One of the interesting, sometimes amusing and occasionally frustrating features of campaign season is how figures and statistics are thrown about with abandon to support this or that position. I think a lot can be learned by examining historical records, but a lot can be obscured as well.
Mr. Udd's letter, published Oct. 10, is a wonderful example of how you can always find figures to support your position. I would suggest that a snapshot of statistics as of the end of a president's term tells us little about his performance.
Here's a different slice on a couple of areas cited. It was all I had time to research, but this is sufficient to demonstrate that what figures you use and how you use them can make a big difference.
Unemployment - percentage change during president's term: Reagan, -2.21%; H.W. Bush, +1.9%; Clinton, -2.9%; G.W. Bush, +4.1%; Obama,
-0.5%2 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). I used February of one president's term to February of the next, as being the closest match to the actual term of office.
National debt - percentage change during president's term: Reagan, +186.7%; H.W. Bush, +59.2%; Clinton, +39.6%; G.W. Bush, +76.7%; Obama, +61.3%2 (treasury.gov). The treasury reports debt as of Sept. 30; I used the year of the president's election.
1One might note that unemployment spiked to over 10% for several months during 1983. Why didn't our Republican hero prevent that? Could it be that even presidents we like can't micromanage the economy?
2Obama's figures are from an incomplete term. Unemployment is trending down and will probably look better by the end of Obama's first term. National debt is still rising.
What can you conclude from the above results? Well you can say unemployment went up under the two Bushes and down under Clinton and Obama (so far). And you can say that all presidents since 1980 added to the national debt. Reagan was the champion increaser of national debt, followed by G.W. Bush. Obama is in third place for the period considered. You may point out that the percentage change is for only one incomplete term, and I would concede that's true and it could be higher (or not) if he served another term. Even so, he's not on track to equal Reagan's run-up. The point is that Democrats hardly hold a monopoly on increasing the national debt.
Mr. Udd's point was that we can't afford four more years of Obama. It looks to me like if we could afford eight years of Reagan and eight years of G.W. Bush, we can certainly afford eight years of Obama.