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Are Democratic Presidents Really Better for the Economy than Republicans?

According to Richard J. Carroll in a Op-Ed piece promoting his new book, the answer is yes:

In “The President as Economist: Scoring Economic Performance From Harry Truman to Barack Obama,” I compare the 12 presidents since World War II using 17 economic indicators, including growth in gross domestic product, rate of unemployment, inflation, population below the poverty line, increase in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, savings and investment rates, exports and trade balances, federal budget growth, and debt and federal taxes as a share of GDP…

if we take the average for Democratic and Republican presidents we can make a head-to-head party comparison. The Democratic presidents scored substantially higher than the Republican presidents, with a score of 26.95. Republican presidents scored -26.95.

Whether or not I would agree with it, I am sure that someone could provide a reasonable comprehensive analysis of which party has been better (or worse) for the economy.  Make no mistake, Carroll’s article is no such thing.

A review of the comments to the article  reveals some of the obvious flaws of Carroll’s analysis including one reply that observes:

If only correlation proved causation how simple the world would be to understand. There is nothing quite like a business journal passing simplistic correlative analysis of an extremely complex system off as some kind of truth.

James Pethokoukis,  in his piece at The American Blog also takes aim and notes that:

Another big reason later presidents score worse than earlier ones is Carroll’s tilt against big government: Unfortunately, more recent presidents are therefore penalized for presiding over much larger government than their predecessors in the 1950s and 1960s — even though it was some of those very same predecessors — particularly Johnson and Nixon — who rigged the time bombs that have exploded into bigger and more intrusive government. Medicare should count against LBJ, for instance.

Now in Carroll’s defense, in his book  perhaps Carroll discusses or rationalizes his methodology and conclusions in a more convincing manner. Having said that I am not sure I am intrigued enough to put this one into the summer reading queue.

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