It’s the economy, stupid!

“The economy, stupid!” The phrase made famous by James Carville, campaign strategist for Bill Clinton. Amazingly effective, and at a time when the US was in a recession. The past election cycle used the sentiment in some ways. The Trump campaign and his inauguration speech painted a very dystopian view of America. There was talk about our crumbling factories and our crime-infested cities. Couple that with prevailing views that our economy is doing poorly (something I touched on before, when I wrote about the disconnect between the way the public perceived us to be in a recession, when were actually weren’t in a recession), and it was almost a “the economy, stupid” election.

This all depended on how we saw the world, and likely which media outlets we viewed (something else I wrote about before).

But let’s look at some numbers, and think about what could come next. To do this, I’m going to steal some text from something I posted on Facebook this morning.

FYI: We have had 17 presidents during the last 100 years. Eight of these have been members of the democratic party, and nine from the GOP.

The Dow Jones Average rose 149% during Obama’s presidency. That ranks at the #3 spot of 17, for the past 100 years. Clinton remains at #1 with a 227% gain, followed by FDR with a 194% gain, then Obama’s 149% gain, then Reagan’s 135% gain.

Given that the gains under FDR were for more than 8 years, on an annualized basis the market was up 18.625%/year under Obama, and 16.1167% under FDR, putting Obama at the #2 spot.

The numbers aren’t in for Q4 GDP, and calculating change in GDP is a bit clouded by inflation, but if we use the final revised 2016 Q3 estimates and adjust them to 2009 dollars, the rise in real GDP over Obama’s term (again, excluding the final quarter) is about 30% which is about 3.75% per year. That places him in the #4 spot, behind FDR (181%), Clinton (33%), and Reagan (32%).

I am not making any comment about whether these numbers are good or bad for America, or who benefits from these changes, just posting the numbers.

These are not alternative facts. This is just math.

As is often true with stuff I post on Facebook, because I have such awesome friends on Facebook, another good point was raised, and it made me dig out more numbers.

A friend posted an article from USA Today pointing out that there has been a recession under every single GOP president since Teddy Roosevelt. In some ways, it’s hard to compare the GOP of those days with the GOP of today (as it’s hard to compare the very racist Democratic Party of those days with the racially inclusive Democratic Party of today), but putting aside which party is in control right now, things do not look good for President Trump. Just based on past trends and the law of averages, there’s a very good chance that some good things will come to an end soon.

We have witnessed the longest streak of consecutive private sector job gains in history under Obama. Granted, there are many ways to parse the data, and a Wall Street Journal article does that for us, but none of it changes that we are due, if not overdue for some months of job losses in the near future.

The picture is a bit clearer when it comes to stock market gains. The mean bull market since 1871 is 67 months with 178% in gains. The median is 50 months and 123.8% gains. We’re longer than either measure, at 84 months (this is the shortest of the ways to measure a bull market) with gains around 208%. It’s not likely that the market will continue to grow for much longer.

To be fair, if Clinton had won the election, she’d be in the same position, and the chances of a downturn under her administration would be likely. But, she didn’t win, and the GOP controls the White House and Congress, something else that hasn’t been a good economic predictor in the past. The last time this was true was in 2001 by some measures, but in 2003 by any measure, and things didn’t go so well.  There was a brief period starting in 1953 when the White House and all of Congress were under GOP control, that coincided with a recession that lasted a year, but with a relatively small impact as far as history of recessions goes (about a 6% loss). The early 1900s, on the other hand, was marked by an extensive period of GOP rule, with control of the White House and both Houses coinciding with the Great Depression. This suggests that the overdue downturn we’re facing now could have been reduced in impact or probability of occurrence if the branches of government were split, but there’s always the possibility that the past won’t predict the future. After all, we’re coming off an election where the winner mounted the largest recovery from low polling numbers in history, so I think we all have some doubts in our ability to predict the future based on the past. We’ll see, and hope for the best.

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