By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
There are some political myths that will never go away. The liberal media bias. Democrats never vote to cut taxes. Democrats are weak on national security. No truth to any of them, but Republicans repeat them so often, a lot of people believe it.
But the one myth that drives me crazy is the one most-repeated and most commonly-believed: that Democrats are bad for business, and Republicans are good. Don’t you believe it. As several recent studies prove, the truth is the exact opposite.
If we accomplish nothing else this election season, let’s bury the “Democrats are bad for business” myth once and for all. With the facts. Just the facts, ma’am. Starting with the market.
In 1980, candidate Ronald Reagan first asked the question: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Whatever the answer under Jimmy Carter, for those who invested in the stock market, the answer under Barack Obama is a resounding “Yes!”
As reported by Jeff Sommer in The New York Times, by October 19 and President Obama’s first 1,368 days in office, the Dow Jones Industrial average had gained 67.9 percent. That’s the fifth best record of any president since 1900 and a sharp contrast to the precipitous 33 percent drop in the market under the last year of George W. Bush.
Granted, the market is only one of many economic indicators, but it’s an important one. Because so many Americans, large and small investors, have a stake in the market, especially with the spread of 401K retirement plans. But also because a rising market makes everyone feel good about the economy.
Under Obama, moreover, the market does not stand alone. Other indicators are also bullish. Retail sales are the highest in two years. Banks reported the highest profits since 2007. Consumer confidence recently reached a seven-month high. This summer, corporate profits were at an all-time high. The unemployment rate is below 8 percent for the first time in four years, and the nation has experienced 31 straight months on positive private-sector job growth. And even housing starts, which have lagged behind the rest of the economy, are now at a four-year high, with new home sales the highest level since 2012. Anybody who sings the economic blues, starting with Mitt Romney, is singing off-key.
Two of President Obama’s signature accomplishments, in fact — the Wall Street bailout, or TARP, and the auto industry bailout — were aimed, successfully, at saving big business. Now here’s what most people don’t realize: Obama is not just an aberration. Not only has Obama been good for business, so have most Democratic presidents. Since 1900, reports Sommer, the market has returned 7.1 percent annually when Democrats occupied the White House — and only 3 percent under Republican presidents.
So it’s time to bust the old myth that business fares better under Republicans than Democrats. And time to bust another myth, too, which is the heart of the Romney campaign: that businessmen make the best presidents. As history proves, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Writing in The Washington Post, historian Robert S. McElvaine notes that since 1928 only three presidents have been thrown out of office after one term: Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and the first President Bush. All three were successful businessmen before being elected president. The only businessman/president re-elected, George W. Bush, led the country to economic disaster.
McElvaine further reports that under presidents with previous business experience, the GDP has increased, on average, only 0.12 percent. Under presidents with little or no business experience, GDP has grown 5.46 percent. None of the five presidents under whom the market soared — Clinton, Obama, Reagan, FDR, or Eisenhower — were businessmen. The market averaged a 14.2 percent annual gain under presidents with no business experience, and fell an average 3 percent annually under those from business. Most surprisingly, perhaps, under Democratic presidents with no previous business experience (FDR, JFK, LBJ, Clinton, and Obama) the economy performed better than under Republican presidents with a business background (Hoover, Bush I, and Bush II).
Bottom line (one must conclude every column on the economy with the phrase “bottom line”): Anybody who really cares about the economy and wants to make a lot of money will reject the false promise of Mitt Romney and vote for Barack Obama. History proves the old adage true: “If you want to live like a Republican, vote like a Democrat.”