March 4, 2010

Where the Comparison Goes Wrong

Justin Katz

Chatter about the comparison of circumstances between President Obama and President Reagan has been everywhere, and it all falls apart on one basic question. Here's an example from Henry Olsen (subscription required):

Where does this leave us? Republicans should first remember that politics is like tennis, and the Democrats are serving. It's very hard to break service against a competent player, and there is still time for Obama and his party to regain their game. Obama's slide in the polls has been steep, but his year-end standing was eerily similar to Ronald Reagan's in December 1981. Back then, Reagan had 49 percent approval; Obama had 50 percent in the late-December 2009 polling average on RealClearPolitics. Reagan's numbers slid throughout 1982 as the economy worsened, reaching their nadir at 35 percent in January 1983.

But Reagan recovered nicely, relying on issues that unified his coalition, like hard-line positions against the Soviets. The fast-recovering economy also helped, and as his numbers recovered — and with Democrats unable to overcome their own intra-party divisions during their presidential primaries — Reagan swept to an epic reelection win that placed the GOP on the path toward the continued power it would wield for another 20 years.

Olsen's argument relates to the possibility that a third party will emerge and take the place of the GOP, but one significant consideration is missing from the analysis. Reagan's policies helped bring about the recovery that ultimately boosted his image. Amazingly, Obama has continued to chase down the very policies (in effect and proposed) that have been suppressing economic activity. If that continues, the Republicans have plenty of room to maneuver in order to obviate the need for an additional right-leaning candidate.

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"Reagan's policies helped bring about the recovery that ultimately boosted his image."

Puh-lease. No surprise I suppose to see this type of revisionism from the fringe right, maybe especially from one too young to remember first-hand the Reagan years (I'm a little young myself). But Obama's mistake is not countering these types of fiction head on. In fact, Obama himself is guilty of playing to the Reagan myth in a failed attempt to triangulate the opinions of the Democratic base with those of the Reagan apologists and the misinformed.

The Reagan economy was a one-hit wonder. Yes, there was a boom in the mid-1980s, as the economy recovered from a severe recession. But while the rich got much richer, there was little sustained economic improvement for most Americans. By the late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they had been a decade before — and the poverty rate had actually risen.

When the inevitable recession arrived, people felt betrayed — a sense of betrayal that Mr. Clinton was able to ride into the White House.

Given that reality, what was Mr. Obama talking about? Some good things did eventually happen to the U.S. economy — but not on Reagan’s watch.

For example, I’m not sure what “dynamism” means, but if it means productivity growth, there wasn’t any resurgence in the Reagan years. Eventually productivity did take off — but even the Bush administration’s own Council of Economic Advisers dates the beginning of that takeoff to 1995.

Similarly, if a sense of entrepreneurship means having confidence in the talents of American business leaders, that didn’t happen in the 1980s, when all the business books seemed to have samurai warriors on their covers. Like productivity, American business prestige didn’t stage a comeback until the mid-1990s, when the U.S. began to reassert its technological and economic leadership.

I understand why conservatives want to rewrite history and pretend that these good things happened while a Republican was in office — or claim, implausibly, that the 1981 Reagan tax cut somehow deserves credit for positive economic developments that didn’t happen until 14 or more years had passed. (Does Richard Nixon get credit for “Morning in America”?)

But why would a self-proclaimed progressive say anything that lends credibility to this rewriting of history — particularly right now, when Reaganomics has just failed all over again?

Posted by: Russ at March 4, 2010 10:57 AM

It's easy to see that many people are young and therefore never lived as adults through the Reagan years.
For those who really care about history, I would point them to a little thing called the S&L Crisis when Reagan/BushI policies of deregulation caused the failure of vast numbers of banks...which were then 100% bailed out by the taxpayers - and, unlike the TARP, the money was never paid back nor supposed to be. The resulting mess destroyed the construction and real estate business for almost a decade. I was there - I know!
Reagan also traded ARMS to a the terrorist nation of Iran. Then he used that money to fund RIGHT WING DEATH squads - yes, anti-democratic death squads (they killed priest, nuns and entire villages) in Central America. Read about it...if you dare!

He destroyed ANY effort of the USA to work toward conservation and alternative energy - which was going strong before he took office, but he took the right wing slant of "why should we save money or oil". That has turned out to be a bad plan, as we saw with the $4.50 oil in the Bush years.

