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STEPHEN MOORE: Obamanonics vs. Reaganomics – WSJ.com

August 25, 2011

Obamanonics vs. Reaganomics

One program for recovery worked, and the other hasn’t.

OPINION AUGUST 26, 2011

By STEPHEN MOORE

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.

The Reagan philosophy was to incentivize production—i.e., the “supply side” of the economy—by lowering restraints on business expansion and investment. This was done by slashing marginal income tax rates, eliminating regulatory high hurdles, and reining in inflation with a tighter monetary policy.

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Ronald Reagan talks taxes, 1981.

The Keynesians in the early 1980s assured us that the Reagan expansion would not and could not happen. Rapid growth with new jobs and falling rates of inflation (to 4% in 1983 from 13% in 1980) is an impossibility in Keynesian textbooks. If you increase demand, prices go up. If you increase supply—as Reagan did—prices go down.

The Godfather of the neo-Keynesians, Paul Samuelson, was the lead critic of the supposed follies of Reaganomics. He wrote in a 1980 Newsweek column that to slay the inflation monster would take “five to ten years of austerity,” with unemployment of 8% or 9% and real output of “barely 1 or 2 percent.” Reaganomics was routinely ridiculed in the media, especially in the 1982 recession. That was the year MIT economist Lester Thurow famously said, “The engines of economic growth have shut down here and across the globe, and they are likely to stay that way for years to come.”

via Stephen Moore: Obamanonics vs. Reaganomics – WSJ.com.

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