Common wisdom (such as it is) says that Democrats are big-government types, bloating our bureaucracy with dead weight that shifts paper around and eats up the public funds.
Enter Fred, or actually FRED, my favorite recent go-to guy for hard data on our economy and government. According to FRED, 50 years ago, under the Johnson Administration, that may have been true. Since then, it is the Republicans who have increased the size of the government, particularly Ronald Reagan. Take a look.
First, ignore the peaks at the start of each decade — These are temporary census workers hired to collect census data and don’t really matter in the big scheme of things. Now take a look back in the 1960′s and see the growth under Kennedy and Johnson. This is where the Democrats got their reputation for big government.
But take a look after that. Nixon/Ford shrank the size of the Federal government a bit. Carter grew it a bit.Then we had 12 years of Republican government under Reagan/Bush in which the government saw its largest non-wartime expansion ever. This was undone by Clinton during his 8 years in office, leading to the only recent-era budget surplus we’ve seen. Bush II then kept the Federal government at about the same size before growing it again as the US entered the Great Recession.
Lastly, we have President Obama, the most radical left-wing, big-government, commie-socialist President in US history (That’s sarcasm.). He’s taken the government off the upward trajectory it was on and brought it back downward. Soon it will be below where it was when he took office.
But here’s another point: He hasn’t wanted to do this. For the same reason that Bush added federal jobs at the end of his term, Obama would love to add them now: It reduces unemployment. How much does this affect unemployment you ask? A lot. Since President Obama took office, employment in the USA has dropped by about 550,000 employees. That’s a huge number, but here’s the kicker: The private sector has gained 55,000 jobs, while government has shrunk by 607,000.
So how does this compare to previous recoveries? The graph at the top shows grey shaded bars for each of the recessions the US has gone through. Here are the results in table form — you can get the data here. It shows the number of government jobs added during each administration as part of the government’s efforts to restart the economy.
|Growth in Government Jobs|
Conclusion? Had President Obama been able to grow the government the way that Presidents Reagan and Clinton did, things would be a lot different. It’s hard to estimate by exactly how much, because multiplier effects and differences in the recessions all come into play, but simply adding 1,000,000 people to the employment rosters (Difference between Bush numbers and Obama numbers.) would drop the unemployment rate to 7.5% without calculating any multiplier effect at all. Using the same multiplier as Bush saw gets the number down to 5.8%. Those numbers still aren’t great, but much better than where we are now and would be respectable given the depth of the last recession.