Wednesday, March 30, 2005

EDITORIAL>> Clinton named first in poll

File this for the next presidential election. If your interest is a robust national economy, pay no attention to those who promise to spur the economy by tax cuts for business and the investor class. Modern history suggests that those are not the ones who will deliver.

Forbes, the financial magazine run by Steve Forbes, the conservative wannabe president, produced a formula for measuring the economic success of modern presidents. The magazine plugged in the figures for growth of the gross national product, per-capita income growth, employment gains, reduction in the unemployment rate, inflation reduction and federal-deficit reduction.

Guess who was the greatest economic president in the modern era? It was none other than Arkansas’ own Bill Clinton. He came out well ahead of all the others, owing to phenomenal job numbers, historically low unemployment, the first budget surpluses since 1968 and big gains in per-capita income.

President Lyndon B. Johnson, the last previous president to produce a budget surplus, was second and John F. Kennedy third. Kennedy inherited a recession and produced robust economic growth.

Ronald Reagan? He was fourth. Reagan enjoyed a fast-growing economy in his second term. His first term, which began with big tax cuts for corporations and high-income individuals, was battered by a long and steep recession and double-digit unemployment that followed the tax cuts.
He blamed it on residual effects of the policies of his predecessor, Jimmy Carter.

Forbes credited Carter (1977-81) with the greatest record of job growth in the nation’s history. But Carter’s record was marred by an oil-price spike and other factors that produced record high interest rates.

Forbes didn’t factor President George W. Bush, but unless there is an extraordinary turnaround in the next three years that no economist is now predicting, he will go the bottom, below even the elder Bush.

Arkansas did not do so badly when Bill Clinton was governor either. For a period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Arkansas was among the leading states in percentage job growth and, amazingly, was one of the few states adding manufacturing jobs.

Liberals are supposed to be bad for the economy and conservatives good for it. Go figure.