Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What Would a Reagan/Obama Debate Sound Like?

Timeless wisdom versus hopenchangy socialism.

(HT Glenn Reynolds)


thinking said...


Reagan certainly had his greatness, but he also is no god and indeed, some of his legacy is cast into doubt because of today's developments.

Then there's also his failures, such as his shamelessly slow response to AIDS, Iran-Contra, etc. Let's not forget that not only did govt grow under Reagan, but the budget deficit ballooned like it had never before. Reagan claimed to be a fiscal hawk, but in reality was nothing of the sort.

Then there's the fact that Reagan's age showed through many times, in some of his rather erratic responses to questions. Reagan could speak well with a script, but outside of that, he had difficulty.

Indeed, one can say that just as Democrats took FDR to an extreme, Republican took Reagan to too much of an extreme.

As for Obama representing "hopenchangy socialism"...ha..ha..ha. Obviously, the author knows nothing of the true definition of socialism. But sadly, conservatives have come to call any govt action as "socialism"..except when a Republican does it. These are the same conservatives who supported not only a huge expansion of govt spending under Bush, but an unprecedented expansion of executive power, which was more troubling than the spending.

Obama is no god either, but it is way too early to judge his presidency. Also, I will say this much: in the intellect dept, Obama far exceeds Reagan. In fact, Clinton far exceeds Reagan in intellectual power.

So I'll give Reagan his due, but in a true debate between these 2 figures, Obama would give far more coherent, knowledgable responses. Reagan, in debates, is only known for his scripted one-liners.

thinking said...

Here's what many conservatives call "socialism":
govt building schools is socialism;
govt building roads or bridges is socialism;
govt funding basic research is socialism;
govt funding fire depts or police depts is socialism;
basically, anything that govt does is socialism.

It seems that the conservative attack line is to brand anyone who disagrees with them as a "socialist"...much like they used to brand their political adversaries in one broad stroke as "communists."

I will add one thing about Reagan: I cannot conceive of him sanctioning torture, like the modern day Republican party. It to to the shame of the Republican party that it has largely become the party of torture, and it is a stain on this country. Lincoln would remind us that it is a sin that we are paying a great price for engaging in.

Brian Hollar said...

Reagan would be disappointed by both Bush AND Obama.

Brian Hollar said...

According to Wikipedia, here is the definition of socialism:

"Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating public or state ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and a society characterized by equal opportunities for all individuals, with a fair or egalitarian method of compensation."

Sounds very much like what Obama and the Democratic Party are trying to do. That is a tragedy for this country, a betrayal of our values, and exceeding my worst fears of an Obama presidency.

thinking said...

Wow...scary stuff..."equal opportunity for all individuals"...and a "fair method of compensation..." That could just as easily be applied to a definition of capitalism or democracy itself. Additionally, many great Americans have written about achieving equal opportunity for all.

That's the problem with these definitions and using the term as a scare tactic...one can get to the point, for instance, where any policy advocating even "equal opportunity" is branded as "socialism."

There is nothing in what Obama has promoted that comes close to the level of central planning and control of the economy seen in true socialist societies.

Applying the same standards, one could accuse Alexander Hamilton of being a socialist, or Teddy Roosevelt, or just about anyone that has advocated govt intervention in the economy.

But accepting that application of the term "socialism" then one must brand any govt action as "socialist" and therefore all market economies really are a blend of capitalism and socialism, by that interpretation.

To the extent that govt has to step in, it is only because capitalism has failed for the time being. The markets have imploded. Capitalism will endure, but just like a sick patient, some medicine must be applied. And just like any medical intervention, it's not the first choice...not getting sick would have been better... but it's our only option. If someone has anything better, let them come forward with the plan.

Obama, like FDR, is trying to save capitalism from itself. As financier Felix Rohatyn has remarked, "only capitalists can destroy capitalism."

As to Reagan, here's what disappoints me about him: he started us on this trajectory of massive deficit spending, with no willingness to make the hard choices.

Reagan promised that he could enact a huge military buildup, cut taxes, and somehow still balance the budget by trimming some govt waste. He failed.

Ironically, George H. W. Bush called that "voodoo economics" and it turned out to be right.

Reagan's first director of OMB, David Stockman, who arguably was the most brilliant member of the cabinet, wrote about this.

In a famous article in the Atlantic Monthly, Mr Stockman admitted that "None of us really understands what's going on with all these numbers..." and that "Do you realize the greed that came to the forefront? The hogs were really feeding. The greed level, the level of opportunism, just got out of control. [The Administration's] basic strategy was to match or exceed the Democrats, and we did."

Stockman also admitted that "I mean, Kemp-Roth [Reagan's 1981 tax cut] was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate.... It's kind of hard to sell 'trickle down.'...Supply-side is 'trickle-down' theory."

Reagan accomplished some great things, but his economic legacy is a mixed bag, and many of our current problems trace back to the trajectory he put us upon.

So I really don't care if Reagan would be disappointed in Obama or not...it's hard to extrapolate the voices from one era to another, and Reagan is not the ultimate guide.

In fact, in economics, if one wants to go by the person with a great track record, Bill Clinton has a far better record than Reagan, a much deeper understanding than Reagan ever did, and has a far more generous opinion of what Pres Obama is trying to do.