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Andrew Sullivan writes: "I know we are supposed - along with Fox News - to have total amnesia about the spending record of George W. Bush, who had nothing like the recession Obama inherited to counter. But there it is. Along with the fact that of the last seven presidents, the top three spenders are all Republicans."

Republicans will be shocked to learn that President Obama has not been as big a spender as Ronald Reagan. (Photo: Life Magazine)
Republicans will be shocked to learn that President Obama has not been as big a spender as Ronald Reagan. (Photo: Life Magazine)



Obama More Conservative Than Reagan?

By Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Beast

20 March 12

 


his is the kind of reality that makes Sean Hannity's head explodes. So far, the GOP candidates have been running against a fictional president with a fictional record. Obama didn't campaign to increase government spending, but inheriting what was in the final quarter of 2008 an annualized contraction of 9 percent of GDP, he opted for a stimulus. That accounts for much of the spending.

I know we are supposed - along with Fox News - to have total amnesia about the spending record of George W. Bush, who had nothing like the recession Obama inherited to counter. But there it is. Along with the fact that of the last seven presidents, the top three spenders are all Republicans.

One worry I have about a president Romney is exactly such a scenario. He has proposed to slash all taxes and increase defense spending by a stupendous amount. He has yet to identify the massive cuts in discretionary and entitlement spending he would need not to explode the debt as his GOP predecessors have done in the modern era.

But if you're going by the records, and want fiscal restraint, you'd be crazy at this point to back a Republican, without examining the fine print in extreme detail. Pity there isn't any for Romney yet. Which tells you something in itself.

 

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+109 # squawcraw 2012-03-20 12:06
Don't forget these simple facts: Reagan TRIPLED the National Debt in his eight years, HWBush added 50% in just 4 years (a pace that would have doubled it in 8 years) and WBush DOUBLED it in 8 years while turning the first balanced budgets in 40 years into the biggest annual deficits in our history (and don't forget that the GOP controlled BOTH Houses of Congress for twelve years from 1995-2007). Clinton? He added just 35% to the ND in 8 years while raising taxes and cutting spending as a % of GDP.
 
 
+86 # lorenbliss 2012-03-20 14:49
Three points:

(1)-One of the avowed purposes of Reaganomics, many times confirmed by the Reaganoid guru David Stockman, was to inflate the federal deficit to the point social services -- not just welfare but Social Security and Medicare -- would become unaffordable.

(2)-The purpose of destroying social services, a goal about which the Reaganoids were a bit less forthright, was creation of the sweatshop/debt- slave economy by which we are oppressed today. The operant equations go like this: maximum social services + maximum employment = maximum assertiveness amongst workers = maximum wages; zero social services + maximum UNemployment = maximum terror amongst the workers = lowest possible wages.

(3)-The only accurate analysis of capitalism -- the absolute evil of infinite greed elevated to maximum virtue -- is provided by Marxism. But -- not the least because the U.S. 99 Percent is the most anti-intellectu al (or intellectually lazy) proletariat on the planet, we will continue our Moron Nation resistance to Marxian ideological discipline and thus remain forever imprisoned in the (ever expanding) slave pens of the Ruling Class.
 
 
+6 # Interested Observer 2012-03-20 18:26
The first two points agree with my understanding of the real objectives of the Norquist era GOP. However, can you be seriously suggesting that Marxism, given its glorious record of success in the 2Oth century is a vehicle for actually doing anything in the real world however entertaining it might be in academic arguments.
 
 
+38 # Secular Humanist 2012-03-20 19:22
I don't think lorenbliss is saying we should adopt Communism, as we know it, or even Marxism (they are not the same thing -no Communist economy has ever implemented actual Marxism). What I think she is saying -or means to say- is that Marx (not Marxism) was an astute analyst of the failings and limitations of Capitalism. Being an astute analyst and critic does not mean one has better solutions.

But I suspect you may be be confusing an economic system with a government. They are independent variables. Not that we would want it to, but it would be possible for the U.S. to implement a Marxist or Communist economic system with no (or almost no) change in its Constitution.

On the other hand, limitations on capitalism are mandatory to avoid the very real threats Marx and other have seen to society, the nation, and the world. The Glass-Steagall Act was the principal bulwark against those threats. Its reinstatement, along with reversal of the Citizens United decision are both mandatory if we are to avoid the collapse Marx foretold.

