A new report on U.S. manufacturing jobs by Colin Gordon and Stephen Herzenberg of the Keystone Research Group confirms that under Democratic presidents, manufacturing jobs increase. Under Republican presidents, manufacturing jobs have historically disappeared. That is very instructive just before an election that is all about jobs.
The report studied data on manufacturing jobs by presidential terms going back to 1948. What they found was that across nine Republican terms, U.S. manufacturing jobs fell 7.3 million to 9 million, depending on method used in the study. Across seven Democratic terms, manufacturing employment rose by 5.4 million to 7 million.
The report also did a hypothetical look at what American manufacturing jobs would have been if either Republicans performed as well as Democratic presidents, or if voters would have chosen a Democrat instead of the Republicans they elected. Using data, the reports finds we would have 12.7 more manufacturing jobs today than we do. That would put us on par with Germany in terms of the percent of manufacturing jobs in our economy.
What about Obama’s record? Using the most recent available numbers for Obama, the report found that Obama’s manufacturing jobs record is currently better than eight of the nine Republican presidential terms. President Ronald Reagan’s second term does slightly better than Obama’s incomplete first term, but the numbers are close enough that this may change once we have all the numbers.
And Obama came into office in the middle of the worst recession since the 1930’s.
The bottom line is if you want a good manufacturing job, you better hope a Democrat wins the presidency.
Here is a breakdown of the presidents who were manufacturing job creators followed by, those who lost manufacturing jobs since 1948. These presidents served one term unless noted. The total is for their entire presidency. Obama is not included because term is not complete and numbers are not in.
Harry Truman (D) added 2,655,000 manufacturing jobs
Lyndon Johnson (D) added 2,184,000 manufacturing jobs
John Kennedy (D) added 1,544,000 manufacturing jobs
Jimmy Carter (D) added 714,000 manufacturing jobs
Bill Clinton (D) added 114,000 manufacturing jobs (2 terms)
George W Bush (R) lost 4,712,000 manufacturing jobs (2 terms)
Dwight Eisenhower (R) lost 1,431,000 manufacturing jobs (2 terms)
George H.W. Bush (R) lost 1,266,000 manufacturing jobs
Ronald Reagan (R) lost 853,000 manufacturing jobs (2 terms)
Richard Nixon (R) lost 60,000 manufacturing jobs (1 term)
Gerald Ford (R) lost 541,600 manufacturing jobs (1 .25 terms)
What explains this? It is most likely the difference in economic philosophies between Republicans and Democrats—macroeconomics.
This is how the report explained it:
“Most Democratic Presidents, including Kennedy/Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama have placed a relatively high priority on using “Keynesian” macroeconomic policy to keep unemployment low, directly through fiscal policy and sometimes (although not always) through their influence on the monetary policies and interest rates controlled by the Federal Reserve Board. By contrast, Republican presidents under the influence of conservative economists have tended to place somewhat higher priority on fighting inflation.
Our emphasis on macroeconomic differences echoes analysis by Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels. Bartels identifies Republican focus on inflation as a key policy difference that could help explain disparate patterns of income growth under Republican and Democratic administrations. To the extent that higher interest rates reflect Republican presidential policy preferences, these could also increase the value of the U.S. dollar, making U.S. manufactured goods less competitive and lowering manufacturing employment.”
So the bottom line, there is a choice in this election. If we want to see manufacturing jobs, history and data tells us to re-elect Obama. If we like seeing those jobs disappear, Romney is the guy.
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