Every study EVER done of supply side economics has declared it a failure. It simply does not work. The average person can think of it as "piss down" economics. Give lots of money to the most wealthy, and maybe they will let you and I sweep their floors. Really!

Sorry, I liked RR speeches and talking points as much as the next guys, but his policies were the beginning of the end....the end being what we saw over the last 10 years.

Posted by: Stuart at March 4, 2010 11:23 AM

Yeah, and four more years of Jimmy "Misery Index" Carter would have been just swell.

Posted by: Chris at March 4, 2010 1:02 PM

Chris, I will assume a comment section is not meant for snide remarks about what could have happened.
I invite you, if you desire, to google the S&L crisis as well as Iran Contra and even Reaganomics or supply side economics to learn about the history and events surrounding all this.
Talking points and quick remarks are not going to educate us...or you. I would hope the the Rhode Island Right is more education and reasonable than that.

Posted by: Stuart at March 4, 2010 1:08 PM

Carter? Well, now we've hit on something Reagan, Obama, and Carter have in common, Paul Volcker.

“After 30 years in government, serving under five Presidents of both parties and chairing two non-partisan commissions on the Public Service, I have been reluctant to engage in political campaigns. The time has come to overcome that reluctance,” Volcker, a Democrat, said in a statement today. “However, it is not the current turmoil in markets or the economic uncertainties that have impelled my decision. Rather, it is the breadth and depth of challenges that face our nation at home and abroad. Those challenges demand a new leadership and a fresh approach.”

He concluded: “It is only Barack Obama, in his person, in his ideas, in his ability to understand and to articulate both our needs and our hopes that provide the potential for strong and fresh leadership. That leadership must begin here in America but it can also restore needed confidence in our vision, our strength, and our purposes right around the world.”

President Carter appointed Volcker to Fed chairmanship in 1979 and President Reagan replaced him — with Alan Greenspan — just a couple of months before the 1987 stock market crash. He is widely respected among central bankers, Wall Street and economists for breaking the back of inflation in the 1980s — at the cost of the deepest recession the country has seen since the Great Depression. An economist, he was earlier president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 1975 to 1979 and an under secretary of the Treasury from 1969 to 1974.

Clearly all socialists!

Posted by: Russ at March 4, 2010 1:43 PM

Russ and Stuart-Jimmy Carter was a horrendous failure.I cannot adequately describe how he completely mishandled the immigration issue.He is the reason we are embroiled about it today and actually ever since he was in office.I was there as an INS agent when he pissed on his shoes over the situation-and it was not just the Mariel Boatlift I'm speaking of.
His handling of Iran left us with a crisis today.
Reagan was better by far.
Jimmy Carter didn't make the right moves on Afghanstan either.
I guess he was honest.Okay for that.
Russ-you're a little young to remember(we've met)-Stuart-you probably are old enough,so shame on you.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 4, 2010 4:29 PM

Reagan ended the Cold War. Period. End of story.

Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, thinks that Chavez, Ahmadinejad and Castro are great guys.

Go on and continue to delude yourself.

Posted by: Chris at March 4, 2010 4:43 PM

Sheesh, ended the Cold War? Did he cause the sun to rise in the east, too? It's hard to argue with that kind of pseudo-religious veneration.

Posted by: Russ at March 4, 2010 5:05 PM

To my right wing friends....

This blog entry, as I read it, was not about Jimmy Carter, Cooked Nixon, LBJ, Ike, or Herbert Hoover.

It was about Reagan.

Comparing completely different eras is a difficult thing and probably should not even be attempted. The Carter Era was the result of first two BIG oil shocks and an explosion of Middle East terrorism and other issues. Carter was a great guy, but surrounded himself with inexperienced staff...and, frankly, was probably not the best of chief executives.

But let's discuss real world implications - for TODAY. Blaming our immigration problems on Carter...when the right wing has blocked ANY attempt (McCain, Kennedy, Bush bill, etc.) to fix things, it a non-starter. Let's get real.

The big problems we are facing today are those of war and peace, and those of economics...specifically how much of our country and government is controlled by corporate interests and how much is "by the people and FOR the people?. Reagan was a totally pro-business president. His era marked the start of the END of our American manufacturing growth....and the decline had a LOT to do with his policies. Specifically, globalization, deregulation, lack of protectionism and tariffs, etc.....caused our jobs (steel, etc) to migrate elsewhere.
His deregulation policies were somewhat like those of Bush and friends. He stripped away every regulation he could, resulting in the S&L crisis...unfettered GREED similar to what we saw lately. Oh, President Bush's BROTHER was involved and lost billions for the taxpayers giving bad loans to his friends and business partners.

