Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

The days of Ronald Reagan

Age And Experience: The Reagan Resume

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Monday, September 08, 2008 4:20 PM PT

When President Reagan assumed office on the eve of his 70th birthday, U.S. inflation under his predecessor had zoomed from 5% to 15%, the prime interest rate had soared from 6% to 21% (the highest since Lincoln), 30-year mortgages were 18%, gas stations had long lines and even-and-odd license-plate days, and the communist Soviet Union had overthrown and seized seven more countries in strategic areas around the world.

IBD Series: The Importance Of Age And Experience

In the previous 10 years, according to Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, Russia had spent $104 billion more on its military and $40 billion more on research and development than the U.S. This resulted in four new ICBMs, the Backfire bomber, the SS-20, missile-firing submarines, new tanks, new air defense systems and whole new classes of ships. The Soviets had huge tactical nuclear superiority in Europe.

On Reagan's first day in office, Iran, concerned about what he might do, released the 52 Americans that had been held hostage for 15 months during the Carter administration. That, however, was only the first of many victories America would enjoy over the next eight years under this seasoned executive. Among his many accomplishments, Reagan:

• Rebuilt America's seriously depleted defenses and restored pride in the military so that a voluntary peacetime army became a reality and the draft an unnecessary relic of the past.

• Lifted price controls on domestic oil and, contrary to predictions that oil prices would skyrocket, instead saw them drop from $38 a barrel in 1980 to below $16 in 1988. Inflation collapsed from 15% to an amazingly low 2%, and interest rates fell from 21% in 1980 to single digits over the next six years.

• Cut everyone's taxes (over congressional objections), thereby launching one of the longest economic recoveries on record and leading to the creation of 20 million jobs.

• Ordered an assault and rescue mission in Grenada that sent Cubans home, rescued grateful American students and took the negative national media by surprise.

• Subdued Libyan terrorism with an air assault on Moammar Gadhafi's base and successfully forced down the Egyptian jetliner carrying terrorists from the Achille Lauro ship hijacking.

• Assisted the Philippines in breaking away from right-wing dictator Ferdinand Marcos and did the same for Haiti, Panama and Chile.

• Cracked down on Soviet spies and thefts of U.S. technology and reached parity with the Soviets in embassy and U.N. personnel.

• Became the first president to stop and reverse the spread of communism by giving help and encouragement to democratic resistance fighters in Afghanistan, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

• Revitalized the ideal of democracy throughout the world and witnessed the global trend shift from socialism to free enterprise.

• Stood firm at Reykjavik, Iceland, on developing his anti-missile Strategic Defense Initiative and walked out on Mikhail Gorbachev. The Soviets strongly believed that SDI would render their entire nuclear missile capability obsolete.

The added public pressure that Reagan brought to bear on Gorbachev — "Tear down this wall" — led ultimately to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the failure and dismantling of the Soviet Union, and an end to the Cold War.

More than 100 million people enslaved behind the Iron Curtain in Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania tasted liberty for the first time, and another 140 million in nations from Armenia to Georgia and Lithuania to Ukraine declared their freedom and independence.

Later, Gorbachev and leading Soviet generals conceded that all this wouldn't have happened if not for Reagan and his winning strategy of peace through strength. Objective analysts will likely agree that Reagan's gigantic accomplishments rank him among our top presidents after Lincoln, Washington and FDR.

Because he was friendly and good-natured, Reagan was hugely underestimated. His ideas were questioned and ridiculed by political opponents, critics and the elite left-wing news media. He simply wasn't an intellectual or an academic. He came from a poor but honest family, grew up in small Middle America towns, went to small schools and made average grades.

His mother, however, read to him early on, taught him right from wrong and instilled in him a positive, determined and optimistic attitude, vital traits that formed his later character.

The public was never told that Reagan was an avid reader all his life, that he wrote his own speeches for years and that he studied, knew and understood more about the weaknesses of Soviet communism than all his advisers and opponents put together.

In high school, he was elected student body president and played varsity football. In college, he also played football, was in the drama club and headed the student council. And for seven school years, he worked as a lifeguard each summer.

On his own in his 20s, Reagan tried out and won a job as a sports announcer of major league baseball games, then got an audition in Hollywood and was offered a contract. He made 52 feature films and became a major movie star. In 1938 he joined the Screen Actors Guild, which elected him president in 1948. After years of experience negotiating and dealing with tough studio bosses, Reagan later felt Gorbachev was a "snap."

He also worked for General Electric Co. as its national spokesman for eight years, hosted General Electric Theatre, which became the No. 1 show of its time, and traveled to all GE plants, giving talks and meeting with and listening to the company's 250,000 employees. Later, Reagan ran the seventh-largest economy in the world during two four-year terms as the governor of California.

Reagan's age and years of reading, studying and successfully dealing with people proved invaluable as he prepared to win the Cold War and see to it that the Soviet Union disappeared into the "ash heap of history," just as he predicted and worked relentlessly to make happen. His judgment and vision transformed America's prior strategy of containment, detente and mutually assured destruction into a new strategy of "we win, the Evil Empire loses."

The steady policies Reagan followed and decisive steps he took toward ending 70 years of Soviet communist rule — something no one ever thought possible — rank alongside Roosevelt's steadfast leadership in winning World War II.

Little wonder Reagan left office 17 days short of his 78th birthday as the most popular president since FDR. How many other presidents' actions have resulted in freedom and independence for 240 million people in 20 nations? His vision and judgment came from the additional time and experience he had to prepare for the job at hand.

This is the second in a series that is running throughout this week. The entire series is available online at


This site uses Facebook comments to make it easier for you to contribute. If you see a comment you would like to flag for spam or abuse, click the "x" in the upper right of it. By posting, you agree to our Terms of Use.

Page Tools