GDP Growth by President: How Does Barack Obama Compare?

Friday’s Bureau of Economic Analysis’ (BEA) advanced Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures painted a picture of a dull economy, with the annualized Q/Q growth rate coming in at about 2%.  When looking at the above chart, the dull economy is represented by the fact that year over year GDP growth rate has been hovering around 2% for around three years.  This hovering of the GDP growth rate around 2% is something more akin to slow growth European economies than it is of the American experience.

The moderately poor GDP figures during Barck Obama’s time as presidency could put an end to the Obama administration, which begs the question: how does the Barack Obama GDP experience compare to that of other recent presidents?

GDP Growth by President: How Does Barack Obama Compare?
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Starting in the 1970s, during the Richard Nixon administration, GDP per capita grew by about $2,800, a generally moderate figure in comparison to recent growth figures under other presidents.

The Richard Nixon administration’s $2,800 wasn’t good enough for the American public to continue with the Republican Party, instead opting for Jimmy Carter, who, under his presidency, saw GDP per capita grow by a little more than $2,200 per person.

An average growth of about $550 per person per year wasn’t good enough for the American voter, instead opting for another switch, this time to Ronald Reagan.  Under Ronald Reagan’s watch, businesses expanded operations by enough to boost GDP per capita by about $5,400 per capita, about a 25% improvement over the Jimmy Carter experience.

The business expansions of the Reagan years were enough to induce American voters to continue with the Republican Party, electing the elder Bush in 1988.  From an economic point of view, it didn’t turn out so well, with GDP per capita growing by a mere $900 per person over his entire four years, or about $225 per year.

The $225 per year failed to get the American public to reelect the George Bush I, instead opting for Bill Clinton.  Under Bill Clinton’s watch, GDP per person expanded by about $7,500 per person.  The growth of business under Bill Clinton’s watch stagnated at the end of his eighth year, which contributed to the American public opting to switch back to the Republican Party, electing the younger Bush in 2000.

Business expansion under the Bush II years was quite good through the first seven years of his presidency in comparison to all other recent presidents with the exception of Reagan and Clinton.  The Republican nightmare came in the form of the housing market collapse.

Following the housing induced recession of 2008, voters opted for a switch to the Democratic Party, electing Barack Obama as the 56th U.S. president.  So far, business expansion under Barack Obama’s watch has been poor, expanding by about $1,600 over the past four years.  The average of about $400 per person through the first four years of a presidency is second worst in recent history, ahead of only Bush I’s first four years.

In all, if the election is decided by GDP per person, the most common international measure for standard of living, Barack Obama is out.