The Right’s Growth Record


Neil Irwin’s piece on the lost decade of jobs and GDP growth is well worth reading. I thought, however, that I might pinch this table to make another point.

The modern version of the conservative movement has been with us for decades, and it’s been an influential force in American politics going all the way back to Joe McCarthy calling Dean Acheson a Communist as John Foster Dulles advocated “rollback” of the Soviet Union. But it’s really only in the forms of Ronald Reagan and George W Bush that we’ve seen efforts to put its economic policies into action. Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, and George HW Bush were budget-balancers and Richard Nixon doesn’t appear to have cared about economic policy at all. And the Reagan and Dubya presidencies are, whether coincidentally or not, associated with the worst economic performance we’ve had. What’s more, in general economic performance has clearly been worse since the country took its right turn around 1970.

This is similar to, though obviously somewhat different than, Larry Bartels’ observation that the rich do well under Republican presidents but everyone else fairs better under the Democrats.

I think this is all the more striking when you consider that if you judge people based on what they say they’re doing, it’s conservatives who tend to emphasize growth uber alles whereas liberals are seen as balancing growth against other considerations about fairness, equality, ecological sustainability, etc.