It’s a Democratic campaign consultant’s dream: a study from two respected academic economists concluding that, since the late 1940s, the economy has consistently performed better under Democratic presidents than under Republican ones. The gap is huge. From 1949 to 2013 — a period when the White House was roughly split between parties — the economy grew at an average annual rate of 3.33 percent, but growth under Democratic presidents averaged 4.35 percent and under Republicans, 2.54 percent. Jobs, stocks and living standards all advanced faster under Democrats.
Not surprisingly, one of the report’s authors is a well-known Democratic economist, Alan Blinder, a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve now at Princeton University; the other author, Mark Watson, also at Princeton, is a highly regarded scholar of economic statistics who describes himself as nonpartisan. More interesting, Blinder and Watson don’t credit the Democratic advantage to superior policies.
“Democrats would no doubt like to attribute the large [Democratic-Republican] growth gap to macroeconomic policy choices, but the data do not support such a claim,” they write. Most economists, they note, doubt presidents can control the economy.
So if presidents didn’t do it, who or what did? Blinder and Watson march through economic studies. Their conclusion: About half of the Democrats’ advantage reflected “good luck” — favorable outside events or trends