It makes conservatives’ heads spin when President Obama is compared to their idol, Ronald Reagan. It particularly drives them crazy when the comparison comes out in President Obama’s favor. So, let’s do it! Here are five ways that President Obama has been a better president than Ronny was.
5. No real scandals.
Oh sure. “Benghazi!” “IRS!” “Fast and Furious!” You hear those words come flying out of the mouths of Fox News talking heads, and others in right-wing media on an almost daily basis.
But consider this: After several years, and multiple investigations, those faux “scandals” that have been pumped up by the right have produced no evidence of wrong doing on the part of the president, or anybody in his administration. So far, not a single indictment of an Obama administration official has been handed down. In fact, in the main one of those events, Benghazi, a Republican led House panel largely said the Obama administration was telling the truth.
Compare that to the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, that led to the indictments of several top Reagan administration officials. National Security Advisor John Poindexter, and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, were convicted of various offenses. CIA chief William Casey was implicated in wrongdoing, but died before he could be brought to trial.
4. Better unemployment numbers.
Both presidents Reagan and Obama had to deal with recessions. When Ronald Reagan took office in January 1981, unemployment stood at 7.5 percent. After holding steady, or declining a bit, over the first half of 1981, unemployment shot up, peaking at 10.8 percent in November and December of 1982, before beginning to drop again. At the beginning of Reagan’s seventh year in office, in January of 1987, the unemployment rate stood at 6.6 percent.
President Obama came into office with an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent. Like the rate during the beginning of the Reagan era, unemployment climbed before beginning to settle, in late 2010. Unemployment currently stands at 5.6 percent as President Obama begins his seventh year in office.
Consider this: President Obama has only seen one month in which unemployment was as high as 10 percent, and the rate has never gone higher than that. President Reagan presided over an unemployment rate that, for a few months, flirted with 11 percent, and remained at or above 10 percent for 10 straight months before beginning to decline.
3. Inflation remains under control.
Inflation has been so low in recent years that many people may have forgotten that it ran wild during the late 70’s and early 80’s. During the first year of Reagan’s first term, the inflation rate never went below 8.9 percent. It did begin to ease as the 80’s progressed, and, at the start of year number seven for Reagan, it was at 1.5 percent, before once again beginning to climb. That 1.5 percent inflation at the beginning of 1987 is actually an anomaly compared to the rest of the Reagan years. After inflation eased from the extremes of the early 80’s, the rate spent most of Reagan’s presidency between three and four percent.
How is President Obama doing? After seeing inflation approach four percent in 2011, it settled back to below two percent, where it remains. Inflation has never been above 3.9 percent during any single month of the Obama presidency.
2. Obama is better with the budget.
There are a lot of ways to look at how a president and his policies are doing when it comes to the federal budget. It’s not a simple equation; there are a lot of factors that figure in. For example, the budget is a collaborative process between the president and the congress. It’s also worth remembering that the budget isn’t set in stone. Various factors will cause unanticipated federal spending, including things like wars, and natural disasters. That said, no recent president, save Bill Clinton, has presided over a budget surplus.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: Reagan’s budget numbers were not hurt because of a “free spending” Democratic-controlled congress, as some have claimed. The Senate was under the control of Republicans for six out of Reagan’s eight years in office.
It makes a lot of sense to look at the budget deficit in terms of Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. That offers a snapshot of how much the government is spending in relation to the overall performance of the economy. When examined in that light, here’s how Reagan and Obama compare.
Ronald Reagan took charge of a deficit that was at 2.5 percent of GDP in 1981. After congress enacted the various “supply side” tax cuts that were the hallmark of Reagan fiscal policy, that deficit jumped to 3.9 percent for 1982, and 5.9 percent in 1983. An interesting sidelight for those who claim that Democrats caused Reagan’s deficits to be larger is this: the last two years of his presidency, when Democrats once again regained control of the Senate, produced the smallest deficit to GDP ratio of any of Reagan’s years in office, after 1981. Outside of that first year, the deficit to GDP ratio never fell below three percent during Reagan’s time in the White House.
And how is President Obama doing? After inheriting the economic mess left by the Bush administration, the deficit to GDP ratio, which had soared to 9.8 percent when Obama took office, has declined every year. The current estimates are for a deficit to GDP ratio of 3.1 percent for fiscal 2015, and 2.8 percent for 2016.
1. It’s the economy, stupid!
If you use the Dow Jones average as a measure of economic health, both Reagan and Obama did very well over their first six years. But, by this measure, Obama has done better. Between January of 1981, and January of 1987, the Dow Jones average increased by an impressive 111 percent. How has President Obama done? Over his first six years, the Dow has increased by a whopping 124 percent.
President John Adams once said:
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
Going by the facts above, it is likely that historians will regard the Obama era as a better one for America than the Reagan era — and Obama a much more effective president.
Look at all those conservative heads starting to spin. You might want to get a tarp handy before one of them explodes!