There was an initially-overlooked moment in President Obama’s recent interview with 60 Minutes. Excerpts from the interview were played on television, and CBS posted the interview in its entirety on its web site. Left on the cutting-room floor, it turned out, was a revealing moment when Obama judged himself against the greats of past eras:
The “60 Minutes Overtime” video shows Obama telling correspondent Steve Kroft:
“The issue here is not going be a list of accomplishments. As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history. But, you know, but when it comes to the economy, we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
So Obama thinks his record so far–nearly three years, not just two–stacks up favorably against any president with the “possible exceptions” of Lyndon Johnson, FDR, and Abraham Lincoln. The man is simply delusional. This is a game one could play for a long time, but let’s just compare President Obama’s record in his first three years (almost) in office with that of Ronald Reagan over the same time. Reagan inherited a worse crisis than Obama: interest rates and inflation at unprecedented levels; our national defenses in a state of near collapse, with the Soviet Union advancing aggressively around the world; recession, high unemployment and a stratospheric cost of living. His solutions to these problems, of course, were quite different from Obama’s approach. Let’s compare how they did.
President Reagan took office in January 1981 with unemployment at 7.5%. As of December 1983–nearly three years into his term–unemployment was at 8.3%. But by that time, unemployment was dropping fast as a result of the rapidly growing economy. By the summer of 1984, it was down to 5.4%.
President Obama took office in January 2009 with unemployment at almost exactly the same level, 7.6%. As of December 2011, it is 8.6%–a worse performance than Reagan’s, although not greatly so. The difference is that in 1983, Reagan had in place pro-growth policies that were quickly putting people back to work. No one thinks that, with Obama’s anti-growth bias dominating the federal government, unemployment will drop to anywhere near 5.4% in the next six or seven months.
President Reagan inherited a slow- or no-growth economy from Jimmy Carter. It didn’t take long for Reagan’s pro-growth policies to turn things around. Between 1980 and 1983, America’s GDP increased by 27%. That is the reason, of course, for the plummeting unemployment rate.
President Obama, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to get economic growth moving at all. To be fair, he hasn’t tried to do so, so his failure may be intentional. Over the same period of time in which GDP increased 27% under President Reagan, it has risen by only 2% under President Obama–less than one-thirteenth the rate of growth.
It is hard to imagine if you didn’t live through it, but at the beginning of 1981, most people thought that inflation posed a bigger threat to America’s future than its 8.3% unemployment rate. President Reagan inherited that problem because of the lax monetary policies of the Carter administration. The inflation rate was a stunning 13.58 in Carter’s last year. Reagan fixed it faster than anyone had thought possible, through monetarist policies. By December 1983–the equivalent of where we are now in the Obama administration–the inflation rate had dropped all the way down to 3.8%, stunning accomplishment that was foreseen by almost no one, other than President Reagan and Milton Friedman.
Times are different now. President Obama assumed office at a time of zero inflation and fears of deflation. One can, however, compare changes in the cost of living in the two eras; specifically, the cost of gasoline. President Reagan came to the presidency at a time when there was a severe shortage of oil. Cars would line up at gas stations, sometimes for hours, and it was widely predicted that the world was running out of oil and we would have to transition to “green” energy. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. President Reagan removed the foolish price controls on oil that had been imposed by Jimmy Carter, and the price of energy almost immediately began to plummet. Sure enough: when President Reagan took office, the price of a gallon of gasoline at the pump was $1.25 (much more in today’s dollars). By April 1986, the price of gas had dropped 34%, to $.82. The Democrats of the time were so ignorant of economics that they predicted that lifting price controls would cause the price of gasoline to skyrocket!
When Barack Obama became president in January 2009, there was no energy crisis in progress. The price of gasoline was a manageable $1.83 at the pump. Usually, when gas prices rise it is because the economy is booming and demand for energy therefore increases. During the Obama administration, the economy has cratered and gas prices have risen anyway–a double whammy that many would have believed impossible until they saw how Obama’s “green” cronyism suppressed energy development. Thus, while Reagan’s policies led to a 34% decline in the price of gasoline at the pump, by December 2011 the average price was up to $3.29, an 80% increase in the price of gas, even though the economy was in the tank, and recoverable gasoline in the ground was more plentiful than at any time in world history! One wonders whether any other administration could have produced such an inept result.
This is, as I said, a game that one could play for a long time–compare Barack Obama’s first three years in office with those of other presidents. Obama has repeatedly shown himself to be ignorant of history, so his claim to be the fourth best president, thus far into his term–giving the benefit of the doubt to Abe Lincoln, FDR and Lyndon Johnson–can best be forgiven. The man has no idea what he is talking about. Those who have time to spare could do some research and do a similar comparison of Obama’s “achievements” with those of Ulysses Grant, William McKinley, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower and George W. Bush, to name just a few.