Isn't it ironic that it is the most ardent practitioners and advocates of Capitalism that will bring about the fulfillment of Marx's prophecies.
 
 
+12 # kyzipster 2012-03-21 10:07
Try considering Germany, one of the world's top exporters, instead of the USSR when you come across that right-wing boogeyman "Marxism". They have a social safety net that rivals (gasp!), France.
 
 
+1 # ericlipps 2012-03-21 13:02
Quoting Interested Observer:
The first two points agree with my understanding of the real objectives of the Norquist era GOP. However, can you be seriously suggesting that Marxism, given its glorious record of success in the 2Oth century is a vehicle for actually doing anything in the real world however entertaining it might be in academic arguments.

The problem with Marxism was that it assumed a progression of history which goes against human nature: from capitalism to totalitarian socialism followed by a natural; "withering away of the state" leading to true communism, in which workers would directly own and control the "means of production and distribution."

However, once totalitarian socialism arrived, it did NOT simply wither away, because its rulers liked being on top and meant to stay there. In the end it collapsed in Rusia via the withering away not of the state but of the leadership; by the early 1980s the USSR was still controlled be veterans of the 1917 Revolution, rather as if the U.S. at that time had still been controlled by World War I veterans.
 
 
+6 # kyzipster 2012-03-21 14:34
In the US today we have an extreme from of capitalism and a fascist environment as defined by Mussolini, corporate control of the state. It's about balance and the US could use a lot more 'socialism'.
 
 
+4 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-03-21 13:25
I actually agree with lorenbliss on everything.
Marxism-Leninism is not Marxism.
Marxian analysis has nothing to do with the gulag and everything to teach us about the evolution of capitalism. How comes people remember the communist manifesto and not Das Kapital?
 
 
+17 # Billy Bob 2012-03-20 19:53
That comment served the purpose of going to these comments sections more than any I've read in a long time. You put in words an exact analysis of the conservative thinking that has arched the past 4 or 5 decades and has led to our present economic reality.

Thank you for spelling it out so specifically.
 
 
+27 # NeoGeo 2012-03-20 15:03
Clinton also deregulated the financial industry, which led directly to the Great Recession. I wish like hell I could just nod and go along with how great the Democrat presidents have been, but that's just not the case if you're any kind of a progressive at all.

If you don't believe it, just look at the Executive Order Obama issued last Friday afternoon.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/03/16/executive-order-national-defense-resources-preparedness

But beware -- you might faint when you see how Draconian it is. Far worse than anything Bush or Reagan ever came up with, let alone ensconced in law as an Executive Order that will basically establish martial law.

Unbelievable, really, how far the Democrats have drifted to the right.

Hang on liberal kiddies, we're in for a very rough ride!
 
 
-8 # Timaloha 2012-03-20 16:24
"But beware -- you might faint when you see how Draconian it is. Far worse than anything Bush or Reagan ever came up with, let alone ensconced in law as an Executive Order that will basically establish martial law."

You are exaggerating. Wildly so.

http://news.yahoo.com/obama-executive-order-nothing-storm-castle-over-220408916.html
 
 
+3 # squawcraw 2012-03-20 22:49
A) Clinton may have signed the bill that repealed GlassSteagall but the repeal of GS was just one item in a much bigger bill and the bill (the GrahamLeachey Bill) was the brainchild of Republican lawmaker Phil Graham, who had spent more than twenty years trying to get GS repealed. Also, most of the "teeth" had been taken out of GS years prior via the implementation of various "reforms" to it. By the time Clinton made it official by signing the repeal bill, GS was a husk of its former self.
B) How is the ND resources preparedness executive order "far worse than anything Bush or Reagan ever came up with"? What is your basis for that claim?
 
 
+43 # lcarrier 2012-03-20 15:13
Republicans are miserable liars. Both G.W. Bush and Reagan talked about fiscal restrait but spent like hell--mainly for the Pentagon. The recent House budge is a shabby scam, and Paul Ryan needs to be retired to get his well-deserved lobbying job for his corporate masters.
 
