President Obama has said before that he wants to be the “Ronald Reagan of the left.” Why he wants that is an absolute mystery, but conservatives who worship Reagan like to pounce on it. One such pouncing takes place in an op-ed for the New York Post, where author Kyle Smith says that Obama’s just a talker, and that’s it, whereas Reagan was both a “galvanizing speaker” and a “canny leader.” Smith’s piece is clearly written from a Republican point of view, because not only is it full of Reagan worship, but he also ignores the obstructionism in which Congressional Republicans have engaged in since 2010.
First things first, though. We have to wonder why Obama even wants to be like Reagan. Reagan may have been a galvanizing speaker, but as a leader, he was a master of deception that favored the rich over everyone else. The economic issues we’re having now, the vast amounts of income inequality, and the fact that we’re an oligarchy instead of a democracy, are all thanks to St. Reagan. Not Obama.
Reaganomics changed our economic policy to heavily favor the wealthy, which inevitably harms everyone else, and stalls the engine that powers a demand economy like ours. Reagan is the person who brought us the idea that drastically cutting taxes for the wealthy will create prosperity for them, which they will then pass on to the rest of us. Everyone wins, right? If Reaganomics worked, we’d be the bastion of sound economic policy for the entire world, and an absolute economic paradise, with literally every able-bodied American working for good pay, no poverty anywhere, and productivity and a gross domestic product that far outstrip everyone else.
Unfortunately, our poverty levels are growing, fewer and fewer companies are offering well-paying jobs, and the people who get rich by moving money around, rather than using their positions and leadership to produce products and services that benefit society, are richer than ever.
One thing that Smith takes issue with is the minimum wage. He blames Obama for not signing minimum wage increases, and being the first president in forever to not sign one. Has Obama vetoed one, though? No. No minimum wage bill has even hit Obama’s desk, thanks to Republicans. They don’t even want to talk about raising the minimum wage. In fact, they’re the ones pushing the idea that the minimum wage was never supposed to be a living wage (wrong), and that raising it will just destroy more jobs. How is Obama responsible for not signing a bill that’s never reached his desk?
Obama, on the other hand, has called for a minimum wage increase numerous times, while Congress just dickers about it. He signed an executive order mandating a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for federal contractors, because Congress won’t do anything about it. What’s he supposed to do? Craft his own bill and sign it without even letting Congress see it? That would be executive overreach in the extreme.
That’s another thing that Smith takes issue with; Obama’s executive orders. Some of them are in a gray area as to what’s legal and what isn’t, like his 2014 executive order on immigration. However, the reason he’s taken to executive orders as a way to get some things done, like raising the minimum wage for federal contractors, is because Congress won’t act themselves! It’s not because he’s a tyrant, or unwilling to negotiate.
Since 2010, Congressional Republicans have made a great show of trying to meet Obama halfway on things. However, as this Washington Post article from the 2013 battle over the budget sequester shows, they insist Obama won’t work with them, when what’s really happening is that they want him to drop all his demands and just give them everything they want. They make him come forward two steps, and then step two steps back, keeping the distance the same, and cry, “You’re not working to close this gap!”
The whole point of Smith’s article, though, is that Obama isn’t the Reagan of the left. To that, we say, “GOOD!” We’d be in even worse shape than we are if he’d become Reagan in any way. That man was very charismatic, and had a Congress more willing to work with him than today’s Congress is to work with Obama, but he put us on very bad path, and we’re still on it.
As for Obama himself, he needs to be himself, not Reagan, or Clinton, or Kennedy, or any other Democratic president (or Republican one, for that matter). He might only have 18 months left in office, but trying to be the Reagan of the left is disastrous, and not something we need.
Image of President Obama by Chuck Kennedy (Official White House photo). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Image of Ronald Reagan creator unknown. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Images merged by Rika Christensen