Friday, June 08, 2012

Reagan, you COMMIE!

If a Republican woman were raped by the Hulk, Fox News could convince her that she's still a virgin.

Paul Krugman is responsible for today's post-that-everyone's-talking-about: Reagan was a Keynesian. He makes exactly the point that I made earlier -- that Reagan the politician got the U.S. out of a slump by using Keynesian methods that Reagan the speech-maker would have deplored. I used the term "military Keynesianism" (a phrase which actually saw some circulation in the 1980s), while Krugman prefers "weaponized Keynesianism."

Krugman also points out that the military build-up doesn't tell the full story:
For the truth is that on at least one dimension, government spending, there was a large difference between the two presidencies, with total government spending adjusted for inflation and population growth rising much faster under one than under the other. I find it especially instructive to look at spending levels three years into each man’s administration — that is, in the first quarter of 1984 in Reagan’s case, and in the first quarter of 2012 in Mr. Obama’s — compared with four years earlier, which in each case more or less corresponds to the start of an economic crisis. Under one president, real per capita government spending at that point was 14.4 percent higher than four years previously; under the other, less than half as much, just 6.4 percent.

O.K., by now many readers have probably figured out the trick here: Reagan, not Obama, was the big spender. While there was a brief burst of government spending early in the Obama administration — mainly for emergency aid programs like unemployment insurance and food stamps — that burst is long past. Indeed, at this point, government spending is falling fast, with real per capita spending falling over the past year at a rate not seen since the demobilization that followed the Korean War.

Why was government spending much stronger under Reagan than in the current slump? “Weaponized Keynesianism” — Reagan’s big military buildup — played some role. But the big difference was real per capita spending at the state and local level, which continued to rise under Reagan but has fallen significantly this time around.
Sorry for the long quote, but this stuff is important.

What amazes me is how much has been forgotten. The points Krugman makes are not arcane; they were widely known and discussed during the Reagan years. At the time, everyone understood that Reagan ran up a deficit that outdistanced the debt of all previous administrations combined. This fact provided the basis for Dick Cheney's later claim that "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter."

In the 1980s, everyone also understood that Reagan raised taxes to combat the recession. During most of his time in office, the top tax rate was above 50 percent.

Such things were known then. They are not known now.

If I had a working camcorder, I'd like to go to the Inner Harbor to interview a hundred passers-by. I'd like to ask: 1. Did Reagan increase or lower the national debt? and 2. Were tax rates under Reagan lower or higher than under Clinton and Obama? I'm betting that the vast majority of respondents younger than 40 (in a "blue" city) would say that Reagan presided over a miniscule deficit and a low-tax paradise.

Many of the comments appended to Krugman's column demonstrate that this historical revisionism has taken hold. Example:
Obama's agenda and Reagans presidency cannot be compared in the fashion you are proposing. Reagans intent was clearly that of a true patriot who was trying to reduce government spending and strengthen our military. Obama the socialist-marxist intent is far more sinister. He is destroying the economy and weakening our military and the powerful presence that America presents to the world has become a byword. The two men are at opposite ends of the political sprectrum with Obama playing the role of the un-American. Krugman, your sorry socialist-marxist agenda is hanging out all over but that has never stopped you or your clever cohorts in the lamestream media from bellowing out that agenda at every opportune moment.
These people will never believe you if you tell them that Obama's "stimulus" package was largely a matter of tax cuts. (Tax cuts don't work. Tax cuts don't work. Tax cuts don't work.) Vast numbers of your fellow citizens think that they are paying more in taxes than under Dubya, despite the evidence of their own financial histories.

Americans can be programmed to believe anything. Propaganda trumps both history and experience. If a Republican woman were raped by the Hulk, Fox News could convince her that she's still a virgin.

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