 
-6 # Stephanie Remington 2012-03-20 20:27
As opposed to Democrats who are terrific liars.
 
 
+8 # Gogojoe 2012-03-21 13:00
Quoting Stephanie Remington:
As opposed to Democrats who are terrific liars.



Actually they are ALL liars! Politicians of every stripe are liars.
We live in a system of legalized bribery. The PACs, the campaign donations, etc have taken the place of the outstretched, greedy palms.
 
 
+4 # Stephanie Remington 2012-03-21 14:26
Exactly.

The people who pretend only Republicans lie are blocking reform of the system as much as the people who hurl accusations based on crazy invented scenarios that distract from the real issues at hand.
 
 
+66 # Tazio 2012-03-20 15:34
Remember that Saint Reagan campaigned on the promise that he would balance the budget. So...Reagan is the biggest liar in American political history. Not to mention that he illegally sold American weapons to Iran in exchange for money that he used to try to overthrow the government of Nicaragua, contrary to the specific orders of Congress not to do so. And then he lied about it.
 
 
+9 # MJnevetS 2012-03-21 10:18
Quoting Tazio:
And then he lied about it.
I believe his actual testimony was "I don't recall" Inasmuch as Americans elected a man with advanced Alzheimer's disease, that statement is quite possibly the truth. Just sayin' ;-)
 
 
+50 # MEBrowning 2012-03-20 15:44
I would like to think that the average Republican voter has the capacity to look at facts such as these and make his/her choice for president based on logic and reason. But that doesn't seem to be the case. It has been my own experience that trying to talk to Republicans is like talking to someone inside a sound-proof box. They don't want to hear facts.
 
 
+5 # kyzipster 2012-03-21 10:10
In 2012 facts are 'liberal bias' and all they have to do is turn on Fox or Limbaugh for validation of this belief. Conservatism in the US is clearly a cult.
 
 
+27 # grouchy 2012-03-20 15:48
The point here is that regardless of what the truth is in this situation, as long as the Republicans can spin it their way, that will become and remain the "truth". On the other hand, as long as the Democrats refuse to recognize this and thus come up with a method of "counter spinning" the Republicans, the will loose the floor.
 
 
+5 # reiverpacific 2012-03-20 17:21
This stuff makes my head explode -for different reasons than "Hubris-Hannity!*
What I'd like to see and which would be more relevant, is how much of each of these columns can be broken down to military, then military-indust rial spending -and that's outside of illegal back-door actions like Iran-Contra, and also the CIA Black budget, which is not even included in any "official" figures but which you can be sure that Reagan resorted to in large measure -and how such a budget can be allowed to exist in a so-called "free-market" economy and an even more mythical "Land of the free (If you can afford it).
-And how much the Israel-Mossad-L IKUD lobby wins for their attack-dogs at home.
Add to the list at will.
*And by the way, what the Hell does "Starting quarter of inauguration to last (partial) quarter Q1/Q1)" mean?
The Devil would appear to be in the details here but the tabulated box starts with a bad, obscure precedence just asking for manipulation!
 
 
+1 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-03-21 13:39
Presidents are inaugurated after the beginning of Q1 each year, therefore this simply states that the economic data are recorded from inauguration quarter to inauguration quarter included, apparently.
 
 
+21 # johnseipp1 2012-03-20 18:55
Reagan promised the American people that if we elected him he'd slash taxes which would increase revenues and get this: ERASE the national debt!!! He Tripled the debt instead. Alan Greenspan testified before congress that tax cut DO NOT pay for themselves as the reps always say. Clinton threw the republicans a bone by signing a REPUBLICAN bill that deregulated the banks. Trickle down economics has never worked, EVER! But the republicans never learn. They're apparently not smart enough. Deregulation caused this financial crisis. It allowed the bankers to run their institutions like casinos. Which political party pushed and pushed for more and more deregulation? That's right, the REPUBLICANS!
 
 
-6 # cordleycoit 2012-03-20 18:57
Obama has slashed Food Stamps, So did Clinton. The poor no longer count in his book. The elderly the ruined have no place to turn, no way of using life skills. There is a lot of put down from the left as well but they appear incapible of coming together to make the changes needed. Guys like Van Jones want to throttle Occupy. Occupy appears to not be able to seperate the addicts and drunks from the the homeless. They are sick people money kills them until they find their own way out ir die.
Half the answer is legalization, Then recognizing one is sick and then taking action.
That is something governments cannot do.
The Dems are as anti culture as Wolf Killer Pailin. Art is dangerous to pols it comes too close to the truth.
 
