June 5, 1933: To combat the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt took the U.S. off the gold standard. Bank failures had scared Americans into hoarding gold. FDR declared a bank holiday shortly after taking office, which helped stabilize and restore confidence in the banks. The president followed up with the new policy on gold, which forbid banks from paying customers in gold or exporting it. FDR was an advocate of Keynesian economic theory, which recommended fighting an economic downturn by inflating the money supply. Taking gold out of circulation would help do this, FDR believed.
June 5, 2004: Ronald Reagan died. He was the 40th president, serving between 1981 and 1989. Many credit Reagan — who was known as "The Great Communicator" — for helping to win the Cold War and for preserving Social Security by taxing benefits and raising the retirement age. Reagan's $165 billion bailout of Social Security increased payroll taxes on businesses and their employees and added new federal employees to the system.
Reagan also presided over a robust expansion of the U.S. economy. On a Jan. 20 to Jan. 20 basis, 5.3 million jobs were created during his first term and 10.7 million in his second term. But Reagan also presided over a tripling of the federal debt, an expanded government workforce, and taxes that were raised on gasoline (twice) and on businesses to the tune of $420 billion ($750 billion in today's dollars) by raising corporate taxes and closing loopholes. After the biggest stock market crash in U.S. history — the 22 percent drop on October 19, 1987 — Reagan acknowledged that soaring federal deficits was one reason for the crash and said taxes might have to be raised further.
President Reagan was also the first president to support cap-and-trade legislation — in an effort to protect the ozone layer.
A 2010 Vanity Fair poll said Ronald Reagan would be the choice of Republicans for a fifth face on Mt. Rushmore. Democrats opted for John F. Kennedy.
Quote of the day
"America is too great for small dreams." -Ronald Reagan
More from West Wing Reports...
- Mind the gap: Gender gap persists with Dems, GOP
- Obama treads carefully on Japan-China dispute
- Presidents and the security/liberty debate