Is He Reagan? Or Is He Gorbachev?

Time magazine informs us that Barack Obama is head over heels in love with Ronald Reagan. And it’s far more than mere love: “Obama ♥ Reagan.” And why not? Reagan, after all, supported all the things that Obama supports: reduced tax rates, reduced regulatory burdens, free trade, military modernization, disinflation, resource allocation by market competition, and limited government. In short: individual freedom and responsibility.

Oops. Mr. Obama in reality has a vision far loftier: He stands foursquare in favor of the things that any Beltway Nostradamus knows are the keys to continued American leadership: greater internet access, one million electric vehicles, wind and solar energy, and more information technology. And the crowning glory: high-speed rail.

And so notwithstanding Time’s silliness, the fundamental difference between Reagan and Obama is obvious: liberty and individual initiative versus top-down coercion. What also is clear is that for Obama, high-speed rail and other such nostrums represent far more than mere sops for the unions, bureaucrats, lawyers, corporate fat cats, and the other interests for whom happiness is a snout deeply embedded in the federal trough. Such central planning is the path toward faster economic and employment growth over the immediate term, and a stronger, more productive U.S. economy in the long run.

And so Obama is no Reagan. Obviously without realizing it, he is instead the American version of Mikhail Gorbachev instituting the Soviet 12th Five-Year Plan (1986-1990).

Let us take a stroll down memory lane. Having assumed the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985, Gorbachev understood clearly that the economy was poor in some respects and a shambles in most others. The basic problem simply couldn’t be the system itself; after all, the White House GosPlan (the Soviet central planning agency) was populated with the best and the brightest. And so perestroika was the new buzz word, and the key to long-term improvement in Soviet economic performance was … machine tools. Machine tools were the key to the future. That was obvious, anyone could see it: The strong world economies had invested vast sums in modern machine tools, and if only the Soviet Union did the same, its economy too would be world class. Presto! The system could be reinvigorated!