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Faced with what seems to be an increasing level of misleading rhetoric about conservative positions on public policy issues, The National Center for Public Policy Research has resolved to help bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality.

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Photo of Valley Forge National Historic Park by James Lemass

Reaganomics: Were the 1980s the Decade of Greed?

The Left Says:

The 1980s were "a time of Reaganomics, burgeoning yuppies, and the Decade of Greed."

Source: Source: Matt Lauer, NBC Today Show, December 30, 2003, as cited by the Media Research Center's CyberAlert of December 31, 2003.

What Conservatives Think:

Conservatives think it is odd that economic growth when a conservative is president is called "greed," while economic growth when a liberal is president is called "prosperity."

Nonetheless, here are facts about the 1980s:

From 1982 through 1989, the years President Reagan's economic policies were in effect, corporate contributions to charities grew an average of 10 percent per year, outstripping inflation by over 6 percent.

Throughout the 1980s, the average income of all economic segments of the American population rose: the poorest fifth by 10.4 percent, the second poorest fifth by 9.5 percent, the middle fifth by 11.7 percent, the second-wealthiest fifth by 12.2 percent and the top fifth by 13.6 percent. Poverty fell by 1.1 percent.

Reagan's tax cuts did not enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor. Federal income taxes fell by 9 percent for the top fifth, by about 10 percent for the middle three-fifths, and by 275 percent for the bottom fifth (amount is over 100 percent for illustrative purposes -- many poor families not only were excused from liability for all federal taxes, but received federal funds through an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit).

Between the fourth quarter of 1982 and the fourth quarter of 1988, 16.7 million new jobs were created. 32 percent of those jobs went to blacks and Hispanics, although blacks and Hispanics at the time together constituted only about 19 percent of the labor force.

Unemployment rates for blacks and Hispanics in 1989 were 11.4 percent and 8 percent respectively, down from 20.4 percent and 15.3 percent at the end of 1982. Between 1982 and 1990, black unemployment dropped by 9 percentage points and Hispanic unemployment by 7.3 percentage points while white unemployment dropped by 4.9 percentage points.

Between 1982 and 1987, the number of black-owned business firms increased by 38 percent, while the number of firms in the U.S. in total rose by 14 percent. Receipts by black-owned firms rose 105 percent during 1982-87, while the average inflation rate was 4 percent per annum.

Source: David Ridenour, "Talking Points on the Economy: Historical Perspectives #1 & 2," The National Center for Public Policy Research, September 12, 1991


Issue Date: January 8, 2004
Author: Amy Ridenour


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