 
+3 # infohiway 2012-03-20 19:18
QUOTE: "This is the kind of reality that makes Sean Hannity's head explodes." CLOSE QUOTE.

Isn't the 1st sentence of this article grammatically incorrect - or doesn't anyone care (or know) anymore (Hint: explode?)?

Obama and America are suffering from the wages of sin (I.e. - at least two illegal, undeclared wars). The Wars Against Terra (TWAT), with the invisible/phant om enemy that can't be defeated and not much has changed for 60 years; spoiling for more (... just for the oil speculators with Iraq and Libya 'out of the equation' - of couse).

Meanwhile the 'Wizards': 'Gay Goldie Sachs' and Bibi plus birth-certifi-g ate have been revealed - while the war drums keep banging on.

Oh yes and gawd save the smack? http://www.conspiracyplanet.com/channel.cfm?channelid=35&contentid=9660

So, like clockwork, the Rights of: protest, habeas corpus and free speech are banned.

America, America, where for art thou?
 
 
+12 # XXMD48 2012-03-20 19:24
Quoting Interested Observer:
The first two points agree with my understanding of the real objectives of the Norquist era GOP. However, can you be seriously suggesting that Marxism, given its glorious record of success in the 2Oth century is a vehicle for actually doing anything in the real world however entertaining it might be in academic arguments.

Quoting Interested Observer:
The first two points agree with my understanding of the real objectives of the Norquist era GOP. However, can you be seriously suggesting that Marxism, given its glorious record of success in the 2Oth century is a vehicle for actually doing anything in the real world however entertaining it might be in academic arguments.




The McCarthy era lead in the US to successful absolute rejection of even mentioning Marxism and communism as the worst ideology possible on the Earth. It is easy to succeed with rejection of ideology(which is threatening religious and extreme capitalistic ideolgue) if the condemnation is forcefuly presented to large amount poorly informed and less then average educated people. Then such condemnation is transfered to next generation without any objective foundation - and it is accepted almost universally without any further thinking.
 
 
-11 # lnason@umassd.edu 2012-03-20 19:47
Everyone is correct to castigate Reagan and Bush for overspending -- they both did a lot of overspending -- but the particular measurement of spending habits cited here (growth in real per capita spending) is irregular and has almost no meaning.

And the president does not have the power of the purse in this country so looking at spending issues, one must always consider the congress which does, in our constitutional arrangement, have the power of the purse.

It thus makes some sense that under the Republican led congress during Bill Clinton's tenure in the white house, spending did indeed drop and during Ronald Reagan's tenure in the white house, the democratically led congress did increase spending.

For a meaningful measure of spending, one must look to budget deficits, total debt growth, or these measures taken as a percentage of GDP. Under all of these more meaningful measurements, Obama's Administration is making free-spending Bush and free-spending Reagan look like misers.

During GWB's 8 years in office the federal debt grew from $6.2T to $11.9T. During BHO's first three years, the federal debt grew from $11.9T to about $16T. These facts make it clear that neither president has been fiscally prudent.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
 
 
+10 # kyzipster 2012-03-21 10:13
I love how you guys take credit for one clear and undeniable success of Clinton's Presidency and then ignore the unraveling of that success in Bush Jr's first term when Republicans also had control of Congress. Doing more damage to this country than any administration in my lifetime, possible in our history.
 
 
+1 # Stephanie Remington 2012-03-21 14:51
Who do you mean by "you guys"?

Nobody here is the enemy. We're people interested in the political process who have opinions about it.

You use the words "you guys" as if you're talking about bad people.

There's disagreement sometimes, but I would be willing to bet that nobody in this forum – including the people I vehemently disagree with – is using their comments to try to destroy the country.

Politicians invent us-and-them scenarios to get people riled up enough to take sides. But we don’t need to fall for their divide and conquer ploy to make us think that the “bad guys” are the people we disagree with.

There really is an us and a them, but “us” is the 99%.
 
