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The Reagan EraA History of the 1980s$
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Doug Rossinow

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231169882

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231169882.001.0001

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The Reagan Era

Doug Rossinow

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines economic policies in the 1980s. Reaganite tax policies, for instance, eased the public burden on the wealthy, but brought little or no relief to less affluent Americans. These changes in taxation meant that the tax system did less to ameliorate growing inequality in the 1980s than it would have if the government had left federal rates alone. The government refused to raise the federal minimum wage after 1981—from $3.35 per hour—for an unprecedented nine years. The tight-money and high-dollar policies pursued by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department devastated America’s manufacturing sector, eliminating tens of thousands of unionized jobs and killing off firms where pay had been relatively egalitarian. Reagan’s fiscal policies—large tax cuts not offset by reduced spending—roughly tripled America’s public debt in dollar terms. The federal government’s debt jumped from 26.2 percent of GDP at the end of 1980 to 42.8 percent by the end of 1990.

Keywords:   Reaganism, US economy, economic policy, conservatives, tax policy, income inequality, manufacturing, minimum wage

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