Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Republican and Democratic Administrations by the Numbers

Aside from the standard right wing character assassination one finds in the anti-Obama ads and talking points of the McCain campaign and its surrogates, there are the old stand-bys that pass for substantive argument. Foremost among these is the argument that democrats are serial tax raisers who build huge governments that suck the economic lifeblood from both the market and the "main street" economy.

I've always heard a different story told by "the numbers." I'm very partial to numbers when they are clearly not spinnable or fungible. So, let's look at who runs a tighter fiscal ship, Democratic or Republican Administrations.

Now, I'm not going to rebuild the arguments here from scratch. I'm going to provide the topic header and some links to check out for well researched and documented facts on the topics. Some of you will likely choose to ignore these facts and think of them as damn lies and statistics. Regardless, the numbers are there for you to peruse and massage as you see fit.

The damn thing is that reality here does indeed seem to have a bias and it's a Democratic one. These results have been circulating for years and there are few, if any, serious oppositional points of view. Search for yourself. Try "gdp growth during democratic and republican administrations." Or reverse the party appellations if you think they have any effect on the results, they don't.

This is my spin zone so I'll choose the figures we look at:

  1. Growth of national debt.
  2. Stock market performance
  3. Inflation
  4. Consumer interest rates (mortgage and other consumer debt)
  5. Unemployment
  6. Tax rates
  7. GDP growth
  8. Poverty rate
I've chosen these elements because I think they paint the broadest picture of economic health for the widest variety of people. No single economic indicator gives us a full idea of the impact on people's daily lives. Now, I have to admit that I have done little to no original research on these figures.

So, what do the figures say? Well, there are, as always, multiple sources and figures. I've chosen some that I've spot checked and found to be acceptably consistent.

1) GDP growth. GDP growth is the gold standard for economic well being. It takes into account everything produced by an economy and creates a single number to represent that output. The results? Democratic administrations outstrip Republican administrations by significant figures, averaged over the duration of an administration! This is true even after accounting for methodologies that try to account for "lag times" in the implementation of a president's policies. the idea is that an incoming president deserves neither the credit nor the blame for the first year (or so) of his term because that period is subject to the outgoing president's policies and budgets.

GDP Growth:

2) Employment and unemployment. I've lumped these two together because it's clear that employment growth alone doesn't mean less unemployment. If employment growth is less robust, however, unemployment is likely to remain high or increase. Bottom line? Dems win on employment and unemployment alike. One might think this would be true according to Democratic priorities but Republicans often claim the reverse. Remember, the entire basis of trickle down economics (or VooDoo economics according to Bush the elder) is that reducing the tax burden on the wealthy drives them to invest their money in ways that cause job growth and result in higher employment rates and greater income for lower and middle class Americans as well. As you can see from these figures, this is patently fales. While there is a relationship between taxation and investment and even between those and job growth, it is not as clear cut as Republicans would have you believe. I'm not going to write an essay on this subject here, just check out the numbers for yourselves.

Employment Growth and Unemployment:

3) Family income growth. Much has been written about this topic and about income disparities in our country in general and, specifically, during this past administration. Check out the figures and you'll see that not only to do more Americans have jobs under Democratic administration but they seem to have better paying jobs as well.

Family income growth:

4) By now it should be clear to all but the most ideological or gullible that Republicans don't give a fig about discal responsibility. It's amazing how this has morphed from a conservative to a moderate/liberal issue. While a look at any recent budget should do, check out these figures for a rundown on the damage that Republican administrations have inflicted on our long term fiscal health. Budget deficits and National debt follow.

Budget deficits:

National Debt:

5) Here's another scare stick with which the Reps consistently beat Dems about the head . . . your 401K will die a nasty gurgling death under a Democratic President. Sorry folks, amazingly, the stock market is more or less unideological. There may be a slight, very slight, benefit to a Democratic administration but certainly none to a Republican one.

Stock market performance:

6) The rest. By now it should be apparent that Democratic administrations are not only NOT the anathema to fiscal and economic well being they may be properly considered the best stewards of these bread and butter issues. Remember, I really don't think a president should get as much credit or blame for these numbers as they do. If you, OTOH, are voting your pocketbook well. . . you really should give these numbers serious consideration rather than listening to the ceaseless drivel spat out but the Republican fear machine. Here are the rest on inflation, tax rates, etc.


Tax Rates:

Multiple stats:


So dear reader, one might assume that a rational individual confronted with such overwhelming evidence would have to conclude that Democratic Presidents past have not been the economic bogey man they've been tarred as. What does that say about Barack Obama and his policies or the results of four or eight years under his leadership? Nothing directly. These times are different but it pays to keep history in mind and to avoid jumping to conclusions based on well worn campaign rhetoric. If nothing else one must exercise a great deal of skepticism about Republican claims to economic and fiscal leadership in light of the facts. Since they are repeating claims that have proven false in the past, there is no reason to believe their claims will prove true this time around either.

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