Manager of Economic Prosperity

by John P. Stewart

The President as the Manager of Economic Prosperity. Regardless of whether there is a causal relationship between the president and the state of the economy, presidents are blamed when the economy goes down and praised when the economy goes up. Thus, although not constitutional power, presidents attempt to achieve a stable growing economy.

Herbert Hoover will forever be blamed for the Great Depression in the 1930s and John Kennedy will be praised for letting the economy grow at a high rate even though neither president could be solely attributed as the cause of either event. When the economy stalled in the late 1970s as a result of the Arab oil embargoes, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan offered to improve the economy which by the time he came in office, was already improving, albeit slowly. George Bush inherited an economy that was stalling by the time he took office. Despite his forceful leadership in the Iraq War in 1991 and signs that the economy was beginning to turn around, presidential candidate Bill Clinton ran on a platform that included improving the economy. During the first Clinton term, the economic turnaround that began in the Bush administration continued to grow and Clinton took full credit for the success of his actions and was reelected.

The lesson learned is that the state of the economy is important to the success of presidents. For incumbents running for reelection, the economy must be strong at time of the election. For challengers, the economy must be weak at the time of the election.