Clyburn OP-ED: Democrats vs. Republicans on the Economy: It Is Not A Close Call

Sep 2, 2016

WASHINGTON U.S. House Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (SC) published the following op-ed on the Huffington Post today:

Democrats v. Republicans on the Economy:  It is Not a Close Call

            If our history were not so instructive about the catastrophic consequences that often flow from sophisticated campaigns of misinformation, I would probably be amused by the half truths and untruths that are being tossed around during this election season.  Democrats in general and President Barack Obama in particular are being blamed for everything that has gone wrong with our country’s economy over the last generation.  

            President Obama, our nation’s first African American President, is being viciously blamed by a few uninformed and misguided souls for all the maladies being experienced by black Americans. It is very clear, however, that over the last 35 years the American economy has fared much better under Democratic presidents than it has under Republican presidents.  And all Americans - particularly black Americans - have seen their fortunes dramatically improved under President Obama’s Administration.

            According to a February 2016 report by the Joint Economic Committee on analysis of economic performance since World War II under Democratic versus Republican presidents, “data show[s] that the economy has performed much better during Democratic administrations.  Economic growth, job creation and industrial production have all been stronger.”  Also, a recent study by Princeton University professors Alan Blinder and Mark Watson concluded: “The superiority of economic performance under Democrats rather than Republicans is nearly ubiquitous; it holds almost regardless of how you define success.” 

            It is often stated that all of us are entitled to our opinions, but there can be only one set of facts.  And when we look at the facts on job creation, employment levels and deficit reduction under the most recent five presidents, it is not a close call.

Job Creation:

            Since 1981, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more jobs have been created during Democratic presidencies (33 million) than Republican presidencies (20 million), despite the fact that Democrats governed for four fewer years during that time. Let’s take a look at a few facts:

During President Ronald Reagan‘s eight years, 1981 – 1989, 16.1 million jobs were created.

During President George H. W. Bush’s four years, 1989 – 1993, 2.6 million jobs were created.

During President Bill Clinton’s eight years, 1993 – 2001, 22.9 million jobs were created.

During President George W. Bush’s eight years, 2001 – 2009, 1.3 million jobs were created.

During President Barack Obama’s seven years, 2009 – today, 10.4 million jobs were created.          

Employment Levels:

            When President Reagan assumed office, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment for all Americans was 7.5 percent, for black Americans it was 14.6 percent.  When he left office 8 years later, it was 5.4 percent for all Americans and 11.8 percent for black Americans.   

             President George H. W. Bush succeeded Reagan. When he left office 4 years later, total unemployment was 7.3 percent, but for black Americans it was 14.1 percent.  President Bill Clinton inherited President Bush’s 14.1 percent black unemployment rate when he took office in 1993.  When he left office 8 years later, the unemployment rate for blacks was 8.2 percent and 4.2 percent for all Americans.   

             President George W. Bush succeeded Clinton, and seven years later our economy was in a free fall.  The automobile industry tanked.  The country entered a “Great Recession,” and black families lost 50 percent of their wealth.  When George W. Bush left office in 2009, our economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month and the unemployment rate for all Americans was 6.1 percent.  For blacks, however, it was 12.7 percent.

            That is what confronted President Barack Obama when he assumed office in 2009.  Today the nation’s unemployment rate is down to 4.9 percent, and the black unemployment rate has dropped to 8.4 percent.

Deficit Levels:

            Republicans rail a great deal about the perils of budget deficits.  Yet the record demonstrates a lack of creditability on the subject.  The last President to balance the federal budget was a Democrat, Bill Clinton.  According to the Office of Management and Budget, President Barack Obama has reduced the deficit he inherited by 68 percent. 

            The facts are clear. The budget deficit ballooned under Reagan by 110 percent, and under his successor, George H.W. Bush, by 87 percent.  George W. Bush inherited a balanced budget from President Clinton and blew the deficit through the roof with massive tax cuts for corporate special interests and the wealthiest few and uncontrolled spending on misguided foreign adventurism.

            Our nation’s second President John Adams once observed, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  Adams was right.  And when you look at the facts about whether Democrats or Republicans are better on the economy, it is not a close call.