 
+6 # kyzipster 2012-03-21 20:22
Chill out, 'you guys' is a colloquial expression referring to a group of people, in this case 'conservatives' . The person I was responding to has obviously bought into their revisionist history.

It's sweet to think we're all in this together but the GOP base makes up 20 something percent of the electorate and they hate OWS and most citizens of the US.

Destroy the country with a comment? What are you talking about? I was referring to the Republican controlled Congress in Bush's first term and they clearly did some major damage.
 
 
-3 # Stephanie Remington 2012-03-22 11:36
My comment about the 99% referred to the fact that those of us who are not in the elite financial bracket are the people who suffer the consequences of the co-opting and corruption of the system in their favor. We ARE all in this together, regardless of whether or not that basic truth is recognized.

A lot of Republican citizens (and at least one Republican politician) support OWS. If you believe that the GOP base irrationally “hate OWS and most of the citizens of the US” and that lnason is a “conservative” who has “bought into revisionist history,” then his/her comments pose an opportunity to discuss the issues. Why not address the specific points that you believe are inaccurate? Whether or not you end up agreeing on anything, a respectful tone is more likely to result in understanding, good will, and cooperation than hurling accusations.
 
 
+5 # kyzipster 2012-03-22 18:46
I did address one of the points I believe is inaccurate quite directly and I don't see where I did it in an abusive manner. "You guys" is not an insult. Claiming that this blatant distortion of the facts is 'revisionist history' is simply calling it what it is, it's basically a lie. The GOP base does seem to hate every American who doesn't buy into their POV, this is simply another fact, I'm not hurling another accusation.

What sort of evidence do you need? Have you been asleep in recent years?
 
 
-1 # Billy Bob 2012-03-20 19:54
I wonder why martinfre and robteagle haven't bothered to comment here. Midwesttom and leenason would be interesting additions to the conversation as well.
 
 
+14 # BellBuoy 2012-03-20 19:59
So let's turn the tables and publicly shame the ideology that brought us Hell on Earth: Capitalism. We need to argue and proclaim the merits of modern Socialism: almost all the countries on this planet who live within that framework are the happiest, most secure and peaceful societies. We need to denounce the Hyper-Individua listic Winner Take All system of living we've been brainwashed into believing is the ONLY way. What is the "American Way"? The most benefit for the greatest number of people!
 
 
+7 # drdave2000 2012-03-21 01:38
The substance here is quite good, Andrew, but I think this points out out the problem with using the term "conservative" in any way.

Rather than characterizing it in any way, you're better off simply saying "Reagan / Bush I / Bush II Ran Up Record US Deficits".

"Conservative" means almost nothing, given the various uses to which it's put, and hence should be avoided.

In general, as Henry Blodget has been pointing out of late, there is NOTHING "conservative" about the whole right-wing dynamic, especially as embodied by Santorum or Gingrich or Ron Paul - all of whom are desperately trying to claim that dubious mantle :-).

Therefore, let's just drop the term altogether, and simply be analytical / descriptive when it comes to economic policy - leaving normative characterizatio ns aside - and, when it comes to social issues, let's just call them what they are: radical right-wingers who want to destroy - rather than conserve - any conceivable values that can be called "American"
 
 
+7 # pontifex 2012-03-21 05:31
I am not a citizen of the US. So, I am not able to vote in any US election. But if I would, my vote would be for Mr. Obama, how imperfect his performance might have been... Please, no more GOPs in the White House!
 
 
+2 # Feral Dogz 2012-03-21 09:44
Given the conditions brought to us by "free market capitalism", wouldn't outlawing "Conservatism" be a prudent measure? How about some congressional hearings on anti-American activities by the 1%. Some of them would surely turn in their friends in exchange for leniency and help rid the country of this malignant disease.
 
 
-4 # tomo 2012-03-21 09:52
That Reagan was bad for the American economy, and that W. was worse, seems to me so much a matter of record as to require nothing more than a look at the record. But Sullivan and others miss is that Obama, by REWARDING the banksters, has pretty much ended all sanity (wholesomeness) that still resided in American capitalism. He has legitimized crime in a way that is unprecedented (neither Grant nor Harding could take us so low) and with the legitimization of crime that has taken place at the highest
levels, Obama has not only impoverished millions of Americans but he has guaranteed that the newly impoverished will feel entitled to engage in street crime (muggings, hold-ups of small businesses, car-jackings, home invasions, etc., as so many ways to compensate themselves for their losses. Obama has damaged the American way of life as no previous President in our history.
 
