In some ways the Republican relationship with capitalism is a lot like the Republican relationship with religion: Republicans talk a lot about it, some would say incessantly; Republicans promote themselves as its grandest and truest ideologists, advocates and exemplars; Republicans speak of it in worshipful tones and are dutifully reverent toward it in the abstract; yet are not terribly impressive when you look at their actual record or results.
For instance, today on the Senate floor, Senator David Vitter, he of DC Madam fame, as in a customer of, was excoriating President Obama for “disrespecting religious values”. When Republican humbugs rail against Obama’s supposed socialism or anti-capitalist policies they are equally hypocritical, asinine and crassly foolish. And willfully ignorant: while all modern democratic economies and governments have a component of socialism mixed in, all of them are fully capitalistic. In other words, the isms don’t mean much. What does mean something, at least for those other than the ideological purists and economic exoticists of the American right is how well governments and economies serve the needs of the actual people they are intended to serve
In this regard, the proof is in the proverbial and statistical pudding. Over the years many a researcher and journalist has compiled the historical numbers on economic performance under Democratic and Republican presidents respectively, and as many know, Democrats win this comparison hands down. Whether the metric is GDP growth, job creation, unemployment, inflation, the stock market or return on investments, the economy performs better under Democratic presidents.
Government agencies, primarily the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the Commerce Department and the Bureau of Labor Statistics provide the basic data. Since 1948, on average the economy has grown at 2.75% under Republic administrations. Under Democratic administrations the average is a 4.01% rate of growth. Since figures were available in 1957, through 2008 inflation averaged 4.5% under Republican administrations, 3.81% under Democrats. Unemployment averaged 6.21% during Republican presidencies, 5.33% under Democratic ones. Deficits averaged -2.7 under Republicans, -1.21 under Democrats. And lo and behold, federal spending has been less under Democrats, averaging 19.6 percent of GDP, as opposed to 20.67 under Republican administrations.
If your goal is striking gold in the investment markets, pray for Democratic administrations by all means. According to the BVOG Barometer from Bloomberg Government, “Over the five decades since John F. Kennedy was inaugurated, $1,000 invested in a hypothetical fund tracking the S&P 500 only when Democrats were in the White House would have been worth $10,920 at the close of trading last Tuesday. That is more than nine times the dollar return an investor would have realized from following a similar strategy during Republican administrations. A $1,000 stake invested in a fund that followed the S&P 500 under Republican presidents, starting with Richard M. Nixon, would have grown to $2,087 on the day that George W. Bush left office.”
The administration of George W. Bush was the economic pits in a very special way even before conservative deregulatory and tax policies drove the economy over a cliff and into the Little Depression as it is now called. His conservative economics par excellence produced the worst economy in six decades by several metrics: economic growth was a puny 2.09% and an utterly disgraceful 1.1 million jobs were created. More jobs were created in 2010 alone than during the entire eight years of the Bush administration. 23 million jobs were created under the Clinton administration. You wouldn’t know it from the banal vilification of him by the American right, but even Jimmy Carter created 10.5 million jobs during his four years, and grew the economy at a rate of 3.42%.
On average, income growth is higher for every percentile during Democratic administrations, though income for the wealthiest, not unexpectedly skyrockets under Republicans, while income for the middle and working classes falters. Given the narrow and exclusive focus by Republican office holders on the well-being of the wealthiest Americans for the last thirty or so years this isn’t very surprising at all. At one time, though Republican economists may have emphasized balanced budgets more than Keynesian stimulus, they were not unmoored entirely from basic or traditional economics. However since the dawn of voodoo economics in the Seventies, supply-side and the Laffer Curve, Republicans have fallen under the spell of economic superstitions, none spookier than the Ayn Rand/Austrian School brand of neo-Feudalism or jungle capitalism, and become, well, laff-able.
Even if one is not convinced the data and statistics are dispositive proof that Democrats are better at economics and better for the country economically (climate data isn’t reflexively denied any harder than economic data probably) at the very least it is undeniable that Republican rhetorical buffoonery regaling Obama and the Democrats as socialist destroyers is highly enriched, weapons-grade crap. In reality, most Republican political operatives understand it isn’t true either: socialism is used not because any sizable number of Americans know what it actually is, or even what capitalism is for that matter; nor do they spend time pondering economic theories or economic philosophies. Republicans use it because it can serve as just another epithet, epithets the staple of modern Republican politics, useful and effective when pitched at Republicans’ always dependable legions of low information voters.
But as with Republicans’ sanctimonious theatrical piety, public adulation of morals and values, bundling up in the American flag as though it were a parka fending off a northern wind, when it comes to economics Republicans put on a garish and loud show as well. And with similarly disappointing and woeful results at the end of the day.