Paul Krugman argues Biden is having a bigger 'morning in America' than Reagan 'ever did'

Paul Krugman argues Biden is having a bigger 'morning in America' than Reagan 'ever did'
President Joe Biden walks with a cup of coffee Tuesday, March 2, 2021, along the Colonnade of the White House to the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

After the major blue wave Democrats enjoyed in the 1982 midterms, the Democratic National Committee went into the 1984 election hoping to make Ronald Reagan a one-term president. But Reagan defeated the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Walter Mondale, by a landslide; Reagan's "morning in America" messaging worked. Liberal economist Paul Krugman, this week in his New York Times column, uses some "morning in America" messaging of his own — only in reference to Joe Biden's presidency.

"First, let's try to put this boom in context by noting that the economy is running hotter than it did during the 'morning in America' boom that gave Ronald Reagan a landslide victory in the 1984 presidential election," Biden writes. "We've gained 3 million jobs since Biden took office, or 600,000 jobs a month. This compares with gains of 340,000 a month in the year leading up to the 1984 election."

The difference between Reagan in 1984 and President Joe Biden in 2021, according to Krugman, is that Biden is seeing more economic growth.

"To be fair, Reagan-era job gains took place from a lower base; so, it may be more appropriate to compare growth rates," Krugman explains. "But this still gives Biden the advantage: 5% at an annual rate, versus 4.4% in 1983-84. And the disparity grows if you compare jobs with the working-age population, which was growing around 1% a year in the 1980s but has stagnated in recent years."

Biden has faced a very different type of recession than the one Reagan faced in the early 1980s. The 2020/2021 recession was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been the world's worst health crisis since the Woodrow Wilson-era Spanish flu pandemic of 1918/1919. According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the COVID-19 coronavirus has killed more than 4 million people world and over 606,000 in the United States.

"The truth is that Reagan doesn't even deserve much credit for the boom of 1983-84; most of the credit should go instead to the Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates in 1982," Krugman argues. "But how much credit should Biden get for job growth in 2021? Not all of it, certainly, but quite a lot."

Krugman continues, "The American Rescue Plan, which greatly increased the purchasing power of American consumers, has surely been an important driver of growth. Even more important, however, has been the rapid rise in vaccination rates, which has led to a plunge in the infection and death rates. Some of us predicted long ago that the U.S. would experience a rapid, 'V-shaped' recovery once the pandemic subsided and the economy could reopen; well, the success of the vaccination drive has brought us to that moment."

The liberal economist/Times columnist stresses that although the COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson were developed before Biden was sworn in as president on January 20, he has taken "much stronger steps" to "coordinate vaccine distribution" than former President Donald Trump.

"More generally, anyone who doubts the importance of political leadership in progress against COVID-19 should look at the differences in vaccination rates across states, which have a stunning correlation with partisanship: States that voted for Biden have been much more successful than Trump states in getting their residents vaccinated," Krugman observes. "So yes, we are having another morning in America, and Biden deserves more credit for his good morning than Reagan ever did for his."

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