|starting with Ike, the first President fully covered in the monthly POP data; to June 2012|
If we look a bit further back, before the dates in the data used above to put payroll growth in perspective via population growth, we can at least compare Ike's raw payroll figures to those from FDR (since 1939) and Truman, but that only rules out claiming Ike's dismal jobs performance as part of a longer trend.
|Ike's sad job numbers with context: at least he's not Bush II|
It's not a pretty picture for Ike, which I'm sad to see. Thankfully there's still much to admire from President Eisenhower in the highway system and his work for civil rights. I still like Ike. I still think I'd have voted for him if I'd been old enough at the time. But his economic record is tarnished.
In his defense, President Eisenhower did start his term with a 2.6% unemployment rate during that first full month. It's hard to improve on 2.6% unemployment. Still, unemployment rose dramatically to 6.9% by the first full month of his successor's term. Ike's shift: +165% unemployment. That's a rather lousy fumble. And while the Eisenhower years saw increasing family incomes, the same can be said for the Kennedy / Johnson years except without the rising unemployment, as over the course of their span they reduced that rate from the 6.9% that Eisenhower left them back down to 3.4% by the end of Johnson's Presidency.
So what went wrong? Let's look at the modern history of balanced budgets:
- At Republican urging, FDR tried to balance the budget with spending cuts and it brought us the Recession of 1937-38.
- After World War II we saw dramatic cutbacks in spending with balanced budgets in 1947 through 1949 and the recessions in 1945 and 1949. (Of course, the war spending was unsustainable; there was probably no way to avoid recession in the late 1940s.)
- Truman balanced the budget in 1951. But like the later Clinton-era balanced budgets this one was done while expanding federal outlays ... rather swiftly increasing from the 1948 lows. Then after we slowed spending at the end of the Korean War, we got the recession of 1953.
- Eisenhower balanced the budget in 1956 and 1957 and we got the Recession of 1957.
- Eisenhower balanced the budget again in 1960 and we got the Recession of 1960.
- Nixon balanced the budget in 1969 and we got the Recession of 1970.
- While Clinton balanced the budget in 1998 lasting through Bush's first budget in 2001, the balancing in these years was done without reducing the growth of federal outlays but rather through moderate increase of tax rates. As such, this particular instance was thoroughly different from most previous balancing of the budget (except Truman's).
In case after case, budgets balanced with spending cuts have brought on recession. And now the Republicans are once again pushing us to balance the budget with dramatic spending cuts. Democrats may not be leading the charge, but Obama like FDR is far too willing to accept the Republican push for cuts. If we don't turn away from this push to slash budgets, previous experience shows us it will hurt the economy. When we make the debt more manageable by growing our economy such that the debt shrinks by comparison, that's tended to work out well. When we clumsily attempt to tackle the debt directly by slashing spending to balance the budget in the hopes a primary surplus, the records shows it tends to work out poorly.