In the rough and tumble of presidential campaigns -- rougher this year than ever before -- facts are sometimes lost in the debate. But one fact that voters should keep in mind -- one that is incontrovertible -- is that the U.S. economy performs better under Democratic presidents than Republican ones.
Conservatives have long claimed that they are better stewards of the economy. Most recently, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump promised to be "the greatest jobs president that God ever created." They have repeated these claims so relentlessly and with such confidence that millions of Americans believe them to be true. The record shows otherwise.
Research from Princeton University economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson finds that, since World War II, the economy has performed substantially better by virtually every measure when Democrats have been in the White House. GDP growth, job creation and industrial production have all been stronger during Democratic administrations than during Republican ones.
As the Ranking Member of the Joint Economic Committee, I asked my staff to review the Blinder and Watson findings. They were able to update and build on the economists' analysis and found that on average since World War II, real (inflation-adjusted) GDP has grown about 1.6 times faster and private-sector jobs have grown nearly 2.5 times faster under Democrats than Republicans.
The starting point does not matter: GDP and jobs have grown faster under Democrats regardless of whether the analysis begins with President Truman, President Kennedy or President Reagan.
Conservatives often point to Ronald Reagan as the model for strong economic leadership, invoking his time in office as the Golden Age. But, in fact, job creation and GDP growth during the Reagan administration fell short of the post-World War II average for Democratic presidents.
Even today, as Republicans criticize the pace of the recovery under President Obama, the record shows that the economy has performed better during his presidency than his predecessor's. Real GDP growth has averaged 2.0 percent per year under President Obama, versus 1.6 percent per year under President George W. Bush. Private-sector jobs have expanded at an average annual rate of 1.2 percent under President Obama, while the economy actually lost private-sector jobs under President Bush.
The reasons for the difference between Democrats and Republicans are neither fully understood nor completely the result of policy choices. Many factors are beyond a president's control, such as demographic trends, the growth of foreign economies, oil prices, productivity growth and Federal Reserve policy.
However, it's also true that sometimes presidents pursue policies that inadvertently have negative effects on the economy. We saw this most recently with President George W. Bush. As Blinder wrote, "the fact that we entered several wars in the gulf area (the latest in 2003) under Republican presidents, thereby driving up oil prices, was not just luck--it was policy, though not economic policy."
So, when my Republican colleagues proclaim their party is best able to manage the economy, I don't think they are deliberately being dishonest. Like many Americans, they have bought into the myth pedaled by conservatives for decades. But, the truth is the economy has grown fastest and added the most jobs under Democratic presidents--and I invite my colleagues to examine the record.
Let's let the real debate over the economy begin.