Ronald Reagan and economics

For more than 20 years we’ve heard about the greatness of Ronald Reagan and his economic policies. According to those who believe, everything was better under Ronald Reagan. The sunshine was brighter. Oranges were tastier. Jobs were more plentiful. People sang and danced in the streets as if in a musical. Well, the ’80s were good, but they weren’t great.

Yesterday, I revealed the unemployment rate over the last several decades. The one thing that jumps out is that during Ronald Reagan’s presidency the unemployment rate was higher than at any other time in the last 40 years. Conservatives continue to point to Ronald Reagan as an economic guru. So, I thought I would look up the GDP since 1960. Since our gross domestic product (GDP) is somewhat related to our population, it’s not fair to compare the GDP of the 1960s with the GDP of today. Our population is much bigger. Therefore, we should standardize GDP by looking at gross domestic product per capita. Also, we need to take inflation into account. So, this would be the real GDP. Finally, to make it fair, we should look at gross domestic product per year. Got it. Real GDP per capita per year.

Now we get out pencil and paper. The John F. Kennedy/Lyndon Baines Johnson administration seems to have an annualized growth rate of 3.48%. Bill Clinton seems to have an annualized growth rate of 2.49%. Ronald Reagan seems to have an annualized growth rate of 2.45%. (More explanation of real GDP – So it looks as if the economy didn’t do its best under Reagan. Instead, it did its best under Kennedy/Johnson. Second to note is the much aligned Bill Clinton. So, when conservatives are telling me that the economy did better under Reagan, I’m not sure that the data support that notion.