[Vision2020] Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama: An Assessment of their Legacies

Nicholas Gier ngier006 at gmail.com
Thu Feb 2 10:44:56 PST 2017

Good Morning Visionaries:

For those who do not take the Daily News, you will find my biweekly column
below.  A longer version appeared in the Sandpoint Reader last week, and
the 2,000-word version (attached) will appear in Pocatello's Idaho State
Journal on Sunday.

Every year on Reagan's birthday I take the occasion to demythologize this
man's presidency. Read “Why Reagan Cannot Save the Republicans” and
“Defense, Deceptions, and Deficits” at www.NickGier.com/ReaganPage.htm
<http://www.nickgier.com/ReaganPage.htm>; and “Ten Myths
about Ronald Reagan’s Presidency” at www.NickGier.com/ReaganMyths.pdf

My next column has the provisional title "Refugees are People, Too." Please
attend the rally in East City Park on Saturday.


*Obama and Reagan: Assessing Their Legacies*

By Nick Gier, The Palouse Pundit

            Ronald Reagan would have been 106 on February 6, so I would
like to compare his achievements with Obama’s.
            Critics love to paint Obama and the Democrats as big spenders,
but Reagan administration did not return to Jimmy Carter’s lower level of
spending until 1984.
            Data from the St. Louis Federal Reserve shows that Reagan
reduced federal spending, as a percentage of GDP, by only 2 percent at the
end of his two terms.  In his first six years Obama reduced federal
spending by 2.7 percent.
            For the most part Obama’s policies have saved tax payer’s
money. Let’s look at the auto bailout first: $79.7 billion in federal
dollars were invested, and $70.4 billion was returned to the Treasury. Mitt
Romney would not have saved the auto industry, so just think how the
economy would be today without GM and Chrysler.

Let’s now assess the success of TARP, Obama’s attempt to save the banks and
insurance companies. The government invested $245 billion, and already by
2011, $244 billion had been returned to the Treasury. When the books were
closed in 2014, tax payers had made a tidy $15.3 billion profit.
            Let’s now turn to the Obama stimulus, which cost $825 billion,
including $275 billion in personal and business tax cuts. The Gross
Domestic Product rose by 3.2 percent, and the Congressional Budget Office
found that stimulus “created higher output and employment than would have
occurred without it.”

            When one talks about the national debt, it is not fair to count
that inherited from one’s predecessors.  Currently the most recent
components of that debt, starting with the largest share first, are the
Bush tax cuts, the loss of revenue due to the Great Recession, the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan, and then Obama’s stimulus.
            Obama borrowed money at very low interest rates to save the
economy, but Reagan and the Bushes sold federal bonds to wage war, one cold
and two hot.

Reagan was forced to increase taxes 7 times in his 8 years to fend off
increasing deficits because of his tax cuts and defense spending, but he
still tripled the national debt.
            The new Congress just passed a budget bill that will add $1.7
trillion to the deficit over ten years. With tax cuts even more severe than
George W.’s, and new spending that Trump wants for infrastructure and
defense, we will go much deeper in debt.
            The claim that Reagan won the Cold War is an exaggeration.
Every president from Truman to Reagan should get credit for the firm
bipartisan stand against the Soviet Union. Reagan stood at the end of the
slow economic collapse of a failed ideology and had the good luck of
dealing with a pragmatic Soviet leader.

Obama’s campaign against ISIS has been so successful that these terrorists
can claim only their small capital Raqqa and the western half of Mosul.
Terrorist attacks will of course continue, and they well increase if Trump
follows through with his promise of indiscriminate bombing.

Both Reagan and Obama were superb speakers, but Reagan succeeded far better
than Obama in uniting the American people and persuading them, including
many Democrats, that his policies were the right ones.
            I’m forced to agree that Reagan was a transformational
president, even though I believe his policies have been bad for the nation.
Obama failed to reverse the Reagan legacy, because he could not convince
the public that government can do good and that taxes are the price one
pays for civilization.
            Unfortunately, we now are faced with a tax cutting, deficit
creating Congress and a renegade president. Unlike Reagan, Trump will most
likely read Bush, Sr.’s lips: “No new taxes.” The predicted economic growth
of 4 percent will not happen, so we will be faced with a fiscal disaster of
epic proportions.
          Nick Gier taught philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they
shall never sit in.

-Greek proverb

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.
Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance
from another. This immaturity is self- imposed when its cause lies not in
lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without
guidance from another. Sapere Aude! ‘Have courage to use your own
understand-ing!—that is the motto of enlightenment.

--Immanuel Kant
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