Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Obama and Reagan: Similar Challenges, Divergent Policies, Similar Result?

Dan Baltz, in a long article in the Washington Post, explores the similar difficult political situation that faced President Ronald Reagan in 1980 and faces President Barack Obama today.

Baltz mentions Reagan's dropping poll numbers similar to Obama's.
"Reagan had dropping poll numbers as Obama now has.

"Around the White House these days, the president's advisers draw analogies with Reagan to paint a hopeful portrait of Obama's weakened standing. Reagan, they note, had approval ratings around 50 percent at the end of his first year in office and ended up winning a landslide reelection victory in 1984. What they don't say so vocally is that Reagan's approval dipped into the 40s in the fall of 1982, and that his party suffered substantial losses in Congress that November."
The key for Reagan was that his policies brought economic success.
"So what lies ahead? In February 1982, facing difficult economic conditions and controversy over his economic and budgetary initiatives, Reagan famously announced that he would "stay the course." His party suffered in that fall, but the economy recovered and so did he."
Does it work? That's the key question. Reagan's policies turned out to be the right ones to fix the difficult economic problems left by President Jimmy Carter's liberal policies.

Further, a comparison Balz does not make, Reagan's tough, blunt, clear foreign policy, resulted in the astonishing success of ending the four decades long Cold War without a shot being fired or a casualty on either side. The Cold War had bedeviled the 7 presidential administrations preceding Reagan's and resulted in 80,000 American dead and a quarter of a million American wounded in the "hot" Korean and Viet Nam wars that were part of the larger Cold War threat.

Reagan's legacy is massive in spanning both deep economic and deeper military perils. His conservative, common sense approach won the day in both arenas.

The question Balz raises is: Can continuation of President Obama's liberal approach win the day economically and reverse his political approval slide?

Put another way, can Obama's liberal policies which are opposite to the winning conservative policies of Reagan (cut taxes and reduce federal economic regulations and involvement) produce a similar economic growth result?

Balz never clearly addresses the issue of contradictory policies producing the same result. He seems to assume that economics is a mystery and anything can happen.

Common sense leans against opposite policies resulting in similar success. If Obama's liberal policies do work, it will be one for the history books and for logic.

No comments: