The 1982 Recession

The 1982 recession during the Reagan Administration resulted in high interest rates, homelessness, and unemployment. "We are really in trouble," Reagan confided to his diary.


Narrator: As the recession deepened through 1982, its effects were felt across America. Farmers were driven off their land by high interest rates. In the cities, homelessness became a scandal. Thousands of businesses failed. Unemployment reached its highest level since the Great Depression.

"I prayed a lot during this period," Reagan wrote. "Not only for the people in the country who are out of work, but for help and guidance in doing the right thing."

Pressure on Reagan to change course mounted. His program, now derided as Reaganomics, had not only failed to produce growth, but was leading the nation into fiscal disaster. "We are really in trouble," Reagan confided to his diary. "Our projections are out the window. We look at $200 billion deficits if we can't pull off some miracles."

Even true believers were disillusioned. David Stockman, tired of urging for cuts, now urged the President to raise taxes. Reagan, wrote columnists Evans and Novack, was having to fight two-thirds of his administration to save his economic program.

Richard Norton Smith, Former Director, Reagan Library: There are very few conventional politicians who would have stuck it out, as he did. But he came to office imbued with a conviction that less government and lower taxes would resolve the pervasive sickness of the American economy. And what he saw 1982 as was the fever that was about to break.

Narrator: Reagan stayed the course. "I believed the economic recovery would work," he wrote, "because I had faith in those tax cuts and faith in the American people."

But the American people were losing faith in Ronald Reagan.

My American Experience

My American Experience photos

Share Your Story

Who was your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Kennedy? Reagan? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH