Paul Krugman steps up to provide Barack Obama with a history lesson about the Reagan years:
I understand why conservatives want to rewrite history and pretend that these good things happened while a Republican was in office — or claim, implausibly, that the 1981 Reagan tax cut somehow deserves credit for positive economic developments that didn’t happen until 14 or more years had passed. (Does Richard Nixon get credit for “Morning in America”?)
But why would a self-proclaimed progressive say anything that lends credibility to this rewriting of history — particularly right now, when Reaganomics has just failed all over again?
Like Ronald Reagan, President Bush began his term in office with big tax cuts for the rich and promises that the benefits would trickle down to the middle class. Like Reagan, he also began his term with an economic slump, then claimed that the recovery from that slump proved the success of his policies.
And like Reaganomics — but more quickly — Bushonomics has ended in grief. The public mood today is as grim as it was in 1992. Wages are lagging behind inflation. Employment growth in the Bush years has been pathetic compared with job creation in the Clinton era. Even if we don’t have a formal recession — and the odds now are that we will — the optimism of the 1990s has evaporated.
This is, in short, a time when progressives ought to be driving home the idea that the right’s ideas don’t work, and never have.
Krugman nails the problem with Obama’s comments. As he says “historical narratives do matter’. Winning this election is important, but there’s a much bigger issue at stake here. Progressives need to change the narrative that people use to view the conservative movement for the last 20 years. Its important that we point out that the failures of the Bush administration are not isolated to President Bush but indicitive of the conservative movement as a whole. Conservatives, who began distancing themselves from Bush years ago, realized this when they first started saying “Bush failed because he wasn’t a true conservative”.
Obama’s comments feed into the “Bush was an exception” mantra republicans are putting out. This allows conservatives to pull the “I’m just like Reagan card” which people will now associate with “the party of ideas” and “dynamism” and “entrepreneurship”