As his Second Term Begins, we know that President Obama fancies himself to be great. He relishes comparisons to FDR and Reagan feted upon him by historians and journalists who love activist government and presidents – provided it’s government-centric activity. While Obama is no Ronald Reagan, he can be rationally compared to FDR – but only to the very worst of FDR.
Early on in his First Term, Obama met with a group of historians who love activist and liberal Presidents. Obama wanted to talk about his place in history – largely the place in history he wanted. The subjects of FDR and Reagan surely came up in that discussion.
Obama, however, is no Reagan by any comparison. Reagan reduced government regulation and tax rates. Reagan’s economy roared at times (including growth rates like 6.8% in 1984) and unemployment dropped from 10.8% at the height of the recession he inherited to 5.9% in 1989. During his Presidency, labor force participation rose.
Reagan also believed and pushed American exceptionalism. He rebuilt America’s defenses and freed oppressed people all en route to winning the Cold War. In doing that, Reagan unified the U.S. and won over Democrats. Reagan didn’t win over elitist historians who thought him (1) to be militarily reckless – even though he succeeded, and (2) to anti-government – even though his policies worked.
FDR, like Obama, has been lionized by those same historians and others who prefer pro-government, activist Presidents. Obama must have studied FDR well en route to mimicking him. The negative comparisons abound.
1. FDR spoke with a forked tongue during his campaigns. In his first campaign, he railed against Herbert Hoover’s activist spending and for “leading us down the path to socialism.” In just 4 years, Hoover spent more on “stimulus” style programs than was spent in the 30 years before him. FDR said he would bring fiscal discipline if elected. He then proceeded to double the size of government. In his 3rd campaign for President, FDR said over an over that American boys wouldn’t be sent to fight in foreign countries. Privately, he knew otherwise but he was willing to lie to the American people because he didn’t want any isolationist Republicans to be elected President.
For his part, prior to being elected President, Obama called it a failure of leadership to raise the debt ceiling. Now he wants the unilateral right to do it. Obama famously said that wouldn’t raise taxes in any way shape or form on those making less than $250,000. His second term is exposing that falsehood in countless ways.
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