Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reagan vs Obama?

Kevin Williamson writes in today's National Review Online edition,
News flash: This is not 1982, and Obama is not Reagan.

The important difference is this: There was a good reason for the Volcker-Reagan recession: defeating inflation. American voters may not be terribly economically sophisticated, but they sure as heck did notice when inflation went from 13.5 percent to 3.2 percent — in two years.

This is a salient point - Ronald Reagan was trying to reduce the damage done by the previous Administration's ham=handed and inept economic policies. And it worked - as Williamson notes, inflation dropped drastically in only two years. Mission accomplished!

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be clear to our friends on the Left side of the political spectrum. One of the commenters writes,
Reagan was an incredible deficit spender, I don't think you can distinguish between Obama and Reagan on that factor.

Unless this is a joke, this comment displays a distressing lack of understanding both of history and of international relations. Yes, Reagan did do some large defiicit spending. But, as was the case with the economic policies, there was a reason. A good one. Reagan believed that the Cold War needed to end and he did not think (correctly, as it turned out) that the Soviet Union could keep pace with the US if the Cold War turned into a competition between economic methodology. By spending freely on the US military, he forced the Soviets into an arms race they simply could not win. And his full-throated defense of liberty and freedom gave heart to the millions of enslaved Eastern Europeans. Essentially, Ronald Reagan put his money where his mouth was and bet that the US could win an economic showdown with the Soviet Union. And he was right.

In 1980, when Reagan came into office, the world was resigned to the grim menace of Soviet tanks and proxy wars. Reagan ended that, at least as far as the Soviets were concerned. Proxy wars will go on forever, but the specter of Russian tanks crossing into Western Europe is gone. Ronald Reagan performed two vital actions during his eaight years in office - he won the Cold War (though the Soviet Union did not finally collapse until his successor was in office) and he crushed the inflation caused by Jimmy Carter and his de-regulation put the US on a solid economic course that has lasted by and large until the current Administration.

I don't see how you can compare Reagan and Obama either, but not for the reasons our commenter friend listed. I don't see how you can compare actions taken with a firm goal in mind - a goal that was achieved in both cases largely by the time Reagan left office - to Obama's destructive spending. If Obama's goal is to make the entire country dependent on government and to make the political class into feudal masters, then I guess he is succeeding. But to me there is a fundamental difference between spending to defeat an enemy and spending to make government more powerful. Reagan was all about smaller government. Obama? Not so much.

No comments: