Reaganomics is dead

Sworn into office facing similarly high levels of unemployment, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama pursued starkly different policies. A comparison of their results should put the final stake in voodoo economics

Robert Shrum

Reaganomics died last week. Confounding the barely disguised hopes of the paleo-conservatives who dominate the GOP, the unemployment rate didn't rise from October's 10.2 percent but instead fell to 10 percent. Even better—or worse for the nattering nabobs of negativism on the Right—the historically proven model of the Institute for Supply Management indicated that the October rate was the cyclical high for this recession.

The news that the economy is getting better had an immediate impact on the press—gloomy leads had to be instantly rewritten—and on the politicians. It’s not just that Republicans could no longer proclaim that Obama's policies had driven unemployment to "a 26-year high" (conveniently forgetting that the downturn was a Bush legacy and that the 26-year benchmark was set under Ronald Reagan). The new numbers represented a fundamental rebuke to their cherished Reagan mythology.

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Robert Shrum has been a senior adviser to the Gore 2000 presidential campaign, the campaign of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and the British Labour Party. In addition to being the chief strategist for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign, Shrum has advised thirty winning U.S. Senate campaigns; eight winning campaigns for governor; mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major cities; and the Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Shrum's writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New Republic, Slate, and other publications. The author of No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner (Simon and Schuster), he is currently a Senior Fellow at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.