When we consider the facts on the Republican and Democratic President legacies, I believe that reasonable people would conclude that it was Republican administrations that “tanked” the US economy both times, and propelled our country into two unfunded wars contributing to a huge national debt. Without further discussion on the Bush administration’s so called “war on terror” that caused over 4,500 Americans to lose their lives in Iraq, the biggest problem facing our country today that will impact the 2012 election is the economy. Before I discuss the “what if” factor, let’s review the historical achievements of past administrations on the US economy.
It was under Republican President Herbert Hoover that the Great Depression began with the Stock Market Crash of October 1929 that rapidly spread worldwide. The market crash marked the beginning of a decade of high unemployment, poverty, low profits, deflation, plunging farm incomes, and lost opportunities for economic growth and personal advancement. Although its causes are still uncertain and controversial, the net effect was a sudden and general loss of confidence in the economic future of the United States. The usual explanations include numerous factors especially high consumer debt, ill-regulated markets that permitted overoptimistic loans by banks and investors, the lack of high-growth new industries, and growing wealth inequality, all interacting to create a downward economic spiral of reduced spending, falling confidence, and lowered production. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The Hoover depression caused major political changes in America. Three years into the depression, Herbert Hoover lost the 1932 presidential election to Democrat Franklin Roosevelt in a sweeping landslide. Roosevelt’s economic recovery plan, the “New Deal,” instituted unprecedented programs for relief, recovery and reform and provided four years of very rapid economic growth.
Following the death of President Roosevelt, Democrat Harry Truman became President. Truman took office just as World War II entered its final stages. With Japan’s surrender in August 1945, he now led a nation that, for the first time in nearly two decades, was not wracked by the traumas of economic depression or world war. President Truman’s chief task, then, was to lay out to Americans his vision for the country’s future. Two related issues—the future of New Deal liberalism and the reconversion of the American economy from a war-time to a peace-time footing—topped his agenda.
New Deal liberalism committed the federal government to managing the nation’s economy and to guarding the welfare of needy Americans. During the war the Roosevelt administration had geared the US economy to meet the nation’s war needs, implementing price and wage controls, rationing and allocating resources, and setting production targets for American industry. In short, the federal government regulated the American economy to an unprecedented degree. With the war’s end, however, President Truman needed to reorient the nation’s financial system towards consumer production and clarify the government’s future role in the economy. We all know that the unprecedented actions taken by President Roosevelt were necessary to pull our country out of the Great Depression.
In September 1945, President Truman presented to Congress a twenty-one point message that called for new public works programs, legislation guaranteeing “full employment,” a higher minimum wage, extension of the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC), a war-time agency that monitored discrimination against African Americans in hiring practices of government agencies and defense industries, a larger Social Security System, and a national health insurance system. Taken together, these requests demonstrated an interest in maintaining and building upon the New Deal. Under President Truman, the unemployment rate dropped from 3.4% to 2.9%.
After President Truman, Republican Dwight Eisenhower became President in 1953 and inherited an unemployment rate of 2.9%. When President Eisenhower left office, the unemployment rate had more than doubled, rising to 6.6%. Democratic Presidents Kennedy and Johnson inherited a 6.6% unemployment rate and during their terms, reduced unemployment to 3.4%. Republican Presidents Nixon and Ford inherited an unemployment rate of 3.4% and at the end of their term managed to increase unemployment to 7.5%. Democratic President Carter inherited 7.5% unemployment that remained the same after he left office. Republican President Reagan inherited 7.5% unemployment and reduced the rate to 5.4% when leaving office, keeping in mind that Reagan raised taxes eleven times during his administration. Republican President George H.W. Bush raised the unemployment rate from 5.4% to 7.3% upon leaving office. Democratic President Clinton reduced the unemployment rate from 7.3% to 4.2% upon leaving office. Republican President George W. Bush increased the unemployment from 4.2% to 7.7% that continued to rise during the Obama administration because of the 2008 Wall Street fiasco promulgated mainly because of the flawed Bush economic policies.
Although Reagan reduced the unemployment rate to 5.4%, we all know that “supply side economics” referred to as “Reaganomics” didn’t work and added 2 trillion dollars to the National debt. President George Bush cut taxes on the wealthy and added 5 trillion dollars more to the National debt while creating only 3 million jobs in eight years compared to President Clinton’s 23 million jobs. President George H. W. Bush created 2.5 million jobs; Reagan created 16 million jobs; President Carter created 10.5 million jobs; Ford created 1.8 million jobs; President Nixon created 9.4 million jobs; President Johnson created 11.9 million jobs; President Kennedy created 57.3 million jobs; President Eisenhower created 3.5 million jobs; and President Truman created 8.4 million jobs.
Even if you don’t consider the approximately 3 million jobs saved or created because of the President Obama stimulus package, since the Eisenhower Presidency, Republicans created 36.2 million jobs while the Democrats created 111.1 million jobs. In addition, since Eisenhower, there has only been one President who produced a balanced budget and a budget surplus. To sum it up, President Bill Clinton left office in 2001 with a balanced budget and federal budget surplus of $236 billion. President George Bush ran a budget deficit of $319 billion by 2005.
PART II TOMORROW
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