06 July 2012

Comparing Obama to Presidents Nixon thru Bush

Life's not fair. Obama inherited a mess and if he tries to point that out, he gets labeled irresponsible. The Romney campaign likes to point out that under Obama unemployment has stayed persistently above 8%. And they're right that this is awful. But it's worth pointing out that Obama is the first president since World War II to inherit an economy with an unemployment rate over 8%.

So, I'm going to compare the performance of the economy under Obama with presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush, assuming that they had all inherited the same unemployment rate as Obama. This is the unemployment rate they'd have at the time of their re-election assuming that they'd changed the rate as much as they did. For example, under Nixon unemployment rose from 3.4% to 5.6%, or 2.2 percentage points. Had Nixon added those same 2.2 percentage points to Obama's starting point of 8.3%, he'd have an unemployment rate of 10.5%. Clinton lowered unemployment by 2.2 percentage points, so he'd have an unemployment rate of 6.1%. It's wonderfully superficial as far as economic analysis goes, but it does offer a curious comparison point from the same baseline.

Apparently it's tough to lower unemployment in one's first term. On this list, only under Clinton did unemployment significantly drop during a first term. (Carter and Obama's (so far) drop of a tenth of a percent seems fairly token, hardly better than Reagan's inability to budge unemployment at all.) 

No comments: