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With Ronald Reagan's 100th Birthday Tomorrow Many Point To President Obama's Failures


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Former President Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday is tomorrow. And, there are countless articles out there about the comparisons between them and how President Obama can learn a thing or two from "The Gipper."

No matter how you slice it or dice it, Obama's presidency has not been a success during his first two years. Healthcare reform should have been shelved in favor of job creation. And, more emphasis should have been placed on getting money into the pockets of the working class rather than big banks. With that said, it's not a failure either. Without his actions, we may be talking about 25% unemployment.

With Ronald Reagan's centennial upon us, many conservatives (such as Sarah Palin) are using this date as a way to bash President Obama. Instead, they should be celebrating Reagan's legacy. Rush Limbaugh even chimed in and went on a rant about the myth of these comparisons between Obama and Reagan and pointed out how much Obama hates Reagan. 

One thing some people conveniently ignore with regards to Reagan's presidency is the high rate of unemployment under his watch. While, unemployment has remained above 9% during Obama's tenure, unemployment was above 10% during the early 1980's. The labor market was arguably worse than the current one, during the Early 1980's Recession. The economy was in a bad situation before Reagan's inauguration. When he stepped into the Oval Office in 1981, unemployment was 7.5% and rose to above 10% in 1982. His approval rating tanked - falling to 35% in1983, but the economic turn-around began and the rest is history. What a difference five years made. Once he got reelected in 1984, he cemented his legacy during the second term and is regarded by many as one of the greatest presidents.

Obama is facing a similar situation. The economy went into the tank before he stepped into office. Obama's approval rating went from the high 60's and has plummeted to 47.9% in two years. During the mid-term elections, the American people sent a message to the House and Senate that they wanted the Democrats out and the Republicans in. His economic policies did stave off a further economic collapse, which could have resulted in the Second Great Depression, but the climate hasn't improved. In his defense, he cannot force employers to increase their payrolls. Many companies are milking this "bad economy" and deriving more productivity than ever out of their current workers, while keeping wages stagnant or in some cases reducing hours. Employee productivity in the U.S. remains at unprecedented levels. Added to that, many experts predicted in 2008 that unemployment would remain high and our economy would have a sluggish rebound. Obama still has a chance to improve the labor market and our economy, but he cannot do it alone. The House and the Senate are the ones who write the laws. And, companies have to hire.

Regardless of how you feel about Reaganomics and Ronald Reagan's economic policies, he is one of the greatest presidents in the past 100 years. To say Reagan was a "terrible president" like this writer for the LA Times is silly. Politics aside, he had numerous accomplishments as the commander in chief and dealt with a severe recession, various military conflicts, and was able to make nice with the Soviet Union. Thus far, Obama has shut down Guantanamo Bay, pushed through Obamacare, and implemented a series of policies which staved off another Depression.

Obama himself has a fondness for The Gipper. Reagan is one of the few conservatives who commands the respect of many liberals. While you can't confuse Obama for a conservative, he shares a few things in common with The Gipper.

Reagan and Obama are among the greatest speakers to ever set foot in The White House. Both dealt with an economy in upheaval, which began before their respective presidencies. The geopolitical situation is a mess in the Middle East. Back in the 1980's Reagan was dealing with the Cold War and a plethora of instable situations throughout the world (i.e. Grenada, Honduras, El Salvador). Like Reagan, Obama has to run the country during a time of great uncertainty.

It's too early to say Obama is a failure as a president. Back in 1983, Ronald Reagan was viewed as a failure, and look how it turned out five years later when he left the Oval Office.

If there's one lesson to take away from Regan's presidency, it's too early to declare a president a failure after just two years.

Contact Dennis Bakay at dbakay@philly2philly.com