Updating the Reagan v. Obama Economic Rout


The Hill reported last week that President Obama wants to "pivot to his economic legacy."

Specifically, "the White House hopes to ride the wave of an economic recovery to improve Obama’s approval numbers over the final two years of his presidency, setting up a possible Democratic successor at the White House." If The Hill's Amie Parnes and Peter Schroeder had submitted their writeup to The Onion, they would have gladly run it.

Unfortunately for the president, one good quarter — assuming it even survives subsequent revisions, and especially following a quarter of contraction which was originally reported as positive before the heavy-duty erasers came out — does not a positive legacy make. Nor will another two years of the 2.4 percent economic growth seen during the past four quarters, again before revisions to the most current quarter.

By the three key measures of economic, job and income growth, Barack Obama's economy, also known to yours truly as the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) economy to identify the three parties most responsible for  both the depth of the Great Recession and the historically awful "recovery" which has followed it, has been historically horrid.

Obama's economic policy, with the help of a pliant Federal Reserve, has been built on the notion that massive deficit spending and easy money would bring the economy roaring back and "stimulate" job growth.  The former strategy was tried during the 1930s. It only succeeded in lengthening the Great Depression, as the nation's unemployment rate never fell below 12 percent. The fact that Team Obama insisted on making the same mistakes, while at the same time unleashing the federal government's regulatory apparatus to harass the economy's productive participants, is enough to make reasonable people question whether this president and his administration have ever truly wanted to see a genuine recovery occur.

On the other hand, five years of strong, solid and uninterrupted economic performance following a serious recession is how you create a positive economic legacy. Ronald Reagan's post-recession economy — an economy which faced arguably greater challenges when he took office, particularly double-digit inflation and a prime interest rate of 20 percent — did just that.

Reagan's economic policy, conducted in the face of necessarily painful anti-inflationary Federal Reserve monetary policy, was premised on supply-side tax cuts and regulatory restraint. A third element, getting federal spending under control, didn't occur because (surprise) Democrats reneged on promises to cut spending made during budget negotiations. Today, Obama's crew anticipates annual budget deficits which will never fall below $450 billion and will balloon back to $1 trillion within a decade.

Five years after the early-1980s recession ended, the U.S. economy was almost 26 percent larger. The Obama economy, in the worst five-year recovery since World War II by miles, hasn't achieved even half of that.

The difference is, well, graphic, as the two images below highlight.