In February 2004, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao was on CNN defending the Bush administration's economic policies. When Judy Woodruff noted the president's poor record on job creation, Chao suggested there's only one number that matters. Unfortunately for the administration, she picked the wrong one.
Woodruff explained that the president's first term saw the "weakest job-creation rate relative to economic growth on record." Instead of trying to justify the poor performance, Chao responded, "Well, the stock market is, after all, the final arbiter."
In retrospect, Chao may have wanted to pick a different standard of measurement, because if the stock market is "the final arbiter," Bush has some explaining to do.
Yesterday, the Dow Jones closed at 10,706.14. On the day Bush was sworn into office in January 2001, the Dow Jones stood at 10,732.46.
Under Reagan, the Dow went up 148%. Under Clinton, it grew 187%. After five-and-a-half years, Bush isn"t quite breaking even.