 
+4 # Feral Dogz 2012-03-21 11:29
Gee tomo, thanks for the racist fear mongering. I guess what we need to do is buy more guns and ammo to protect ourselves, right?

To blame Obama for the policies that have brought about the Mortgage crisis is ridiculous. The damage is the result of people thinking that real estate was the bottomless pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Alan Greenspan and "free market" delusions are more reasonable culprits.

Without major changes in how we think about capitalism, there is little hope for change other than economic collapse and the subsequent chaos. Progressive social policies will not be coming from the right, so IMHO the only real remedies must come from the left and we the voters need to accept that. But we've been taught to fear all the "isms" that embody social consciousness and promote empathy. Instead we chose sides and fight over the scraps left by the 1%. This is what the republicans want.
 
 
+1 # tomo 2012-03-22 20:20
Feral: I don't blame Obama for the policies that have brought about the Mortgage crisis. I blame Clinton. I blame W. What I DO blame Obama for is rewarding the banksters. In so doing, he has undermined American morality as no previous President. If you doubt me, just watch as the crime statistics mount. If you think 2012 is bad, fasten your seat belt for 2013. It's a bumpy ride ahead. And if you think when I talk about street crime, I'm just talking about minorities, let me suggest you look for the racist in your mirror as you shave. No, my feral friend, crime is going to be an equal opportunity employer. Surely on Wall Street, we whites have led the way. Do you think the whites on Main Street are going to be that far behind?
 
 
+4 # David Starr 2012-03-21 12:47
I would agree that Repubs like Nixon, Reagan and Bush Jr. (had)have put the U.S. into tremendous debt as poster squawcraw detailed. And I'll add for the worst of reasons: Goverment money used for an already enriched private corporate bueacracy/wealt hy elite, already overbloated military and CIA budgets which have gone well beyond the idea of self-defense into prioritzing imperial wars/invasions, and fundamentalist faith-based intiatives which violate the separation of church & state and of which said fundamentalism could potentially harken us back to a Medieval-like mentality. I would favor government spending on what I consider fundamental rights such as healthcare and education. I thus would agree with poster Lorenbliss in regards to Marxism as being a viable alternative; one reason being that there would be no fucking around with implementing healthcare and education as being free and/or affordable. The reason for this is because Marxism has, like, socialism, a social-ethical ends to it; although Lorenbliss may be too cynical regarding whether U.S. citizens can become more politically advanced in their thinking (although I feel a little of that cynicism myself). Re. Communism,(I'm repeating myself from past posts) it hasn't really existed: It was/is too early for that kind of change in epochs; there was/is the hostility of the Capitalist world order (but it's not invincible); and the deformity of Stalinism, which was more Tsarist/feudal- like than anything else.
 
 
+2 # lilpat126 2012-03-21 19:17
As Geriatric nurse I spotted Regan's Alzheimer tendency early one. But it was also obvious those behind the scene were in power. Nancy had a tight control over him. She also is instrumental in having so many things named after him. She has been a one woman cheering squad.
 
 
+2 # ganymede 2012-03-21 20:54
I didn't bother reading this article because the headline was so incredibly stupid. I'm surprised RSN would produce a headline that so distorts the political process. And I find Andrew Sullivan, whatever his good intentions to shed his rightwing past, a very glib, shallow individual. Reagan was a moron who managed to bamboozle the public and, more than anyone else, started our downward slide to oblivion, He was obviously, during much of his presidency, not playing with a full deck and manipulated by the usual one tenth of 1% ers as well as Nancy, who at least trusted astrology more than the dark figures surrounding her husband.reagan' s reputatkion will continue to sink.

Obama, as we've discovered is a conservative Democrat who at least has a functioning brain and a civil manner, and is one of a number of Democrats who can help lead us out of this morass. Yes, the Democrats are the lesser of two evils, and has been said many times,the lesser of two evils means less evil, and in this case, much less evil.
 

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