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Reagan, Ronald (Administration)

The War on Poverty and Great Society programs of the 1960s assumed a proactive stance, with social welfare as a national mandate. President Ronald Reagan, who served for eight years beginning in 1981, took a different position on social welfare. During a period of inflation, unemployment, and economic change, he pointed to Washington, D.C., as the culprit and promised repeatedly to get “government off the backs of the people.” The result, Reagan and his inner circle pronounced, would be less inhibited enterprise and prosperity that would “trickle down” to others. During the Republican primaries, George H. W. Bush—one of his strongest challengers and later vice president—referred to this approach as “voodoo economics.”

Similarly, the changes Reagan instituted came more from his supply-side (economic production over market ...

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