As Russ says, the idea of ending the cold war is ridiculous! First of all, Russia has thousands of nukes still pointed this way. Who, may I ask, is building the Iranian nuclear plants ?(answer: Russia).
Nothing much has really changed....The Soviet state lost some of it's "states" under it's own weight.....due to adventures like Afghanistan, etc.
Also, they elected various reformers, such as Gorby...who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work!

Unlike GW, Reagan was not 100% bad - he was actually a uniter in the political sense...the country was NOTHING like it is today with all these rabid righties....NOTHING. So that is a good thing. He also has some good cabinet members and appointees, which may have been skill or luck (having a good chief of staff, etc.).

But Reagan is largely responsible for this idea that if we just give vastly more to the richest among us, they will let us polish their shoes and therefore the entire country benefits. That, IMHO, is a dangerous idea as we have now seen in the last decade.

What amazes me is that any thinking person would look back and want more of that.

Posted by: Stuart at March 4, 2010 5:49 PM

Stuart-are you an amnesty supporter?if so,you are very deluded.The last amnesty was a disaster,but more like Chile compared to Haiti if we do it again.You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.Unless you're an open borders advocate,in which case you would be an enemy of this country.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 4, 2010 7:16 PM

"The last amnesty was a disaster"

Joe, weren't there actually two amnesties? 1965 and 1986? And they both went like this.

"Okay, we're going to legalize everyone who is here now. But then, THAT'S IT. We're absolutely closing the borders and we'll never have another amnesty."

They then proceeded to carry out half of what they promise: everyone was legalized. But the borders weren't really closed. And worse, they let up on the most important factor: enforcement against exploitative employers.

Posted by: Monique at March 4, 2010 7:46 PM

Joe, you prove the point very well.

It's not worth debating people who already have their minds made up and call others the enemy. However, I would like you to look closely at the solution YOU choose...that of doing nothing. If you that is much better than the bills which have been put forward, more power to you.

We have to live within the limits of the actual know, molecules and all. Ask the Catholic Church - sins of commission and sins of omission. By your own definition, you are the "enemy" because of the second one, while you call me the "enemy" if I support the first.

We layman call it "damned if you do, and damned if you don't".
The result is the same - gridlock and more of the same, which benefits the employers who profit from this. If that is your desire, then you win.

Posted by: Stuart at March 4, 2010 8:13 PM

"The last amnesty was a disaster"

Joe, weren't there actually two amnesties? 1965 and 1986? And they both went like this.

Amnesty has a long history with immigration. The earliest I know of (immigration law does not have a long history, for a long time the doors were open) is the "Chinese Confession Cases". This is from the 1920's +/-. At the time oriental immigration was not allowed, and the Immgration people could not tell the Chinese apart. Basically, if the Chinese confessed to being illegal immigrants,they were legalized. The idea was that we would start all over again in preventing Oriental immigration.

Let's face it, in a "nation of immigrants" there has never been any "heart" in enforcing immigration laws. Except, of course, against those we do not desire.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at March 4, 2010 11:09 PM

Stuart-if in fact,you support open borders you are for something inimical to the country.If the shoe fits,wear it.
I am not for inaction-I believe in aggressive action against alien criminals and a different tactic against ordinary immigration violators-namely making it so hard to get employment and at the same time puinishing employers with prison time,that the illegal aliens go home on their own.
I also believe in shutting down our southern border.
I can't take the time to tell you what went wrong in 1986,but it didn't work out very well.
A new amnesty with "family unification" will add perhaps 30 million people to the US population,all clamoring for free health care.It's not the responsibility of the USA to be the world's general intake center.
That crap poem on the Statue of Liberty is just that-the demented prattling of a socialist tacked on to the statue.
We really don't need "wretched refuse of teeming shores".Are you ready to give up the lifestyle you've (presumably)earned Stuart?
Legal immigration is not an issue.We can benefit from it and I think it enhances our culture-but it has to be on OUR terms,not those of the interlopers and their one world socialist handmaidens here.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 5, 2010 5:24 AM

Joe B -- was Emma Lazarus really a socialist? I understand that she also wrote a poem about the Touro Synagogue

Posted by: brassband at March 5, 2010 6:18 AM

I don't get your point.There's never been a lack of Jewish socialists.Her poem on the statue pretty much defines her as an open borders type.I'd just like to see the "advocates"have to start sacrificing to accomodate 30 million more people.never gonna happen.Jerzyk isn't about to take in penniless boarders,but his type expect others to do do.They couch their arguments in false flags by screaming about racism.I'm done debating with that whole crew of agenda driven robots.
I hear Nancy Green is pushing for a nine day week,so she'll have a day for each one of her "causes".Just kidding(kinda).

