A zero on the economy

Jonathan M. Trugman:

Last week the Commerce Department released its third revision for fourth-quarter 2016 gross domestic product. The number came in at a paltry 2.1 percent, meaning that growth during President Obama’s final year in office — the end of an “Error of Hope” — landed with a big thud at just 1.6 percent.

That low-water mark puts the Obama presidency in last place among all the post-World War II presidents when it comes to economic growth.

There have been 13 post-WWII presidents, beginning with Harry Truman, who had the disadvantage of beginning in the aftermath of war in 1946, during which the economy contracted 11.6 percent — four times the contraction any other negative year since — and even he bested Obama’s economic record!

Truman, a moderate Democrat, also posted the two best years of growth on record: 1950 at 8.7 percent and 1951 at 8 percent, and there was no zero percent interest rate to gin up the economy back then.

Thirteenth of 13 presidents is no mild distinction. Obama had eight full years to enact a growth policy, while many of his predecessors never had two complete terms. George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter had just four years each, Gerald Ford had less than three years and Richard Nixon had five.

I’m not the least bit surprised the Obama economy was a failure. I’ve chronicled it for more than seven years in this column.

Here are the average growth rates for each president:

  • Johnson (1964-68), 5.3 percent
  • Kennedy (1961-63), 4.3 percent
  • Clinton (1993-2000), 3.9 percent
  • Reagan (1981-88), 3.5 percent
  • Carter (1977-80), 3.3 percent
  • Eisenhower (1953-60), 3 percent
  • Nixon (1969-74), 2.8 percent
  • Ford (1975-76), 2.6 percent
  • G.H.W. Bush (1989-92), 2.3 percent
  • G.W. Bush (2001-08), 2.1 percent
  • Truman (1946-52), 1.7 percent
  • Obama (2009-16), 1.6 percent

Truman? Go back farther:

With Thursday’s final revision of fourth-quarter GDP growth to 2.1 percent from its previous 1.9 percent level, President Obama is the only president since Herbert Hoover to not have guided the US economy to 3 percent growth in any year he was in office. …

Obama’s best year, as far as growing the economy, was 2015 when it grew 2.6 percent from 2014 — after growing 2.4 percent that year from 2013.

The recovering economy — and steady job growth — gave Obama lots of momentum, but the economy sputtered again last year, Commerce reported Thursday.

The government attributed the upward revision in fourth quarter GDP to higher than expected consumer spending in the October-December period.

But even with the upward revision, the US economy was in no danger of achieving 3 percent or better growth last year.

Why is 3 percent growth important? Real Clear Markets explained last year:

From 1790 to 2000, U.S. RGDP growth averaged 3.79%. America needs at least 3.0% economic growth-the nation cannot defend itself and pay its bills without it. However, America’s elites have largely given up on growth, and are now distracting themselves with academic musings about “secular stagnation.”

If you’re being compared to Herbert Hoover, you were bad on the economy.

 

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