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IN THE NEWS - Ronald Reagan’s Political Legacy - 2004-06-11

Broadcast: June 12, 2004

This is In the News in VOA Special English.

As America's fortieth president, Ronald Reagan promised the nation a hopeful future. This made him very popular. So did his warm ways with people.

Mister Reagan was laid to rest Friday with a national funeral service in Washington. His body was then flown for burial in California, where he died last Saturday at the age of ninety-three.

Ronald Reagan was president from nineteen-eighty-one to nineteen-eighty-nine. This week's Economist magazine calls him "the man who beat Communism." He worked hard for the defeat of the Soviet Union which finally happened in nineteen-ninety-one.

Political experts say his policies also made the United States more conservative for years to come. Ronald Reagan said government cannot solve problems. He said government was the problem.

The former Democrat changed the Republican Party. He was the first Republican candidate for president in years to win the support of many labor union members. Religious conservatives also liked his positions on social issues.

Today Republicans control both the White House and Congress. Some in Congress now were first elected in the nineteen-eighties.

During his first term, Mister Reagan got Congress to reduce taxes in an effort to improve the economy. He said letting people keep more of what they earned would increase growth. But he also set records for defense spending. Budget deficits grew. Other programs were reduced.

Critics say his administration hurt the poor through cuts in social programs. His position on defense was also criticized. He called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” But many historians say his policies helped end the years of tension known as the Cold War. They say his military spending forced the Soviets to also spend more, until they had no more to spend.

To try to prevent war, Mister Reagan met five times with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. They agreed to reductions in nuclear missiles.

Mister Reagan's foreign policy also supported anti-Communist forces. Experts say this helped end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. But several officials in his administration got into legal trouble for giving money secretly to rebels in Nicaragua. This went against the wishes of Congress.

The money came from secret sales of weapons to Iran. President Reagan had approved the sales as part of an effort to win the release of some American hostages in Lebanon. But he said he did not know the money went to Nicaraguan rebels known as the contras.

George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton followed Mister Reagan in office. Both also followed his example of using military force when they thought it was needed, as has the current President Bush.

For more about Ronald Reagan's life, listen on Sunday at this hour for PEOPLE IN AMERICA, in VOA Special English. In the News was written by Jerilyn Watson.