Let's face it. The U.S. economy is still flat on its back.
The Obama stimulus produced unemployment averaging 9.5 percent, killed 3.1 million jobs and has—as perhaps it only saving grace—the idea that maybe it kept things from getting worse. At least that's the way the White House puts it. The economic data indicates otherwise.
Writing in Friday's Wall Street Journal, economist and editorial board member Stephen Moore makes the valuable point that, if you want to find a way out of the current economic mess, Ronald Reagan provides a pretty good model for the way to do it. [See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]
Reagan and Obama, Moore suggests, had a lot in common when they came into office: both inherited an economy that looked like it had already hit bottom and yet was still heading downward. "And both," Moore writes, "applied daring, expensive remedies. Mr. Reagan passed the biggest tax cut ever, combined with an agenda of deregulation, monetary restraint and spending controls. Mr. Obama, of course, has given us a $1 trillion spending stimulus."
The difference in outcomes could not be more pronounced. By the time Reagan was where the current president is now in his first term the economy not only rebounded it had taken off like a rocket. Why hasn't the Obama economy done the same? Well, to hear the White House tell it it's because of a whole bunch of factors beyond the president's control like the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the Arab spring and the Gulf oil spill.
It's probably more accurate to place the blame a little closer to home—like in the Oval Office. Obama's program, even where he has not succeeded, is the mirror opposite of what Reagan did: raise taxes, hope inflation will make the debt cheaper to pay down and add, add, add to the regulatory burden, which keeps businesses from hiring new workers and expanding. [See an opinion slide show of 10 wasteful stimulus projects.]
As The Heritage Foundation put it back in July, "In the first six months of the 2011 fiscal year, 15 major regulations were issued, with annual costs exceeding $5.8 billion and one-time implementation costs approaching $6.5 billion" while "no major rulemaking actions were taken to reduce regulatory burdens during this period."
"Overall, the Obama Administration imposed 75 new major regulations from January 2009 to mid-FY 2011, with annual costs of $38 billion," says the conservative think tank, "all of which further weakens an anemic economy and job creation."
America needs a plan for growth. There are some in Congress, like Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan and the House Republican Study Committee, Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan and some senators who are trying to pull one together. It's a valuable exercise in demonstrating the contrast in visions between what the pro-growth wing of the GOP would do if given the chance and what Obama and his allies in Congress are doing or trying to do. The economy needs a pro-growth shot in the arm right now: someone needs to define what that might look like.