When Ronald Reagan became President in 1981 the National Debt was $997 billion 885 million. In 1989, when he left office eight years later, it was $2 trillion 857 billion 431 million. If
Jimmy Carter had won the 1981 election it would still have gone up but, certainly, not as much.
President Ronald Reagan was followed into office by his Vice President, George H. W. Bush in 1989. His initial goal was to lower the Nation Debt; but he had a Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress. They also wanted to lower the debt but their approach was totally different from that of the Republican President, George H. W. Bush and the Republicans.
Bush and his fellow Republicans in Congress wanted to lower the cost of funding entitlement programs for the poor and middle class. This was unacceptable to the Democrats who wanted to raise taxes, particularly income taxes for the upper echelon and reduce loopholes for the well to do. During his presidential campaign Bush had stated once in exasperation: “Read my lips. No new Taxes.” In order to raise additional funds he had to go back on his word and raise taxes. This alienated a large number of Republican voters.
The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and Germany was unified within a year after that. By 1991 the Soviet Union dissolved. For the United States President George H.W. Bush negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico which ended tariffs between the three countries.
The Gulf War broke out in August 2, 1990. Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq, invaded this oil rich neighbor, Kuwait. With the United Nation’s approval President Bush announced operation Desert Storm. A coalition of nations under U.S. leadership would liberate Kuwait.
On January 17, 1991 Allied forces launched the first air attack. There would be 4,000 bombing raids by coalition aircraft for four weeks. Then essentially American forces landed at Kuwait on February 24, 1991. The offensive stopped at the border of Iraq after 100 hours.
The war was expensive. When Bush left office on January 20, 1993 the National Debt was $4 trillion 411 billion 489 million. President George H.W. Bush had just about doubled the Reagan National Debt.
In addition in 1991 there was a mild six month recession. Unemployment edged upward. President Bush signed a bill providing additional benefits for the unemployed. Welfare increased at that time as more people lost their incomes. Unemployment reached 7.8%. Because of the negative economic conditions many corporations reorganized, laying off numerous employees. Many of them were Republicans who had voted for Bush and had expected their jobs to continue indefinitely. These people found themselves suddenly unemployed. The Census Bureau reported that 14.2% of Americans lived in poverty.
Could the Gulf War have been avoided? The answer is: Yes. President Bush sent a plenipotentiary, who did not have much authority, to Iraq to meet with Saddam Hussein. He chose a female to emphasis women’s rights, which meant to Saddam that Bush did not consider the matter important. From what I understand the two verbally fenced for a while. When she left Saddam assumed that Bush did not consider the invasion important and would ignore it.
When the invasion occurred Bush’s response was the opposite. Saddam would attempt to get even later by unsuccessfully attempting to assassinate Bush. And, of course his son, President George W. Bush would several years later get even by invading Iraq and spending another few trillion dollars on that.
In 1992 Bush ran as the Republican Candidate for another term. This election ended up having three candidates, in addition to George H.W. Bush, the Democrats ran William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton, the former governor of Arkansas, as their candidate, and Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire businessman, ran as an Independent. He financed his own campaign.
Ross Perot received 18.91% of the popular vote, 18,943,321 votes, and zero electoral votes. President George H.W. Bush got 37.45% of the popular vote, 39,104,550 votes, and 160 electoral votes. Bill Clinton achieved 43.01% of the vote, 44,369,806 popular votes, and 370 electoral votes. He became the 42nd President of the United States, serving from January 20, 1993 to January 20th 2001.
Clinton was the first Democratic President since Jimmy Carter. He was the 42 when he became President; the second youngest man to assume the presidency, Theodore Roosevelt had been the youngest. Clinton would preside over the longest period of peacetime expansion in American history.
The National Debt was 4 trillion 400 billion 489 million when he assumed office. During his last three years in office he was able to reduce the debt. In 1998 there was a $69 billion surplus at the end of the fiscal year. In 1999 it was $126 billion and in 2000 it had grown to $236 billion. All of this reduced the debt slightly for the first time.
Somehow he thought that the military was large enough and that he didn’t need to increase it or maneuver it into a major war activities. While he utilized the military in United Nation activities in the Near East to try to lessen genocide and violence he did not involve the U.S. in any actual wars.
President Bill Clinton signed the North American Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico which President Bush had initiated. He attempted early, during his first term. Unsuccessfully to pass a national health care bill. Interestingly the Democrats had a majority in both House of Congress at this time but lobbying prevailed against it. The slogan that defeated it was: “There has to be a better way.” He did later get a State Children’s Health Program passed.
During his first term (1993 – 1997), within two months of becoming President, Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave bill that allowed unpaid leave for pregnancy or serious medical conditions. The Bill had bipartisan support.
He revised restrictions on domestic and international family planning, allowing programs that Reagan and Bush had restricted or gotten rid of. He allowed abortions which declined during his administration by 18.4 percent.
He also signed the Omnibus budget Reconciliation Act of 1993. This bill cut taxes for the 15 million lowest income people. It made tax cuts available to 90% of small businesses in the country and he raised taxes on the wealthiest 1.2% of taxpayers. The Bill passed without getting one Republican vote.
Following Nixon’s initiation of relations with Communist China, Clinton signed the U.S.-China Relations Act of 2000; this law granted permanent normal trade relations and trade status to the People’s Republic of China.
In the Midterm Election of 1994 the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives which they kept thereafter through the rest of Clinton’s presidency. After that it was very difficult getting any legislation he supported passed.
Newt Gingrich, as Speaker of the House of Representatives initially led the campaign to impeach President Bill Clinton. He was tried shortly after the seating of the 106th Congress on February 1999. But the charges against him were brought by the 105th Congress in late 1998. By the time the vote was taken Newt Gingrich, for legitimate reasons had resigned from the House of Representatives.
The process of impeachment is that the House of Representatives votes a Bill of Impeachment against the President and a 2/3d vote is required by the Senate after functioning as a jury to impeach him, that is 67 votes. Bill Clinton was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. On the perjury charge, 45 Republicans voted guilty and 55, practically all Democrats, voted not guilty. On the obstruction of justice charge the vote was 50 for and 50 against. It missed finding him guilty by one vote.
Clinton served out the rest of his term in office. He was a very popular President before, during, and after his trial. There was a lot of animus against him by the Republicans, particularly those in Congress. To a large extent they were able to vent their spleen though the attempted impeachment.
The National Debt, when Clinton left office, was $5 trillion, 678 billion, and 178 million. It had been $4 trillion, 411 billion, and 490 million when he became President in 1993 and for his last three years as President, Clinton had lowered the debt almost a half-trillion dollars. Actually the Clinton years were good years for the American public.