What was the impact of President Ronald Reagan's economic policies on the lives of ordinary Americans?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ordinary Americans experienced different effects as a result of Reagan's economic policies.  On one level, the demand for tax cuts was something that ordinary Americans felt the effects of.  A significant part of Reagan's campaign promise platform was to decrease the tax burden that Americans faced.  This resulted in "a phased 30% tax cut for Americans in the first three years of Reagan's presidency."  Ordinary Americans felt that the tax cuts enabled them to have more money in their pockets as "cash to spend."  

At the same time, ordinary Americans were seen as the direct beneficiaries from Reagan's embrace of supply- side economics.  The idea in this was that Americans were going to benefit from the reduced government regulation, pro- business stance that was intended to create more jobs.  Reagan's push for supply side economics was intended to drive home direct benefit for ordinary Americans.

The reality of such a claim might be debatable.  One real impact of Reagan's economic policies on the lives of ordinary Americans was that the job market drastically changed: "From 1979 to 1985 low-paying jobs accounted for 40 percent of the job growth, with high-paying jobs constituting only 10 percent."  The reality was that supply side economics helped to relegate the ordinary American to low paying jobs that had limited financial opportunities. 

At the same time, ordinary Americans were impacted by government slashing the federal budget.  In order to pay for the proposed tax cuts, Reagan reduced government entitlement programs, directly impacting the lives of ordinary Americans that looked to the government for help during economically challenging times.  

Additionally, ordinary Americans were impacted by Reagan's anti- union stance, as seen with Reagan's intervention in the Air Traffic Controller strike of 1981.  Ordinary Americans that belonged to unions understood that Regan's economic policies were geared more towards enhancing the business end of the economic spectrum and less toward the worker.  The government position taken during the strike helped to confirm this.

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