In a spirited debate with friends recently, I was pressing the attack on Obama’s record of failure and shattered promises. I usually wouldn’t bother, preferring to enjoy their company rather than endure their opinions, but the wine was flowing and they wouldn’t shut up.
My rhetorical adversaries were trotting out all the tired themes and memes (I don’t yet trust that word—we haven’t been formally introduced), including the granddaddy of all excuses: blaming Bush.
To these die-hards, there is no blaming Obama for Bush’s ever-more evident catastrophes, and any attempt at even mild criticism is deeply rooted in America’s unique loam of racial antipathy.
Well, if the shoe fits, I guess:
If you really want to light the fuse of a liberal Democrat, compare Barack Obama’s economic performance after 30 months in office with that of Ronald Reagan. It’s not at all flattering for Mr. Obama.
The two presidents have a lot in common. Both inherited an American economy in collapse. And both applied daring, expensive remedies. Mr. Reagan passed the biggest tax cut ever, combined with an agenda of deregulation, monetary restraint and spending controls. Mr. Obama, of course, has given us a $1 trillion spending stimulus.
By the end of the summer of Reagan’s third year in office, the economy was soaring. The GDP growth rate was 5% and racing toward 7%, even 8% growth. In 1983 and ’84 output was growing so fast the biggest worry was that the economy would “overheat.” In the summer of 2011 we have an economy limping along at barely 1% growth and by some indications headed toward a “double-dip” recession. By the end of Reagan’s first term, it was Morning in America. Today there is gloomy talk of America in its twilight.
My purpose here is not more Reagan idolatry, but to point out an incontrovertible truth: One program for recovery worked, and the other hasn’t.
Can’t have enough Reagan idolatry, as far as I’m concerned. I missed it at the time, so caught up in Carter and Mondale idolatry as I was. (I can’t believe I just wrote that.)
You young uns won’t remember how bad it was under Carter. But it was really, really bad. End of America bad. No reason to live bad. Iran was pulling our strings, oil shocks rattled the economy, a malaise was settling over the country—and then there was the Misery Index.
The Misery Index, seized by Ronald Reagan during the campaign against Carter, was the simple (even simplistic) metric that added the inflation rate to the unemployment rate. The two were (are?) thought to be mutually exclusive: inflation meant there was too much money chasing too few goods, thereby raising prices. Unemployment implied less money in the system, hence falling (or at least stable) prices. Like I said, simplistic. And it didn’t take into account stagflation.
The table I link to above shows how bad (really, really bad) it got: not only did the Misery Index reach a record high of nearly 22 under Jimmy Carter, the change from the beginning to the end of his administration was a plus-7. Under Reagan, it reached a low of 7.7, with a net from beginning to end of minus-9.6. Not only did Reagan leave the economy better than he found it, he left it better than Carter found it.
While we’re on the subject, W’s net MI was minus-.44, while Obama’s is a plus-4.9. Do I think he can hit up there with Carter? No, but then I’m supposedly a racist. If some peanut farmer from Georgia can nearly ruin a great nation of two centuries’ age, who am I to suggest that a community organizer from Chicago (or Hawaii, or Kansas, or Kenya) can’t do worse?
I take it back. Of course he can.