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 5, 2010 6:52 AM

Well, Joe, at least we can clearly see the old antisemitic, KKK and JBS wing of the RI right clearly!
Thanks for giving us a piece of your mind. It makes us fight harder against the Tea Party, the most recent "nationalist" movement in the USA.
I think perhaps you watched gangs of NY too many times and became the Butcher!

And remember, anytime you feel backed up against the wall or cannot defend your position, grab those big bad hard working immigrants and blame it on them! Works every time with those who have IQ's below about 90.

Posted by: Stuart at March 5, 2010 7:53 AM

Joe --

I wasn't making any point about Ms. Lazarus' Judaism and socialism. When you referred to her as a socialist in your post, I googled her and found it interesting that she had a connection to the Touro.

Do you think that those who encouraged immigration at the time of her poem (roughly 1880) were socialists?

It seems to me that the vast majority of the immigrants of that era came here seeking only the chance to work hard, make something of themselves, and get a piece of the American dream for themselves and their families.

That, I believe, is what her poem celebrates.

Maybe she was a socialist, but I didn't find any evidence of it.

Posted by: brassband at March 5, 2010 1:34 PM

I think maybe Joe need to do a bit of studying up on Socialism vs. being a Social Democrat.

As far as the first, that is the ownership of MOST of the means of production, transportation, utilities, etc. by the government- I think modern Cuba and Venezuela might qualify.

Being a Social Democrat, which I consider myself, means basing our government on what is good for the people.

" Social democrats aim to reform capitalism democratically through state regulation and the creation of programs to counteract or remove the social injustice and inefficiencies they see as inherent in capitalism.
This approach significantly differs from traditional socialism, which aims to replace the capitalist system entirely with a new economic system characterized by either state or direct worker ownership of the means of production."

Personally, I am very much for a type of government whose aim is the HAPPINESS of the people. That would be a Social Democracy.

Capitalism, on the other a pure play to base a government on, is probably best described recently by the terrorist teabagger who flew his plane into the Fed. Building in Austin...
"“From each accoring to his gullibility, to each according to his greed”

Such a system is wrong - ethically and morally and in every other way. The entire basis for civilization is to protect the meek and poor from those who would be predatory against them.

Posted by: Stuart at March 5, 2010 5:22 PM

Stuart-are you smoking something?I would find it difficult to be antisemitic since I'm a Jew by upbringing,if not by belief.
I made an accurate statement.The left has always attracted Jewish activists-I never understood why,but it is a fact and often reiterated by many leftist Jews.
Since my family has everything but Asians(happenstance)I also share nothing with the KKK.
Stop slandering me.I made an observation that many other people have.
A Jewish writer(name escapes me)once said that if you take 10 radicals,6 will be Jews,but if you take 100 Jews,maybe 5 will be radicals.Does that clear things up?
Try reading Radical Son by David Horowitz.Remember-that's Horowitz,not Duke.
Any really honest discussion makes a lot of you leftists start using the race/religion card.Almost like Pavlov's dogs.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 5, 2010 9:50 PM

STUART-ONE MORE THING-the aliens that concern me the most are those engaged in crime,terrorism.etc.
The ordinary illegals as individuals are relatively benign,but in the aggregate they constitute a major problem because they from a huge pool of people living under the radar.To legalize them en masse is foolish,but it seems like you have your party line all set in stone,so it was nice talking with you-bye.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 5, 2010 9:56 PM

Brass-it turns out that while Lazarus shared some common ideas with the Socialists of the William Morris school of thought,she actually was more of a social democrat.And she anticipated the Zionist movement,but that's another issue.Not all Zionists were socialists by any means.
Oh,and Stuart,I have never been involved with the Tea Party movement,but if you dislike them so mch,they must be doing something right.
You sound a lot like"Klaus"on Kmareka.He's got the wild accusation thing down to a science.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 5, 2010 10:44 PM

Scapegoating, whether immigrants, criminals, jews, the poor or any other group still smells the same, Joe.

You can cover it with any words you like, but it is the same old story.

