Which president is this?:

This president faced a severe recession early in his administration, which he battled with a combination of tax cuts and spending increases. The stock market responded to the economic improvement with a long, sustained rally. To be sure, federal debt skyrocketed as a result, but that was left for later generations to deal with.

Barack Obama?  Ronald Reagan? The answer is, of course, both.

That’s not to say there aren’t big differences, certainly. Federal debt nearly tripled under Reagan, where it is increasing at “only” about 10% per year under Obama, although from a much higher starting point. The economic crisis Obama has had to battle was far more severe than the Reagan recession. And there’s something we don’t know yet. Reagan’s years ended with a thud: the financial markets in free fall (remember the crash of 1987?) and the economy headed into another recession, which landed during GHW Bush’s term. We don’t yet know if that fate will befall Obama.

My point is, if you find yourself lauding President Reagan and critical of President Bush — or listening to pundits who adopt that posture — you should ask yourself why. Isolate what Reagan did right and what Obama is doing wrong, and then analyze how they are different. It’s harder to do than you may think.

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