02 December 2011

Bad, Sure, But Still Better Than Bush. And He Got Re-elected

This latest jobs report makes Obama’s re-election more probable.

In Obama’s first year, he presided over the worst loss in jobs since the Great Depression, more than 5 million jobs gone. In spite of that, he compares pretty well against Bush at the same point in his presidency – 34 months in.

In spite of his miserable start, Obama actually compares favorably with Bush.34 months in Bush had “lost” 2.3 million jobs whereas Obama has “lost” 1.8 million. (And yes I agree that causes of job loss go back much further than the prior month and that president’s don’t “create” jobs. I also believe that  there is no single variable as important to this statistic as presidential policies.)

You might argue that Obama has, of course, spent a terrible sum to improve on Bush’s bad record. And it is true that Obama had presided over  the biggest deficit ever. But if you look at the rate by which he increased it, it isn’t that different from what happened under Bush.

By the end of his third year, Bush had swung the deficit negative by over $600 billion. By contrast, Obama has swung it negative by $800 billion. That is worse. And the total is huge. But still, it is plausible that the story will be quite different for Obama by the end of his first term, in comparison to Bush.

Comparing annual deficits in the fourth year of their term with the deficit in the final year of the prior administration makes Obama look good by contrast.

Bush had increased the annual deficit by $650 billion. Current projections suggest that Obama will have increased it by $300 to 400 billion. It is not that Bush did better than Obama – he just had the good judgment to make things worse from a far better starting point.

This should be good news for Obama’s re-election prospects. If Bush could beat the Democrats – Kerry in particular – after a first term that included job losses, a huge increase in deficits and the terrible tragedy of 9-11, perhaps Obama’s shot at beating a weak GOP field – Romney in particular – after a first year that included job losses, a huge swing in deficits and the assassination of Osama seems reasonable.

[Find the numbers from 1939 to 2011 here.]

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