AP UNITED STATES HISTORY
Chapter 32 DBQ
Question: President Ronald Reagan asserted in his first inaugural address that he wanted to limit the
size and the tax burden of government, protect traditional American values, unleash American free
enterprise, and bring fiscal responsibility to Washington, and thereby restore Americans’ faith in their
Assess the extent to which President Reagan remain true to these goals.
Source: "America’s Fretful Mood"Time magazine, December 28, 1981
Nearly a year after he took office, the nation over which Ronald Reagan presides is in a gloomy mood.
Americans are worried about the state of their country, anxious about inflation, which they do not
expect to ease soon, and feel the pinch of recession they fear may linger for a year or more.
Perhaps more important, 63% of the Americans surveyed say they see a real chance that a nuclear
war will break out somewhere in the next five years...
Despite these worries, however, Reagan, in a way that seems to defy the laws of political gravity,
remains popular with his fellow citizens. He is seen by a majority as likable, hard working, a strong
leader who is well informed on domestic issues and a President who makes his own decisions and has
sound economic ideas.
Source: Radio Address to the Nation on Prayer, 1982
"A group of children who sought, on their own initiative and with their parents' approval, to begin the
schoolday with a 1-minute prayer meditation have been forbidden to do so. And some students who
wanted to join in prayer or religious study on school property, even outside of regular class hours,
have been banned from doing so.
"A few people have even objected to prayers being said in the Congress. That's just plain wrong. The
Constitution was never meant to prevent people from praying; its declared purpose was to protect
their freedom to pray.
"The time has come for this Congress to give a majority of American families what they want for
their children -- the firm assurance that children can hold voluntary prayers in their schools just as
the Congress, itself, begins each of its daily sessions with an opening prayer.
"With this in mind, last May I proposed to the Congress a measure that declares once and for all that
nothing in the Constitution prohibits prayer in public schools or institutions. It also states that no
person shall be required by government to participate in prayer who does not want to. So, everyone's
rights -- believers and nonbelievers alike -- are protected by
our voluntary prayer measure." --
Source: 1985 State of the Union Address
To encourage opportunity and jobs rather than dependency and welfare, we will propose that individuals
living at or near the poverty line be totally exempt from Federal income tax. To restore fairness to
families, we will propose increasing significantly the personal exemption.
This government will meet its responsibility to help those in need. But policies that increase
dependency, break up families, and destroy self-respect are not progressive; they're reactionary.
Despite our strides in civil rights, blacks, Hispanics, and all minorities will not have full and equal
power until they have full economic power...
To move steadily toward a balanced budget, we must also lighten government's claim on our total
economy. We will not do this by raising taxes. We must make sure that our economy grows faster than
the growth in spending by the Federal Government. In our fiscal year 1986 budget, overall government
program spending will be frozen at the current level. It must not be one dime higher than fiscal year
1985, and three points are key.
Source: U.S. General Accounting Office (1997)
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Median Household Income 1979-89 (constant 1990 dollars)
Source: American Almanac, Page 445, table 696 (1993 ed.).
Source: 1984 election results
Source: Barbara Ehrenreich "Profile of a Welfare Cheat," The New York Times, 1985
What sets my teeth on edge is not the [Reagan] administration’s extravagance, but its apparent
hostility to the female poor, who form a majority of the population known collectively as "welfare
cheats." The average family on welfare receives a good deal less than $4,600 a year, which, at official
Washington prices, would not even finance a set of shoelaces — and even this sum is due for further
I used to think that the administration was stingy and mean-spirited, but the latest academic thinking on
welfare is that it is positively unkind to shower the poor with largesse, even in the low four-figure
range. Give an unemployed and bankrupt person a little help, according to welfare critics George Gilder
and Charles Murray, and he or she will lapse into the psychic slough known as demoralization — from
which few ever venture forth again to seek honest employment at an hourly wage. The implication for
public policy is that it would be much kinder to spare the poor the misery of demoralization, which is
after all a product of big government and other human errors, and let them experience the hunger that
is natural to their condition.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Source: David A. Stockman, Ronald Reagan: New Dealer? (1986)
One reason I plotted to raise taxes in 1985, then, was to help correct an economic policy course that
was leading to long-run disaster.
But there was also another, more compelling reason. As the original architect of the fiscal policy error
now threatening so much grief, I was appalled by the false promises of the 1984 campaign...No program
that had a name or line in the budget would be cut; no taxes would be raised. Yet the deficit was
pronounced intolerable and it was pledged to be eliminated.
This was the essence of the unreality. The President and his retainers promised to eliminate the
monster deficit with spending cuts when for all practical purposes they had already embraced or
endorsed ninety-five percent of all the spending there was to cut.
The White House itself had surrendered to the political necessities of the welfare state early on. By
1985, only the White House speechwriters carried on a lonely war of words, hurling a stream of
presidential rhetoric at a ghostly abstraction called Big Government.