Economics has proven to be the most influential factor in determining the outcome of presidential elections in the twentieth century, even though the president is very limited in his ability to drive the economy.
David Carlile, a political science major who has studied economics and economic effects on elections, said when the economy was good the incumbent has almost always been re-elected. But when the economy isn’t doing so hot, the challenger wins.
Carlile said when the Great Depression hit, Hoover lost to Roosevelt. When interest rates hit 19 percent plus in 1979, Carter was routed by Reagan. And during the last election, when the economy was not what many Americans thought it should be, Bush — who was hailed as a hero by many due to the Gulf War — lost out to Clinton.
Michael Kinsley, a reporter with Time magazine, said the Clinton campaign is stressing that the economy is doing just fine. Kinsley said growth is steady, unemployment and inflation are low and the deficit is down. These circumstances will make it very difficult for Dole to win the election.
Kinsley said the Republicans are trying to point out the economy isn’t all that hot and that Alan Greenspan, chair of the Federal Reserve Board, deserves the credit for any economic growth.
John F. Dickerson, another Time reporter, said the Dole campaign is making many specific economic promises which may be difficult to keep. Dole’s plan includes a promise to find $217 billion to cover his proposed tax cuts. Many government programs will be cut back under the Dole plan, those being considered include National Parks, Border Patrol, NASA, the FBI and education, Dickerson said.
Areas which will not be affected by Dole’s plan include Social Security, defense, Medicare, Medicaid, veteran’s benefits and Energy Department research.
Carlile said Dole is also stressing welfare system reforms and major IRS reforms, if not a complete dissolution of the IRS. Carlile said Clinton has never made any hard-line economy-changing proposals, keeping with the idea that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Byron W. Daynes, professor of political science at BYU, said Clinton’s main focus is balancing the budget while continuing to spend money on education and environmental issues. Educational cuts promised by Dole would affect many college scholarships and grants, Daynes said.
Daynes said Clinton’s stance on the IRS is unclear, but doing away with it has not been mentioned.
Concerning tax cut promises, Daynes said Clinton is promising relief for the middle class as opposed to Dole’s proposed 15 percent across the board tax cut.
Carlile said if history is true to its word, there will be no great surprises in November, but then again, that’s why there are elections.
ECONOMIC GROWTH: President Clinton talks to reporters at the White House in February as his chief economic adviser, Laura Tyson, looks on.The Clinton campaign is stressing that the economy has done well under the president, while Republicans argue Alan Greenspan, chair of the Federal Reserve Board, deserves the recognition for any economic growth