Thursday, March 12, 2009

A little bit of perspective

It seems, for the most part, people are giving Obama the benefit of the doubt on the economy-- as well they should, since this crisis was years in the making, and fixing something is often more complicated than breaking it in the first place. Unemployment keeps ticking upwards, and is often the last part of the economy to recover. For a little bit of perspective, we can look at the data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and see how the horrible, miserable Carter years compared to the glorious Renaissance that comprised Reagan's reign.

Reagan won the 1980 election, when the unemployment rate was a salty 7.1% (a full pecent lower than the February 2009 rate of 8.1%). Unemployment rose in 1981 and 1982 (topping out at 9.7%), then slowly started to fall (9.6% in 1983, 7.5% in 1984, 7.2% in 1985). It wasn't until 1986-- six years into Reagan's term-- that unemployment was lower than it was at the end of the Carter administration, and then only by one-tenth of a percent (7.1% in 1986).

Clinton inherited a high unemployment rate as well-- in fact, higher than Reagan inherited from the Carter administration (7.5%). The Clinton administration enjoyed a quick and steep drop in unemployment to some of the lowest levels since the early 1950's-- 6.9% in 1993, 6.1% in 1994, 5.6% in 1995, 5.4% in 1996, continuing to drop until 2000, which had an unemployment rate of 4.0%. Every single year of the George W. Bush administration had higher unemployment than the last three years of Clinton.

So this may take some time to fix. This recession is more like the one in the early 1980's than the early 1990's, but I'm confident that Obama will get the ship turned around faster than Reagan did. And if Reagan can attain nearly canonized status by overseeing six years of unemployment higher than the Jimmy Carter years, Obama should be on the $20 bill if he can fix this mess in two or three years.