Obama's Economic Performance Is Even Better Than It Looks

Paul Krugman presents us today with an updated version of his chart showing private employment gains during the Obama administration compared to the Bush administration:

But Obama's performance is even better than it looks. Here's an updated version of my chart showing total government expenditures for both the Bush and Obama administrations measured since the end of the recessions they inherited:

Bush inherited a mild recession and got a huge fiscal boost. Obama inherited a deep recession and got a huge fiscal headwind. Even so, Obama's employment performance has been far better than Bush's.

As it happens, I don't think presidents have a dramatic effect on the economy. But they have some. John McCain wouldn't have fought for stimulus spending or extensions of unemployment insurance. He would probably have appointed more conservative members of the Fed, who might have tightened monetary policy sooner. He would have insisted on keeping the portion of the Bush tax cut that goes to the rich.

So Obama deserves some of the credit for this. George Bush squandered his political capital on tax cuts for the wealthy and soft regulation of Wall Street. We saw the results of that. Obama spent his political capital on stimulus and health care and the social safety net. The result has been a sustained recovery despite a net decrease in government spending over the past six years. Not bad.