Reagan vs. Obama: whose policies brought growth?

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michael Barone

Will Barack Obama be reelected as a result of surging economic growth? Some mild improvement in economic statistics in January and February left many analysts optimistic that the answer was yes. But Steve Lombardo, head of the market research firm StrategyOne, provides some perspective by comparing economic growth and job growth in 2011 and the first quarter of 2012 with economic growth and job growth in 1983 and the first quarter of 1984. Booming growth in 1983 and 1984 made it possible for Ronald Reagan’s reelection campaign to produce ads like “Morning in America” and for Reagan to be reelected by a 59%-41% margin in November 1984. Here are the figures for economic growth (quarterly GDP growth rate) and job growth (quarterly change in total non-farm employment) in comparable stages of the 1984 and 2012 electoral cycles.


                                                                                          1983/84                 2011/12


Economic Growth     Jan-March 1983/2011                       0.3                          2.3


                                April-June 1983/2011                        5.1                          0.4


                                July-Sept 1983/2011                           9.3                          1.3


                                Oct-Dec 1983/2011                            8.1                          1.8


                                Jan-March 1984/2012                        8.5                          3.0



Job Growth            Jan-March 1983/2011                     320,000                   576,000


                                April-June 1983/2011                     931,000                   389,000


                                July-Sept 1983/2011                     1,224,000                   383,000


                                Oct-Dec 1983/2011                          979,000                  492,000


                                Jan-March 1984/2012                    1,201,000                 635,000


So in 15 months in 1983-84 job growth was 4,655,000, while in the comparable 15 months in 2011-12 it was 2,475,000, just a little more than half as many, and while the nation’s population has risen 33%, from 236,348,000 in 1984 to 313.417,000 today (according to the Census Bureau).


The numbers make it clear. The Reagan tax cuts led to vibrant economic growth. The Obama spending splurge didn't.

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Michael Barone

Senior Political Analyst
The Washington Examiner