There have been no shortage of Ronald Reagan mentions on the campaign trail, with Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum invoking the former president’s name at seemingly every turn. Each argues that only he is truly like Reagan, and that only his massive, budget-busting tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans is in the true spirit of Reagan’s legacy.
Today, on what would have been Reagan’s 101st birthday, his former economist published an editorial — titled “Why the GOP should stop invoking Reaganomics” — in the Washington Post telling the candidates to stop it with the name-dropping. Bruce Bartlett, who served under both Reagan and George H.W. Bush, outlined the differences between today’s economic circumstances and those of the Reagan years, positing that while curbing inflation was the biggest issue in the Reagan era, today’s economic policies must be focused on boosting demand.
The result of those differences, Bartlett wrote, is that Reagan’s policies “can’t — and shouldn’t — be replicated today”:
Judging from the candidates’ tax proposals, they seem to believe that the most Reagan-like candidate is the one with the biggest tax cut. But as the person who drafted the 1981 Reagan tax cut, I think Republicans misunderstand the premises upon which Reagan’s economic policies were based and why those policies can’t — and shouldn’t — be replicated today. […]
All of the evidence tells us that the economy’s fundamental problem today is not on the supply side but the demand side. According to a recent study by Credit Suisse, two-thirds of the difference in growth at this point in the business cycle, compared with previous cycles, is due to slower consumer spending. And low inflation — as well as widespread unemployment, vast stocks of unsold houses, empty factories and other indicators — tells us that money is tight, not loose, as was the case in the late 1970s.
Bartlett isn’t the only one noting the weakness of the GOP’s plans to bolster the economic recovery. Multiple economics professors told Reuters that the Republican plans wouldn’t pass an Econ 101 class. The candidates’ economic proposals will explode the deficit, expand income inequality through massive tax breaks to the rich, and hurt the poor and middle classes if enacted, but the GOP continues to ignore evidence that today’s situation is different than Reagan’s.
“Economic conditions are entirely different today than they were in Reagan’s era, and different conditions demand different policies,” Bartlett concluded. “Those who say otherwise are simply engaging in cookie-cutter economics — proposing whatever was popular and seemed to work once, without regard to changing circumstances.”