Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th US president, is always remembered for his economic move while Barack Obama, the 44th US president is held in high honor as the first black American president.
The first comparison between these two leaders is related to becoming a “transformational” president. Historians and political analysts believe that Reagan was good at breaking new ground and he managed to usher America into a novel way of governance while changing the economic trajectory.
Obama shared these same sentiments when he commented about Reagan by saying “I don’t want to present myself as some sort of singular figure.
I think part of what’s different is the times. I do think that, for example, the 1980 election was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.
I think they felt like, you know, with all the excesses of the 60s and the 70s, and the government had grown and grown, but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating.
I think people just tapped into — he tapped into what people were already feeling, which was, we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.
I think Kennedy, 20 years earlier, moved the country in a fundamentally different direction. So I think a lot of it just has to do with the times” [Source].
When he first stepped into office, Obama was projected to have introduced a new era linked to the crumbling down of racial blockages that prevented minority races from succeeding in America. The phrase “the first black president” was contextual in that all races which were looked down upon were now going to flourish and since a ‘black’ person was at top of the helm, hate crimes and racial tensions might disappear. In this perspective, Obama was likened to Reagan for changing America’s trajectory.
Obama’s achievements in the office include a new nuclear deal with Iran, good relations with Cuba, an all-time 2-year high rating after the approval of Obamacare by the US Supreme Court [Source]. But critics such as Tom Nichols, a political blogger and author of a column called ‘Fantasyland: Obama Is No Ronald Reagan’, argued that Obama is “simply plowing the ground Reagan cleared 30 years ago” [Source].
In terms of Reagan’s economic strategies, analysts say “his trickle-down economics’ –cut taxes on the rich to stimulate the economy — still shapes how we pay taxes today”. David O’Connell, a political science professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania said “When Reagan took office, the top income tax rate was 70%. By 1986, it had been reduced to 20%. We’re never going back to that earlier level of taxation”.
“Obama won the health care battle, Reagan is still winning the war over big government,” as noted by Nichols. Some parties do believe that Obamacare makes Obama a transformational president because it is “the biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising in the United States three decades ago — roughly when Reagan took office”.
When it comes to social economics, Reagan despised socialism as he believed that such a strategy will make everyone suffer, and under the same subject, Obama was willing to serve 75% of the population while taking from those who seemed privileged enough.
Reagan propagated for a small government as the parody of Reagan vs Obama Social Economics 101 clearly states that “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything you have” [Source].
He also argued that socialism does nothing to help the poor and it downgrades everyone including those at the top. Obama was a champion for bringing an equal footing to everyone and ended up serving the majority, which was then projected to be a harmful method that might have led to the downfall of both the poor and the rich in the US.
Different perceptions of these leaders sprouted from the fact that Reagan saw the government as the problem while Obama pinned all hopes of success on the government.
Reagan vs Obama socialism
Reagan and Obama had totally different views when it came to social policies. Reagan was a capitalist and he believed that the market forces were going to do all the work, whereas Obama had socialist-leaning tendencies with a belief in redistribution of wealth [Source].
A leftist might find this comparison offensive because of Obama’s willingness to implement national standards for public health care and education in the United States. But in terms of social economics, Obama was criticized for imposing tighter regulations on businesses by implementing laws such as Dodd-Frank Act. On the other hand, Reagan not only reduced regulations but also lessened taxes so that citizens could have more money in their pockets to invest and spend.
In terms of spending policies, Reagan never failed to secure the budget when he was in office, but unlike Obama, Reagan had to face a deficit eight times.
Reagan vs Obama on Iran
Obama has reached an international agreement with Iran, which the Republican party adamantly opposed. Republicans believed that this agreement would never work and it will ultimately harm Israel because it is “the world’s worst nation at defending itself”. Obama thought that this deal would be a step forward as Iran could finally reduce its stocks of enriched uranium and plutonium.
Reagan was also against the agreement on his old age, more than once it seemed like Reagan was just talking to hear himself speak [Source]. “The president’s foreign policy is in a word, naive,” Reagan was quoted as saying at a rally in North Carolina. “It’s a one-word description that could fit many things: his economic policy, his social policy, his diplomatic policy. It can be summed up by just one word — naive.”
“We have to have trade relations with China so we can bring our values to them so that they too can enjoy the benefits of freedom and justice” Obama once said.
On the other hand, Reagan seemed more concerned with his re-election chances as he was quoted saying “I am frank to confess that I would far rather have negotiations with the Soviet Union resume after November’s elections for the purpose of arms control.”
Bottom line, both Obama and Reagan have thought out their strategies carefully when it came to social economics, whether they were right or wrong, is for history to decide.