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SOTU Address

So, Obama has been reading about Reagan…

This week’s State of the Union Address may prove interesting.  This is the point where Obama must show his hand – whether he’s going to stick to his progressive agenda, “triangulate”, make an attempt at bipartisanship, or throw some other surprise at us.  Obama has failed as a leader, but most would have argued that two years into Reagan’s administration, he had too.  Much has been made in recent days about the plight of these two Presidents, but in all of their parallels, there are some major differences.

One of those differences is that Reagan banked on an economic rebound and strongly contrasted his economic philosophies with that of his predecessor.  Reaganomics, as it was often mockingly called, was something new and fresh in the minds of Americans.  While few were on the bandwagon in 1983, 1984 started the Reagan revolution.  Inflation and unemployment fell, Reagan became an unstoppable political force, and all the blame Reagan had put on Carter became an accepted truth. 

Obama’s problem is that there is no simple format to contrast Bush’s economic philosophy to that of his own.  Both passed stimulus packages, both bailed out businesses, both fought wars, and both grew government.  The major difference between 1984 and 2011 is that Reagan successfully sold the “Carter’s fault” argument to most of the people whereas half of Americans currently blame Obama for our economic woes.  That is quite a feat for the President since blaming Bush has been such a quick and easy reaction for the past 8+ years. 

Obama also gambled too early on the economy.  He doubled down on his early stimulus and bailouts; making failed promises that left a sour taste in the mouths of struggling Americans.  The President was also largely unsuccessful in convincing Americans that his Health Care bill is good for the economy.  The impression left is that his focus waned from jobs to his progressive agenda, a sentiment difficult to reroute in the coming months. 

While Obama may be studying Reagan, there is little chance of him adopting anything Reagan-like.  Reagan effectively created an enemy to economic recovery – government; that which he was the head of and therefore had some ability to change.  Obama has done little to define an enemy to our current problems, and of those which he has created, he has little dominion over.  Further, if Government was the enemy to the economy, a free American people were the natural heroes.  Contrast that to Obama’s government salvation and there is little to be excited about.

The mood change between the 1983 and 1984 addresses are drastic.  The ’83 speech was, in large part, a scathing rebut to previous government policies and a challenge to adopt a new tact.  In it Reagan argued that federal spending was the bane to economic recovery and pushed his agenda to rein it in.  1984, in contrast, was a celebration of the successes formatted in 1983. 

Even if Obama enjoys an economic recovery this year, he’s not going to capitalize it the same way Reagan did.  Unless this President starts believing in Americans rather than himself, there will be little benefit on his behalf because there will be little benefit on ours.


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