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June 9, 2009
A popular president faces big problems but with supreme self-confidence rolls out an audacious series of solutions. "Rarely have such far-reaching changes been proposed for the U.S. economy...launching the nation on a dramatic and unexplored course that reverses decades-old policies." That's how U.S. News summed up the first phase of a monumental presidency—28 years ago. "The Reagan Revolution" was our cover headline March 2, 1981, and we dissected Ronald Reagan's bold plan to not only kick-start a moribund economy but reverse a trend of gov-ernment expansion that had begun in the 1930s.
It was tough medicine in the short run—massive cuts in spending programs coupled with high interest rates designed to snuff out inflation. "If misery loves company, then everybody'd better love everybody else, because we didn't overlook anyone," Reagan said. But the longer-term changes were equally profound: tax cuts and deregulation that shifted money and power to the private sector to stimulate the juices of capitalism. The outcome was mixed, and it is still debated. But the transformation could fairly be called revolutionary, at least by the civilized standards of American politics. No blood was shed, but fundamental changes were set in motion to the point that the words Reagan and revolution are now joined in perpetuity.