For the past twenty-seven years at least (perhaps longer), Democrats and their allies in the media have been trying to write the obituary for Ronald Reagan’s ideas.Â The latest to do so is former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich who claimed that the very unveiling of President Obama’s budget sounds the death knell for Reaganomics:
It is the boldest budget we have seen since the Reagan administration, and drives a nail in the coffin of Reaganomics. We can basically say goodbye to the philosophy espoused by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
I’m not quite sure how the mere introduction of a spendthrift budget kills off Reagan ideas.Â It does clearly show that his campaign rhetoric notwithstanding, the current president intends to govern in an entirely different manner than did the Gipper and that he has learned nothing from the Fortieth President’s economic record.
This budget would only mark the end of Reaganism if two things happen.Â First, this budget needs to pass Congress and be followed by economic growth similar to that which followed the enactment of the Gipper’s tax cuts and regulatory reforms of the 1980s.Â Second, a candidate espousing spending increases of such magnitude (i.e., as in Obama’s budget) needs to win election campaigning on increasing the size of the federal government.
Recall, Obama’s campaign promise of a “net spending cut.”Â With such a proposal, the Illinois Democrat didn’t repudiate Reagan’s economic ideas, he seemed instead to embrace them.
Indeed, the last Democrat to win the White House didn’t do so by running against Reagan.Â In 1992, Bill Clinton was careful to run against George H. W. Bush who, in rasising taxes and favoring greater spending increases than the Gipper, had all but repudiated the domestic policies of the man he had served so loyally for eight years.
And during his near-successful campaign for the White House in 2004, John Kerry made quite a show of paying homage to the Gipper when he died that June.
The Massachusetts Democrat had learned an important lesson:Â every Democrat who ran against Ronald Reagan lost.
But, that hasn’t stopped the media from proclaiming Reaganomics dead.Â They did so when Republicans suffered congressional losses in 1982.Â They did so again when Republicans lost the Senate in 1986.Â They did so when the first President Bush raised taxes in 1990.Â They did so in 1992 when the first Clinton beat that Bush.Â . . . and on and on.
They never bothered to mention in the way he governed from 1995 almost to the end of his term, Clinton all but affirmed the basic tenets of Reagan’s economic philosophy.
No, Robert Reich, the president’s latest budget does not drive a nail in the coffin of Reaganomics.Â It doesn’t even cut down the tree used to make the board for that casket.
Sure, its authors seek to repudiate the ideas of the Gipper.Â But, they won’t kill them off.Â To do so, they’ll pretty much have to rewrite the economic history of the concluding decades of the twentieth century.Â And pray and pray and pray that the laws of economics have somehow changed in the current era so that a government spending binge leads to private sector growth and innovation.
But, I don’t think that’s going to happen and neither do a lot of economists, even a few who serve at the pleasure of congressional Democrats.
They may have buried Ronald Reagan, but his economic ideas will live on without him.Â As does his faith in the American people and his confidence in the resilience of our institutions.