“I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not,” Matt Welch of Reason.com quotes Mr. Obama saying as a presidential candidate in January 2008. “He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think he tapped into what people were already feeling. Which is we want clarity, we want optimism.”
Here’s how Reagan described it in his 1986 State of the Union address: “I am pleased to report the state of our Union is stronger than a year ago and growing stronger each day. Tonight we look out on a rising America, firm of heart, united in spirit, powerful in pride and patriotism. America is on the move! The United States is the economic miracle, the model to which the world once again turns.”
Even granting a discount for Reagan’s famously sunny-side-up persona, it is nearly impossible to imagine Barack Obama uttering such words today. That’s because his economic policies have failed.
Obama looked upon the financial crisis of 2008 and saw the fingerprints of deregulation and stingy government “investments,” even though George W. Bush was the biggest regulator since Richard Nixon and the biggest spender since LBJ. The president permanently jacked up federal spending through an $833 billion stimulus that, instead of being injected and then withdrawn, merely established a new baseline for annual federal expenditure at around $3.6 trillion. This maneuver has helped increase the national debt by a staggering and dangerous $6.7 trillion during Obama’s tenure to date.
The president raised taxes in the January 2013 fiscal cliff deal, and is trying impotently to raise them more. He “punished” banks by preventing them from going bankrupt, forcing them to take government money, having the Federal Reserve pay them interest on their reserves, and writing regulations that benefit the big incumbents at the expense of upstarts. And he foisted upon the country an unpopular, unwieldy, and possibly unworkable health care law that is further dampening an already lousy economic record.
As Stacy McCain predicted of Mr. Obama’s risky big government schemes in December of 2008, “It won’t work” — and it didn’t.
The irony is that had Obama followed Reagan’s proven methods, he would be enjoying enormous bipartisan support today — certainly, the left didn’t mind it much when Bill Clinton — at least after 1994 — tacked towards the center, rather than being the second coming, as it initially seemed until he lost Congress, of George McGovern. But Obama was far more interested in his vision of fundamental transformation of America into something resembling England in the mid-1970s, than actually successfully governing, hence Jonah Goldberg dubbing his administration “The Quote-Unquote Presidency,” in his latest G-File.
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