The Great Recession lasted 18 months—slightly longer than the recession of 1981—and it might not be fair to compare the two. Unemployment was higher, for example, during the 1981 recession. But Reagan’s approaching centennial brings to mind the Reagan Recovery, and the economic climate of 1983 must be enviable from where President Obama sits in 2011.

Tomorrow the Department of Labor releases its monthly jobs report, and early reports do not suggest improvement. The numbers will certainly not be anywhere close to those 14 months into the Reagan Recovery.

A cool interactive chart from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis allows direct comparisons of every recession since 1948, and forces questions about each recession. Why does the recovery of 1982-1983 zoom off the top of the chart just when the current recovery is settling into a trough?

President Reagan cut marginal tax rates. President Obama has hit Americans with a mess of concealed taxes.

President Reagan brooked no nonsense from a striking air traffic controllers. President Obama has strengthened the positions of federal and state employee unions and staged a spectacular auto bailout which preserved the very union contracts that had crippled the industry.

President Reagan reduced the regulatory burden, freeing businesses to recover. President Obama has done the opposite, taking the opportunity afforded by the recession to increase the burdens of U.S. business.

President Reagan lightened the federal government’s grip on state governments by reducing its place in their budgets. President Obama has worked tirelessly to control state expeditures from Washington.

One president freed the American people to drive their economy forward and make up for lost ground.  The other has shackled them with more government and more debt.  The generation that benefited from Reagan’s leadership is not leaving its children the same bequest.

Kenneth Spence is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: