Peter Morici | Economy, Debates Reveal Obama, Biden Haven’t Got What It Takes

This election should be about the economy — the recovery is too slow and Americans are hurting. The performances of President Obama and Vice President Biden in the debates on the campaign trail tell us why. Both say endlessly that they inherited a huge mess, but Americans have seen challenges like these before — and with better leaders, they licked those more quickly.

When Mr. Obama took office, financial markets were in turmoil. Unemployment peaked at 10% in October 2009.

Since, the Obama-Biden team has managed 2.2% economic growth. Unemployment is down to 7.8%, but only because millions of adults are stuck in part-time positions or have quit looking for work altogether. Factoring in those folks, the jobless rate is 14.7%.

Ronald Reagan inherited an economy reeling from soaring oil prices, double-digit interest rates and inflation. Unemployment peaked at 10.8% in November 1982.

When he sought re-election, the economy was growing at 6.3%. Unemployment was down to 7.3%, even though millions more Americans were looking for work. Eventually, it fell to 4%.

Ronald Reagan believed in American grit and imagination. He unleashed innovation by sweeping away needless regulations, while keeping those that made sense. He lowered tax rates by throwing out and limiting many deductions and credits; developed domestic energy resources; and fixed an overvalued dollar with the historic 1985 Plaza Accord, which substantially revalued the Japanese yen.


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