Reagan and Obama: Contrasting Views of Government

Peruse these contrasting quotes from President Obama’s inaugural speech and President Reagan’s first inaugural address. Notice how with Obama the government is not the problem whereas with Reagan the blame is placed on government and the elites. Obama spells out three entitlements the government should give the people whereas Reagan advocates self-rule and confidence in the people. Obama and Reagan both mention important points: Obama wants the light of day on government and Reagan stresses that no one group should be singled out to pay a higher price.

President Barack Obama

…not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
President Barack Obama

President Ronald Reagan

Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library

…government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.
President Ronald Reagan

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  1. Sonia Partnersuche says:


    I come from France, and concerning this topic, Since our new president Sarkozy arrived, many things are changing. Although he is not the kind of man with political ideal or ideas, he knows how to run a government and motivate them to work.
    So, I believe the clue is to know how to manage a government, giving them the means to set reforms, and let specialist think about it.
    Therefore I think being a good president is not purely a matter to have the right ideas but more to know how to run a team!!!

  2. Sonia,

    Well said, a very thoughtful comment. I emigrated to the U.S. from England in 1980. I admired the way that Reagan took on the Soviet Union and beat them into submission. Interest and tax rates came down, employment went up, and he won a second term in a landslide. I don’t believe that the Obama presidency will be any better than the last one. However, I will wait and see and no doubt I will be posting with my opinions. My measure of government performance is how well it abides by correct principles and how much does it allow the people to govern themselves. The first principle of good government is to balance the budget. Obama is set to break the first principle within days of being in office. Not a good start.

  3. Thanks for this post Rickety! I couldn’t bare to watch the inaugural display so I haven’t brushed up on Obama’s speech yet. Reagan is right on though, and Obama is way off base. Thanks for pointing that out to everyone!

  4. Unfortunately there is not mention of the foreign policy in both comments.
    I would like read the comments of Reagan about government and foreign policy, is the government also a problem toward other countries?

  5. Valy,
    The point that I am making is that Reagan had it right when he said, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Hence if foreign policy is askance, then it is the government that is the problem. In many cases the solution to difficulties with other countries is to withdraw and let the problem country fix its own mess.

  6. Now there is a novel idea.

    Perhaps if you leave them to their own devices they cannot embroil the US in their unwillingness to take responsibility for their own actions.

  7. Alejandro Seguros Coche says:

    I admire President Obama. I think he is the right man to represent and take care of the States :)
    I hope we get over this crisis soon and that many people recover from it and have their money back or can earn more money to live.


  8. Dorris Stellenangebote says:

    Both of them pherhaps on a trip and quit art but nonr of them is everin in the position to improve the situation befour our greed not have control.

  9. Jack Rencontre Marseille says:

    I think that to be a good president. It is important to have goof idea and to act.
    With the actual crisis, it is really difficult to be a good president. But I think the best it is to have idea and to propose them

    But Obama looks a good president

  10. Alejandro says:

    I hope that the crisis is over soon and so we will see what our situation with President Obama is.
    I hope that he helps people in the next years and that poverty decreases in the States :)


  11. If you see the daily news you must accept that there is the need for a gouvernment, because stupid people do stupid things. but i follow Reagan, when he says there is an elite, who controls the gouvernment and this has to be stoped.

  12. i conform to Vanni. the government should be the voice of all the people but often the elite – only some of all – have to much power and you can notice it if you follow the politics every day

  13. Hmmm, interesting comparison. Of course, Reagan was the archetypal puppet politician, brought in as an affable friendly face to convince America (and the world) of the boundless virtues of free market capitalism.
    Obama on the other hand….. well at least I can believe that he wrote some of his speeches..

    • I remember when Reagan took office there was a drastic improvement in the economy. During his administration I went to college, graduated, was hired, was laid off, and was hired by the Department of Defense.

      I don’t much care for pretty speeches. Reagan was a president of action and that is how many remember him. No apologies for America from him because none were needed. Even I, at one time a poor uneducated immigrant, could see that America was a great country.

      America can still remain great, given the right leadership, which at present is sadly lacking.

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