Here are some thoughts on the US GDP based on some data I’ve been looking at recently, mostly motivated by some Donald Trump supporters that have been criticizing President Obama’s record on the GDP and the economy.
First, analyzing the real GDP’s average growth per year, we obtain that (based on a least squares regression analysis)
According to these calculations, President Clinton’s economic policies led to the best average GDP growth rate at $436 Billion / year. President Reagan and President Obama have almost identical average GDP growth rates in the neighbourhood of $320 Billion / year. However, an obvious caveat is that President Obama’s GDP record is still missing two years of data, so I will need to revisit these calculations in two years! Also, it should be noted that, historically, the US GDP has grown at an average of about $184 Billion / year.
The second point I wanted to address is several Trump supporters who keep comparing the average real GDP annual percentage change between President Reagan and President Obama. Although they are citing the averages, they are not mentioning the standard deviations! Computing these we find that:
Looking at these calculations, we find that Presidents Clinton and Obama had the most stable growth in year-to-year real GDP %. Presidents Bush and Reagan had highly unstable GDP growth, with President Bush’s being far worse than President Reagan’s. Further, Trump supporters and most Republicans seem quick to point out the mean of 3.637% figure associated with President Reagan, but the point is this is +/- 2.55%, which indicates high volatility in the GDP under President Reagan, which has not been the case under President Obama.
Another observation I would like to point out is that very few people have been mentioning the fact that the annual real US GDP % is in fact correlated to that of other countries. Based on data from the World Bank, one can compute the following correlations:
One sees that the correlation between the annual growth % of the US real GDP and Canada is 0.826, while for Estonia and The UK is roughly close to 0.7. Therefore, evidently, any President that claims that his policies will increase the GDP, is not being truthful, since, it is quite likely that these numbers also depend on those for other countries, which, I am not entirely convinced a US President has complete control over!
My final observation is with respect to the quarterly GDP numbers. There are some articles that I have seen in recent days in addition to several television segments in which Trump supporters are continuously citing how better Reagan’s quarterly GDP numbers were compared to Obama’s. We now show that in actuality this is not the case.
The problem is that most of the “analysts” are just looking at the raw data, which on its face value actually doesn’t tell you much, since, as expected, fluctuates. Below, we analyze the quarterly GDP% data during the tenure of both Presidents Reagan and Obama, from 1982-1988 and 2010-2016 respectively, comparing data from the same length of time.
For Reagan, we obtain:
For Obama, we obtain:
The only way to reasonably compare these two data sets is to analyze the rate at which the GDP % has increased in time. Since the data is nonlinear in time, this means we must calculate the derivatives at instants of time / each quarter. We first performed cubic spline interpolation to fit curves to these data sets, which gave extremely good results:
We then numerically computed the derivative of these curves at each quarter and obtained:
The dashed curves in the above plot are plots of the derivatives of each curve at each quarter. In terms of numbers, these were found to be:
Summarizing the table above in graphical format, we obtain:
As can be calculated easily, Obama has higher GDP quarterly growth numbers for 15/26 (57.69%) quarters. Therefore, even looking at the quarterly real GDP numbers, overall, President Obama outperforms President Reagan.
Thanks to Hargun Singh Kohli, B.A. Honours, LL.B. for the data collection and processing part of this analysis.