Politics & Policy

Obama vs. Reagan

In historical match-up, Reaganomics trounces Obamanomics, 278,000 to 0.

President Zero.

The brand-new nickname for Barack ObamAA+ symbolizes America’s total net jobs created in August: Zippo.

So, how many jobs emerged in August 1983, the analogous point in Ronald Reagan’s presidency? 278,000. Proportional to today’s population, that equals 365,000 new hires last month.

Citizens pondering Obama’s latest jobs speech and how to get America working again should focus on today’s great Keynesian experiment. Ronald Reagan’s supply-side mixture of tax cuts, deregulation, and sound money competes directly against Obama’s big-government blend of Keynesian stimuli, rampant red tape, and promiscuous printing of money — as if dollars were wallpaper. The late Reagan trounces the leisurely Obama.

President Ronald Reagan signing the Economic Recovery Tax Act on August 14, 1981 at his southern California ranch. On economic dynamism, he still has the last laugh. Photo: Associated Press.

Reagan’s Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 slashed the top federal income-tax from 70 percent to 50, and sliced business levies. Today, it would cost $1.86 trillion. (For consistency, I converted all of the historical numbers in this article for 1981, 1983, and 2009 into 2011 dollars. Nominal figures appear in an analysis available here.) Meanwhile, Obama’s “stimulus,” formally called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, cost $829 billion.

Reagan deregulated America’s economy, as demonstrated by the relatively low 30,522 pages of rules added to the Federal Register in 1981 and 1982. Reagan continued President Carter’s loosening of restrictions on airlines, trucking, and other industries. The 45,696 pages that swelled the Register in 2009 and 2010 reflect Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, EPA guidelines, pro-union favors, and other regulations — atop Sarbanes-Oxley, farm programs, lighting standards, and other hurdles that Bush-Rove erected.

Confirming Reagan’s commitment to reliable currency and monetary restraint, gold’s price fell 33 percent — from $1,396.79 per ounce during Reagan’s Jan. 20, 1981, inauguration to $937.37 on Sept. 7, 1983. By converting the Bureau of Engraving and Printing into a veritable currency copy shop, Obama helped gold climb 201.4 percent through Wednesday, from $898.53 to $1,810.00.

Reagan accelerated Carter’s deregulation of oil prices and encouraged domestic production, as underscored by gasoline’s 6.75 percent fall from $3.11 per gallon on inauguration day to $2.90 in late August 1983. Obama’s domestic drilling limits and anti-carbon fetish helped gasoline climb 87 percent — from $1.93 when he arrived to $3.60 on August 29.

The economic and political consequences of these conflicting visions are stunning.

President Zero: In Barack Obama’s third August in office, the stimulus-fatigued U.S. economy created no jobs. In August 1983, thanks to Ronald Reagan’s pro-market reforms, America generated 278,000 new positions.

At the two-and-a half-year mark (Jul. 20, 1983), Gross Domestic Product under Reagan grew at 9.3 percent. Under Obama, GDP crawled forward last July 20 at 1 percent.

At that stage in Reagan’s presidency, non-farm productivity blossomed at 9.6 percent. Under Obama, it shriveled at negative 0.7 percent.

After Reagan’s first 30 months, unemployment stood at 9.4 percent, down from a 10.8 percent recessionary peak. Under Obama, top joblessness of 10.1 percent has dropped to 9.1 percent, but seems stuck there. And the fact that America yielded zero net jobs last month (versus 278,000 in August 1983) confirms the bankruptcy of Obamanomics.

These respective developments swayed America’s mood. In August 1983, under Reagan, the Consumer Confidence Index sparkled at 90.2. Last month, under Obama, it flickered at 44.5.

In a June 1983 CBS News poll, 47 percent of adults said America was “on the right track,” while 44 percent saw the nation “on the wrong track.” In a June 2011 CBS News study, 28 percent of Americans chose “the right track,” and 63 percent voted “wrong.”

Similarly, an Aug. 8, 1983 Gallup survey found 35 percent of Americans “generally satisfied with things in the U.S.” and 59 percent “generally dissatisfied.” On Aug. 14, 2011, 11 percent were satisfied, while a whopping 88 percent were dissatisfied.

Progress earned Reagan 48 percent approval in a September 1983 Gallup survey, while Obama stood at 40 percent last August 20. On managing the economy, ABC News documented Reagan’s 48 percent approval on May 18, 1983. On September 1, ABC gauged Obama’s approval on economics at 36 percent.

Obama’s triumphs include last week’s dismissal of 1,100 workers at Solyndra, a now-defunct solar-panel manufacturer that he stimulated with a $535 million loan guarantee. (Search-warrant wielding FBI agents raided Solyndra’s Fremont, Calif., headquarters late last week, seeking evidence of criminality.) Another “green-jobs investment” hatched 14 posts and weatherized exactly three Seattle homes. Cost: $20 million.

Ronald Reagan savored a landslide re-election in 1984, scoring 525 Electoral College votes to Democrat Walter Mondale’s 13. As Barack Obama crawls from the wreckage of his Keynesian vehicle, disappointed voters in November 2012 just might make him hand the keys to an adult who knows how to drive.

New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. Manhattan financier Brett A. Shisler contributed analysis for this piece.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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