Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Why Reagan?

First of all, I'd like to admit that I have a man crush on Paul Krugman. It's great to read a liberal economist debunk conservative economic theories every week in the New York Times. Cheers to you, Krugman.

Yesterday, Krugman took up the Ronald Reagan myth. You know it. Ronald Reagan has been transformed from a bumbling, race-baiting, Alzheimer's patient into the standard-bearer of the conservative ethos. It's a very odd and striking transformation from a social and cultural standpoint because at the time, and you just have to watch comedians from the 1980s to appreciate this, he and his policies weren't taken all that seriously. In a sense, the Reagan ethos is entirely manufactured. He's become an icon for the extreme free market, anti-government, no taxes on the rich crew, and Krugman rightly wonders why Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has accepted the premise that Reagan was a great man. These same folks have demonized FDR, the president who defeated the Nazis and led us out of the Depression. Go figure.

Obama wanted to latch onto a notion of Reagan as a dynamic leader, one who changed the tone of an era. He dropped the ball on that one. Reagan was a charismatic man, true. But he was deeply entrenched in a philosophy - hatred of government to the point of no governance, the economics of privilege - that has proven (twice as Krugman points out) counterproductive. Charisma and personality can lift a nation up, just as JFK's did, but it can also lead us to ruin. Obama needed to point that out. He should've pointed out that entrenchment and hoggishness are our true enemies, and that no amount of likeability can overcome those personality flaws.
Instead, we're left with a nation clamoring for a person, not an idea. Our paychecks are about to get smaller, maybe even dry up altogether. A lot of people are going to be desparate. We need some ideas, Mr. Obama, not more Reagans.

1 comment:

Dews said...

Amen man, spoken perfectly.

Obama has essentially called Reagan one of his heros already throughout this campaign, so I think the comparison is perfect.

Tired of Obama talking a lot, but not actually saying a god damn thing about any kind of policy whatsoever.