Referring to Toni Morrison's famous description of Bill Clinton as America's "first black President," Michael Reagan writes:
I could make an even stronger case for my father, Ronald Reagan, as "our first black president" — but I won't make that claim. I don't want to diminish the justifiable pride African-Americans take in having a president who is genetically and culturally black. Our first black president is Barack Obama.
But the past two years have made one thing clear: Ronald Reagan was a far better friend to black Americans than Barack Obama has been.
Wow, that's quite a sensational claim! Let's see what Reagan bases it on:
Just compare the Reagan and Obama records. Under Obama, black unemployment rose from 12.6 percent in January 2009 to 16.0 percent today. This means that black unemployment has increased by more than one-fourth since Obama took office.
And the Reagan record? African-American columnist Joseph Perkins has studied the effects of Reaganomics on black America. He found that, after the Reagan tax cuts gained traction, African-American unemployment fell from 19.5 percent in 1983 to 11.4 percent in 1989.
This is one of those "is he stupid or does he think we are?" moments. Reagan compares Obama's first two years to Ronald Reagan's third through eighth -- and explains that he used years 3-8 of his father's record to capture the purported effects of his tax cuts. The president's son either doesn't notice or thinks his readers won't notice that he he's comparing apples with saplings.
So what happens if we compare apples to apples by looking at the first two years of data for both presidents? When Ronald Reagan took office in January 1981, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among African Americans was 14.6 percent. In December 1982, it was 20.9 -- 43 percent higher. When Barack Obama took office in January 2009, seasonally adjusted unemployment was at 12.7 percent. In December 2010, it was 15.8 -- 24 percent higher.
So, if you compare equivalent portions of their presidencies -- which is really the only honest way to go about things -- Michael Reagan's lead piece of evidence for his provocative claim that his father was a "far better friend to black Americans" than Obama completely disintegrates.