Dr. Paul Koch
Scholarship of Discovery
A topic that has long been a subject of debate is which party in America’s two-party political system has better economic policies. Democrats tout strong economic records, boasting of their tried and true Keynesian principles. Republicans point to the accomplishments of recent presidents in combating recessions with supply-side ideals. This project attempts to look at the actual performance of the economy under Republican and Democratic presidents since 1950, and come to an unbiased conclusion on whose policies really do work better.
This project looks at GDP growth, inflation, unemployment, disposable income, and budget deficits to determine which party’s policies help the economy the most. Overall, it seems as though Democrats have a stronger record in all of the areas researched, with the exception of budget deficits. GDP growth is higher, inflation is lower, disposable income increases more quickly, and unemployment rates are lower when there is a Democrat in the White House. The only place where Republican presidents outperform Democrat presidents is in the area of deficits, where Democrats have had higher deficits, on average, than Republicans. However, every time power transitioned from a Democratic president to a Republican president, the economy went into a recession within the first year of the Republican’s term, before their policies could be realistically blamed for the change in the economy. This trend in inherited conditions may account for some of the differences seen in the data. Along with this, the strongest performing economies, among both Democratic presidents and Republican presidents, do not seem to have occurred as a result of typical tax and spend liberalism, but rather as a result of tax cuts and balanced budgets. Due to this fact, it is not necessarily supply-side or demand-side economics that has a stronger effect on the economy, but rather the way in which these theories are realized. Lower taxes and balanced budgets seem to have done more to bring about stronger periods of growth than increased spending and increased taxes have since 1950.
Fischer, Austin, "The Economics of the Political Parties: A Comparison of Economic Performance Under Conservatives and Liberals" (2016). Honors Program Projects. 121.
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