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Archive for August 4th, 2010

I seem to have touched a raw nerve with my post earlier today comparing Reagan and Obama on how well the economy performed coming out of recession. Both Ezra Klein and Paul Krugman have denounced my analysis (actually, they denounced me approving of Richard Rahn’s analysis, but that’s a trivial detail). Krugman responded by asserting that Reaganomics was irrelevant (I’m not kidding) to what happened in the 1980s. Klein’s response was more substantive, so let’s focus on his argument. He begins by stating that the recent recession and the downturn of the early 1980s were different creatures. My argument was about how strongly the economy rebounded, however, not the length, severity, causes, and characteristics of each recession. But Klein then cites Rogoff and Reinhardt to argue that recoveries from financial crises tend to be less impressive than recoveries from normal recessions.
That’s certainly a fair argument. I haven’t read the Rogoff-Reinhardt book, but their hypothesis seems reasonable, so let’s accept it for purposes of this discussion. Should we therefore grade Obama on a curve? Perhaps, but it’s also true that deep recessions usually are followed by more robust recoveries. And since the recent downturn was more severe than the the one in the early 1980s, shouldn’t we be experiencing some additional growth to offset the tepidness associated with the aftermath of a financial crisis?
I doubt we’ll ever know how to appropriately measure all of these factors, but I don’t think that matters. I suspect Krugman and Klein are not particularly upset about Richard Rahn’s comparisons of recessions and recoveries. The real argument is whether Reagan did the right thing by reducing the burden of government and whether Obama is doing the wrong thing by heading in the opposite direction and making America more like France or Greece. In other words, the fundamental issue is whether we should have big government or small government. I think the Obama Administration, by making government bigger, is repeating many of the mistakes of the Bush Administration. Krugman and Klein almost certainly disagree.

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I believe in freedom and my opinions are never swayed by polling data and election results, but I’m not oblivious to the importance of public opinion. So I’m delighted that the voters of Missouri overwhelmingly approved a measure against a federal mandate to purchase health insurance. Here are the cheerful details.
Missouri voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a federal mandate to purchase health insurance, rebuking President Barack Obama’s administration and giving Republicans their first political victory in a national campaign to overturn the controversial health care law passed by Congress in March. “The citizens of the Show-Me State don’t want Washington involved in their health care decisions,” said Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, one of the sponsors of the legislation that put Proposition C on the August ballot. She credited a grass-roots campaign involving Tea Party and patriot groups with building support for the anti-Washington proposition. With most of the vote counted, Proposition C was winning by a ratio of nearly 3 to 1. …The question now is whether the administration will respond by suing the state to block passage of the law, much as it did in Arizona recently over illegal immigration. The issue in both is the same: When state laws conflict with federal laws, the courts have generally ruled in favor of the federal government, because of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

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Both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama entered office during periods of economic misery. But they adopted dramatically different solutions. Reagan reduced the burden of government and Obama increased the burden of government. So which approach worked best? In his Washington Times column, Richard Rahn compares the economy’s “recovery” performance under both Presidents. As you can see, Reaganomics is much better than Obamanomics.

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