Fear - it's all about fear and somewhere to put your fears. You look around at the world and think...if only they would get ride of "these guys", then things would be good.

I am MUCH MORE worried about criminals with the names of Madoff, Bush, Cheney and the like than I am about ANY gang member selling drugs.

As to Jews being socialists, a lot of it has to do with the coming together of jews in community. When you have an active community of like minded people, you tend to share...hence, Social Democracy. Israel cannot be a state of individuals since they must bank together to keep out the common enemy......Kibbutz were outposts on the frontier where folks had to bank together to grow food and protect themselves.

Unlike America, most of the world does not have natural protection from aggression....a feature which probably let's Americans be more individualistic.

Posted by: Stuart at March 6, 2010 8:43 AM

Stuart-"Scapegoating" usually involves some sort of perpetuation of a lie.
You apparently reached the same conclusion about Jews and socialism.
Criminals?How can you scapegoat criminals?They're doing something wrong,duh.
Illegal aliens are breaking the immigration laws.I don't blame THEM for the problems they cause.I blame ineffective bureaucrats who refused todo what was necessary to prevent what we have now.It's too late today.I did a few decades in immigration enforcement,so maybe I know a few things you don't.In my case it's knowledge,not fear.
Fear,by the way,is a survival mechanism.It keeps you alive and aware in dangerous situations.A person who says they fear nothing is the last person I want with me in a bad situation.You seem to rely on predigested leftist rhetoric to shield you from the truth.
Have you ever been in life thratening situations?I certainly have.Fear is not bad-being unable to function through it is really bad.
To extrapolate that to a larger perspective,ignoring dangers worldwide is self-deceeption.Dangerous.
You sound very armchair to me,Stuart.
DO NOT accuse me of scapegoating for being willing to ignore the poison of political correctness and tell the truth.

Posted by: joebernstein at March 6, 2010 9:35 AM

Stuart-you were right about one thing-the reason Americans are more individualistic.Australians too.Why do you want to change that with the poison of social democracy?Collectivist thinking is alien to America.Stuart-the kibbutz example was valid at one time.Today Israel imports guest workers for those jobs and most Israelis are in urban occupations.I think the early Zionists would be turning over in their graves.Read "The Siege" by Conor Cruise O'Brien if you really want to understand Zionism.He was an Irish Catholic byt he way,so his book isn't influenced by personal concerns.It's a very enlightening book.
I'm one of those Jews who has no particualr emotional ties to Israel.Never been there and really don't care to visit.I've been to a lot of other places and I'm hardly the xenophobe you imagine in your narrow leftist view.I really couldn't have been effective on my job if I wasn't comfortable with people from anywhere.
A last thought-if you are unconcerned with"drug dealing gangs"etc,you are a fool- I sincerely hope neither you nor your family crosses paths with MS13 types,or homegrown a&&holes at the wrong mement.It's a terrible way to get educated on the subject.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 6, 2010 9:46 AM

I am not concerned with drug dealing gangs...of Americans or Columbians.....

Or, more accurately, it is WAY down the list of things I have concern about.....WAY below:
The Bernie Madoffs, Ken Lays and Dick Cheneys of this world.
The destruction of our way of life by use of torture and mistreatment of prisoners.
The Patriot Act and other losses of our freedoms.
My fellow Americans who are being thrown out of work, their houses and their health coverage.
The air, water and food we all consume.
The violence that we and others rain onto innocent people for promised gain of some sort (most often NOT gained).

I could come up with a lot of other things.

Of course there are problems in this world, this state, this city, this block and in your head and my head (and our bodies).

That is not the point. But throwing out the same old talking points as an answer to every problems - that's foolish, IMHO.

I honestly have no more problem with an immigrant criminal than I do with a American one......they should all be caught and dealt with. But it's another matter as to exactly how immigrants (illegal) affect our system - when ALL is figured in.

As you noted, you can't blame them. But you CAN blame all the American businessmen who love to hire and pay and abuse them. You CAN blame all the ideologues who, rather than actually do something about it, seek some kind of impossible solution (i.e., we can easily find every one and deport them, etc.)

This is not a point easily debated here - as to whether the entire picture is positive or negative (cheap labor, lots of taxes paid in and never collected for ss and medicare, etc. etc.)......

That's for the economists to debate. I'm all for solving problems, but have found by experience that you have to deal with the problems and solutions which are possible and probable

Posted by: Stuart at March 10, 2010 7:19 PM


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