It’s a certainty that the economy and job creation will be a major factor, and perhaps the determining factor in this fall’s presidential election. Because of this, Mitt Romney is making his success as a businessman the centerpiece of his campaign for president; claiming that his success in business makes him uniquely qualified to turn our economy around, and that President Obama’s lack of business experience leaves him ill-equipped to do that job.
Romney’s argument led me to wonder which presidents have had the best record at job creation in our country’s recent past. I found the answer in a 2009 blog on the website of that noted liberal rag, the Wall Street Journal:
That blog post examined the job creation records of Presidents Truman through George W. Bush in several dimensions of job creation, and revealed that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it is the Democrats and not the Republicans who have the better record of success in job creation. I looked at the dimensions of “Jobs Created”, “Jobs Created Per Year” and “Payroll Expansion”. Let’s start with job creation.
The Democratic Presidents were ranked as follows: Clinton was on top with 23.1-million jobs, followed by LBJ (11.9-million), Carter (10.5-million), Truman (8.4-million) and Kennedy (3.6-million), On the Republican side, the top Republican in job creation was Reagan with 16.6-million jobs. He was followed by Nixon (9.4-million), Eisenhower (3.5-million), George W. Bush (3.0-million), George H.W. Bush (2.5-million) and Ford (1.8-million).
The Democrats averaged 11.5-million jobs created; nearly twice as many as the Republicans 6.03-million jobs created.
Next I looked at the numbers for the number of jobs created per year of their presidency. I found that once again, Clinton led the category with 2.9-million jobs created per year. He was closely followed by Carter (2.6-million) and LBJ (2.3-million). JFK (1.2-million) and Truman (1.1-million). The Republican leader in the number of jobs created per year was once again Reagan, with 2.0-million. Nixon was not far behind with 1.7-million jobs. They were followed by Ford (745,000), George H.W. Bush (625,000), Eisenhower (438,000) and George W. Bush (375,000).
In this dimension the numbers for the Democrats were more than twice as good as the numbers the Republicans produced. The Democrats averaged 2.02-million jobs created per year while the Republicans averaged 980,400 jobs created per year.
The final dimension that I examined involved the economic measure of payroll expansion. The leading Democrat was once again Clinton with a payroll expansion of 21.1%. He was closely followed by LBJ (20.8%) and Truman (20.1%). Carter (13.1%) and JFK (6.7%) brought up the rear. On the Republican side, Reagan again led the pack with 17.6%. He was followed by Nixon (13.6), Eisenhower (7.0%), and Ford, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush all at 2.3%.
Averaging out those numbers I found that payroll expansion under the Democrats averaged 16.36% while the Republicans averaged less than half that, at 7.52%.
My next analysis was to see where the presidents placed over all three of the dimensions I took a look at. The leading president in job creation, job creation per year, and payroll expansion was (drum roll, please….) Clinton. He was followed by LBJ, Reagan, Carter, and Nixon in the top 5. Then care Truman, JFK, Eisenhower, Ford, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.
The Democrats had two of the top three presidents, three of the top five, and five of the top seven. It may be contrary to conventional wisdom to believe that the Democrats are better at job creation than the Republicans, but that’s the inescapable conclusion reached when you look at the numbers.
The ability of a given president to achieve success in strengthening the economy can be impacted by any number of factors—some of them outside their ability to control. But certainly one factor under their control is their economic philosophy. That is something that can be developed over a lifetime of experiences, so I also looked into the biographies of those eleven presidents.
Truman worked in construction, as a bank teller, on the family farm, and started a clothing store that was something less of a success before being elected to a judicial position and then the US Senate. Eisenhower, of course, had a sterling military career and served as the president of Columbia University before launching his successful bid for the presidency. Kennedy served in the Navy before beginning his political career by being elected to the House of Representatives. LBJ was also in the military before launching his career in politics. Nixon was a lawyer and served in the military before starting his career in politics. Ford, like so many of our presidents, served in the Navy before entering politics. Carter served in the Navy and ran his family businesses, including the famous peanut farm,before launching his career by winning the office of Governor of Georgia. Reagan was a sportscaster, actor, president of the Screen Actors Guild union, and spokesman for General Electric before entering politics. George H.W. Bush was a Navy pilot who entered the oil business when he left the military and became a millionaire by the time he reached 40 years of age. Clinton set his eyes on a political career from an early age. He became a lawyer and law school instructor before winning the office of Governor of Arkansas. George W. Bush had a controversial military “career” in the Texas Air National Guard before earning an MBA from Harvard, and entering the oil business. He formed a group that bought the Texas Rangers baseball team before being elected Governor of Texas.
When I compare those bios to the bios of Romney and Obama I see that Romney’s bio most closely resembles the bios of the two Bush presidents, the two presidents who have had the least success at job creation and economic growth in the last 67 years; while Obama’s bio most closely resembles that of Clinton, the president with the best record of job creation and economic growth in that period.
In the upcoming campaign Romney and the Republicans will press the meme that you have to be a success in business in order to understand how to stimulate economic growth and jobs, and that Obama is not equipped to do that job. But consider this, which of those eleven presidents actually earned a business degree? It was George W. Bush; the man who created the worst record on economic growth and job creation in the last 67 years. So, is it really necessary to be a success in business to understand economic growth and job creation? I think the answer lies in the numbers.