Jonah Goldberg

Remember "voodoo economics"? The phrase comes from the first President Bush. During the 1980 Republican presidential primaries, the current president's father famously denounced Ronald Reagan's supply-side economics as "voodoo economics."

What seemed like exotic hocus-pocus to the elder George Bush was the idea that if you cut taxes, people might work more, and hence earn more, which would then result in higher tax revenues. I never understood why Bush thought this was akin to Haitian head-shrinking and black magic.

Regardless, voodoo economics became known as "Reaganomics" once the Gipper was elected and the terrible 1980-1982 recession kicked in. Today it's difficult to exaggerate how vicious the press and the Democratic Party were in their attacks on Reaganomics.

And then the economy launched like a rocket. When the government announced that the economy was growing at a 5 percent growth rate, Reagan declared, "It's funny, but they don't seem to call it Reaganomics anymore."

Reagan, alas, was wrong. Instead, Reaganomics got redefined. In the early '80s, it may have been synonymous with economic failure. Later, in the face of a roaring economy in the mid and late '80s, Reaganomics came to mean greed, materialism and indifference to the poor and downtrodden. The press became fixated on income inequality, "junk bonds" and the "go-go" culture of Wall Street.

Fast-forward to the 1990s. According to almost every measure, the Clinton economy was "worse" than the Reagan economy, if you go by these standards. Income inequality increased. More junk bonds were sold in 1993 alone than from 1982 to 1986 (when Mike Milken was the "Junk Bond King"). And don't even get me started about the go-go Wall Street culture created on Clinton's watch - a culture that brought us all of the accounting scandals, Enron, day-trading, etc., which have been unfairly laid at the feet of the Bush administration.

And yet, we're told Bill Clinton's economic success was the greatest accomplishment of the Democratic Party since FDR. As my friend and colleague Rich Lowry notes in his outstanding new book, "Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years," this is all nonsense on stilts.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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