December 19, 2016

If people were to pick which issue was most important during the presidential campaign cycle, I bet most would say the economy. After all, the economy is the backbone of American life as we know it.

So in that sense, it’s interesting to view modern presidents in terms of economic performance (i.e., GDP growth).

John F. Kennedy oversaw the largest growth while in office, averaging a 5.5 percent quarterly uptick in GDP. JFK encouraged tax cuts for business and lowered overall marginal rates. He also incentivized jobs, saving and investment. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Lyndon B. Johnson ranks second at 5.1 percent growth. While certainly dealt a tough hand in replacing JFK under such dire circumstances, LBJ did well by essentially continuing his predecessor’s policies. At 3.8 percent GDP growth per quarter, Bill Clinton oversaw the longest non-war economic expansion in history. Highlights of his time in office include slashing taxes and capital gains rates, along with creating the Roth IRA.

Just behind Clinton is Ronald Reagan, who ushered in 3.6 percent quarterly GDP growth during his eight years in office. His pro-growth agenda led to tax cuts, less regulation and helped Americans find work again. As we can see, over the years some presidents have delivered solid economic performance during their terms in office. Where does our soon-to-be-departing President Obama stand on economic performance?

Well, he doesn’t stack up well to those already mentioned.

Granted the data is slightly dated, but President Obama has presided over average growth of only 1.78 percent. Some reasons for that may include more and larger tax burdens along with increased regulation. What does it tell us? To me, it means the economy is stronger under presidents who lower taxes and regulations, as opposed to those who do the opposite.