Economy & Budget

Reagan vs. Obama: The record

Reagan vs. Obama: The record

Why on Feb. 6 do we pause to remember President Ronald Reagan on the 102nd anniversary of his birth? Not just to look back in gratitude remembering that Reagan tamed Carter’s inflation, created 16 million jobs and destroyed the Soviet Union without a war…but also to look forward and realize how bright our future could be.

Nostalgia comes from remembering better times. But the important thing is to learn what works and what does not work so that better times can be repeated and failure set aside. Ronald Reagan led by the example of his cheerful optimism and faith in our nation and national character.

Today, the present economy is weak. Until these last few months when the economy actually declined, we had been growing at 2 percent a year, the same low rate of growth France has maintained for the past 20 years. Even before the present negative numbers the economy was not growing fast enough to create enough jobs for young Americans beginning their lives.

The American economy has been technically in “recovery” since July 2009.  It has now been 31 months since the bottom of the recession.  It doesn’t feel like much of a “recovery” for the 12.2 million Americans unable to find work or the 2.6 million Americans who have stopped looking for work.

Since the bottom of the recession the GDP has increased an average of only 2.0 percent quarterly and only 3.8 million jobs have been restored.

RELATED: Beware liberal bias in forthcoming Reagan histories

Fourteen and a half million Americans are today out of work because the federal government followed the policies of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid rather than Ronald Reagan. But if this recovery had been as robust as the one Reagan oversaw beginning in November, 1982—if it had grown an average of 4 percent a year rather than only 2 percent a year there would be millions more Americans at work today.

Reagan cut income tax rates across the board for all Americans. He expanded 401(k) accounts and IRAs so Americans could save for their retirement. He indexed the federal income tax code so the government would no longer “profit” from inflation that it created. He reduced federal spending from what Jimmy Carter had planned.  The federal government stopped printing so much money, and inflation — which had run at 13.6 percent in 1980 and 10.4 percent in 1981 — fell to 4.3 percent by 1984.  He worked to de-regulate airlines, railroads, and bus travel, saving American consumers billions.

Less regulation, reducing the growth of government spending, lower tax rates and a stable currency led to a recovery that created 3 million jobs in the first year. In his first year of “recovery” Obama’s policies created a net loss of 201,000 jobs. In the second year of recovery Reagan’s policies created another 4.1 million jobs, Obama only 1.4 million.  In years three Reagan created 9.7 million jobs and Obama 3 million.

It has now been three years and seven months since the recovery began in July 2009 and Obama’s policies have created 3.86 million jobs. In the same time – from November 1982 to November, 1985—with the American population having fully 77 million fewer people than at present, the Reagan economic policies created 9.6 million jobs. The economy grew 8.9 percent in that time under Obama and 18.5 percent with Reagan.

Obama faced a recession when he was elected. What did he do? He immediately had the federal government spend $1 trillion in stimulus spending. He raised 20 taxes in Obamacare.  He piled new regulations on energy, and stopped new jobs by shutting down possible drilling in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. He added a new entitlement spending program—Obamacare—without reforming any existing programs.

Under Reagan, lower taxes, reducing the growth of government spending, a stable currency and less regulation created 9.6 million jobs and increased the economy by 18.5 percent.

Obama’s policies of more taxes, more spending, more regulation and loose monetary policies have led to 5.7 million fewer jobs than Reagan created and an economy with growth nearly 50 percent smaller than it could have been.

Feb. 6, 2013 would have been Reagan’s 102nd birthday. His leadership turned our country around in a dark time. He didn’t whine or blame the president before him. He followed sound economic policies that worked for John F. Kennedy and Calvin Coolidge before him. He learned from the past and avoided the policies of Hoover and FDR that took a recession and turned it into the Great Depression.

On Reagan’s birthday, let us hope that President Barack Obama takes a few moments off from blaming his failed economy on others and instead looks to recent history to see what success looks like.

Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform and chairman of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project. Find him on Twitter at @GroverNorquist

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