Michael Kinsley has been crunching some numbers. The results are fascinating and–if you’re a Republican–startling. The question he asked was very simple: Who’s been better for the economy over the past 40 years, Dems or Pubs?
It turns out that Democratic presidents have a much better record than Republicans. They win in a head-to-head comparison in almost every category. Real growth averaged 4.09% in Democratic years, 2.75% in Republican years. Unemployment was 6.44%, on average, under Republican presidents, and 5.33% under Democrats. The federal government spent more under Republicans than Democrats (20.87% of GDP, compared with 19.58%), and that remains true even if you exclude defense (13.76% for the Democrats, 14.97% for the Republicans).What else? Inflation was lower under Democratic presidents (3.81% on average, compared with 4.85%). And annual deficits took more than twice as much of GDP under Republicans than Democrats (2.74% of GDP versus 1.21%). Republicans won by a nose on government revenue (i.e., taxes), taking 18.12% of GDP, compared with 18.39%. That, of course, is why they lost on the size of the deficit.
Personal income per capita was also a bit higher in Republican years ($16,061 in year- 2000 dollars) than in Democratic ones ($15,565). But that is because more of the Republican years came later, when the country was more prosperous already.
There will be many objections to all this, some of them valid. For example, a president can’t fairly be held responsible for the economy from the day he takes office. So let’s give them all a year. That is, let’s allocate each year to the party that controlled the White House the year before. Guess what? The numbers change, but the bottom-line tally is exactly the same: higher growth, lower unemployment, lower government spending, lower inflation and so on under the Democrats. Lower taxes under the Republicans.
But maybe we are taking too long a view. The Republican Party considers itself born again in 1981, when Ronald Reagan became president. That’s when Republicans got serious about cutting taxes, reducing the size of government and making the country prosperous. Allegedly. But doing all the same calculations for the years 1982 through 2002, and giving each president’s policies a year to take effect, changes only one result: The Democrats pull ahead of the Republicans on per capita personal income.
In other words, the corporate media-sponsored CW that Pubs are better for the economy is nothing more than unsubstatiated mythology. They’re not, in fact they’re substantially worse in every category except–you guessed it–corporate taxation, which is lower under Pubs.