Perhaps in a foolish attempt to build Obama up, his media cronies along with the progressive elites have lately been describing Obama as being Reaganesque. The ammunition for that was provided by the President's late obsession with the greatest 20th century president we have had.
The comparison of Obama to Reagan is a farce. What Obama seems to respect, in particular, is Reagan's optimism, his ability to communicate with people and his popularity — which all seemed linked.
But our president would be wise to delve a bit deeper into his subject. He would find Reagan was successful not because of his personality — his well-known optimism, his ability to communicate — but because he had powerful conservative beliefs that resonated with Americans' own deeply held ideas of right and wrong.
That those beliefs turned out to be true is now a matter of historical fact, not of opinion. Obama shouldn't just copy Reagan the "great communicator" — he should copy his policies as well, which reflected his conservative philosophy. On that, the record is clear.
Today, Obama presides over a struggling economy marked by 9% unemployment — the 21st straight months its been at 9% or higher, the longest stretch since World War II. Though the economy now is technically expanding again for the first time since 2007, there's virtually no job growth. Since the economy left recession in June 2009, just 94,000 private-sector jobs have been created.
As bad as things are today, they were worse when Reagan entered office. The economy was in the worst downturn since the Depression and on its way to a second recession. Unemployment was poised to peak at 10.8%. In 1980, inflation averaged 13.5% year over year. The prime rate of interest stood at 20.5% as 1981 arrived. The economy was a shambles.
It was common at the time to think that the U.S. was in eclipse — that it would soon be overtaken by the USSR, or Japan, or even Europe. That may sound funny now, but it wasn't then.
Reagan emanated optimism. He did so because he believed — indeed, he knew — that his principles were the right ones. He believed in individual rights and responsibility, small but effective government, a strong defense and the rule of law.
Comparing how Reagan brought the economy roaring back with Obama's lack of success is instructive.
Faced with a recession that lasted 16 months, President Reagan did what nearly everyone — including most economists of the day — told him not to do: He slashed taxes.
The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 cut taxes across the board by 25%. It lowered the top marginal tax rate from 78% to 28%. It slashed capital gains tax rates from 28% to 20%.
As the Heritage Foundation's Conn Carroll noted, this was not a gimmick — it was a long-term plan, one Reagan knew would work. "The permanent recovery in employment, production and investment we seek won't come in a sharp, short spurt," Reagan said.
That wasn't all. Reagan also slashed spending. Inflation-adjusted, nondefense domestic outlays fell 9.7% in his first term. No other president can make that claim.
"Ronald Reagan sought — and won — more spending cuts than any modern president," wrote Veronique de Rugy, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Reagan's biggest challenge early on were the unions. Today, unionization is just 13% of the work force. In Reagan's day, it was above 25%. Flexing their muscle, the air-traffic controllers threatened to shut the economy with an illegal strike. Reagan broke the union — and convinced the rest of America and the world that he was serious about changing things.
Reagan also substantially deregulated the economy — particularly energy. The result: lower costs, declining oil prices and a booming business sector.
Did it work? During Reagan's first term, unemployment fell from a peak of 10.8% to below 5% by the time he left office. During the 1980s, the Reagan boom economy created 19 million jobs.
As for the economy, real GDP rose 37% as inflation, once the scourge of the economy, steadily fell over the 1980s.
But didn't tax cuts starve the government of revenues? A total myth. Income tax revenues rose 54% from 1980 to 1989, 28% after inflation. Total tax revenues grew 99.4%.
How does this compare with Obama? Not only has he not cut spending, but through an $862 billion "stimulus" and $1 trillion in new health care spending, the budget has grown massively.
We face today the largest increase in spending since the New Deal. The federal deficit is expected to average — average — $1 trillion or more for the next decade, as spending explodes by an estimated 60%. Our public debt, now at $14 trillion, has already reached a ruinous 100% of GDP.
Deregulation? Today, the regulatory cost of government is estimated at $1.75 trillion a year and growing fast. We've never had more meddling in the daily affairs of business and people's lives than today — whether through ObamaCare or the finance overhaul or the EPA's power to regulate everything or the dozens of "czars" who control pieces of the economy.
Reagan, faced with economic stagnation and high inflation, stared down the unions. Obama has made them central to his coalition, throwing them subsidies, giving them the right to bully workers, and enriching them through the bailouts of GM and Chrysler.
President Obama has sought to raise taxes on "the rich" — a populist move that will in fact result in lower government revenues, less business formation and fewer jobs created. Reagan cut them.
While Obama extended tax cuts already in place for those in the bottom 95% of incomes, he hit Americans at all levels with a spate of new hidden taxes on everything from health care to energy. This is why our economy crawls, while the one Reagan built sprinted.
Government has never been bigger since World War II, consuming 26% of GDP. During the Reagan years, it averaged 19%.
In foreign policy, Reagan steadfastly backed anti-communist leaders where ever they were. Today, we turn our backs at friends in Israel, Honduras, Colombia, Poland, Czech Republic, and elsewhere while we embrace dictators in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Iran, etc. The Obama Administartion has no coherent foreign policy that is consistent with our national interests.
Domestic policy that is related to national security? From making energy independence impossible by warring with oil companies to hundreds of pages of anti-business regulations, this administration seems more at war with the U.S. than any other insidious force in the world.
If you had to overlap one inept president's first term over the closest possible match, Obama's would virtually be identical with Jimmy Carter's. Carter was the only president who made me feel embarrassed to be an American. Obama has the same exact lack of executive abilities that Carter had but is twice as arrogant. Mr Obama, in that aspect, is far more Carteresque than anything else.