscal fright brought about by $250 billion Reagan budget deficits. If the deficit ever shrinks, the demand for spending will resume.
This is the Reagan legacy. He was to be the man who would turn things around. But he didn't even try. As he so dramatically illustrated when he accepted the plant-closing bill, there has been no sea-change in thinking about the role of government.