Princeton economists: democratic presidents are just "lucky"


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Isn’t it obvious? The democrat party is using their overwhelming hold on the Lucky Ducky voting bloc to achieve these sorts of results!


I’d rather be lucky than good.

The canonical right-wing answer for this is that they’re benefiting from a delayed reaction to Republican deregulation.

Not agreeing with this mind you, but if you argue this with a right-winger, that’s what they’ll say.


So, one graph and “I’m not an economist, but…” and suddenly correlation implies causation. We don’t let other people pull it off, so why are we allowed?


Link to the PDF of the paper:

Yes, this is typically the argument they make. However the party controlling the White House does not always control congress or the Supreme Court.

But anyway, let’s imagine that the GOP got a permanent hold on the White House for several decades, does anyone other than the most hardcore partisan Republican really think there would be non-stop growth and prosperity for that entire time, if all those GOP Presidents adhered strictly to conservative economic dogma?

Here is another link that puts things in more perspective. The take-away point? No real pattern is visible.

My god, for how completely shitty 2004-2008 felt; it’s relieving to see its born out in the data as well :relieved: (that tiny .5% GDP growth for “GW Bush, 2nd”)

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Ummm, why not include this old feller named Roosevelt? Is this covered in their methodology? I only read the conclusion and skimmed the grafs, but I suspect the simple answer is if you want more funding to find out that, secretly, Republicans really are teh bestust, then a mixed message baits the hook. Nicely done. If you include FDR the answer would be blindingly obvious: Ds are better because they actually give a bit more of a crap about the little people. Duh. And the ‘luck’ effect (oil, productivity, and consumer expectations) is only around half of the measurable effect. To justify this it looks like (after a bit of searching for the term “Roosevelt”) they reach back to 1875 to say, gosh let’s just ignore the most important D president of the modern era since if you go back another hundred years or so, it might just cancel out FDR’s presidency… and I think the D’s in 1875 weren’t quite the same party as the last 75 years… just saying…

Read their last para in the conclusion…


I’m think I’m pretty strongly on board with the “lucky” hypothesis. That’s not to say that better policies wouldn’t get better results, but the basic cycle of boom and bust is maintained under the policies of both parties and no one can predict or control when the busts happen (they can to a limited extent, but not down to the year or likely even down to the presidential term).

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Listen, real Christians know there’s no such thing as “luck,” so the only real explanation is GOD HATES REPUBLICANS.


I always laugh when I hear that response. The wing-nut in question never seems inclined to explain how that delay varies by different multiples of 4 years, while the “damage” caused by Democrats in the White House immediately impacts a new Republican administration.


Mark, you did a poor job in summarizing the paper. Go back and read it again. In particular, read the conclusion.

The paper documents that the better performance under Democrats is real and not mere chance. It identified three “luck” factors: oil shocks, productivity shocks, and more optimistic consumer expectations (though it is debatable whether the last one is really luck, as in some ways it measures how confident people feel about how the country is managed) and says that they explain “46-62% of the 1.80 percentage point D-R growth gap”. What they say about the remainder is that the cause is unknown. So the are not saying that it is luck. What they are saying is that they cannot determine the cause.


I think a lot of times the credit and blame any president gets for a lot of things, especially the economy, is baloney. I don’t think that a lot of what they do has that much direct effect.

You also have to, you know, actually analyze how and why the economy moves and up down. For example, laws passed during the Clinton administration lead to a bubble bursting under Bush. But again, I don’t think even Clinton had much of a direct hand in the laws, other than signing them as Congress and already passed them.

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Well, making it partisan either way is baffling since there is a president, a congress and a senate, and they don’t always agree on things. I’m sure you could get some people talking in real circles about how in one year it was congress that made the difference and in another year it was the president to support whatever theory they had.

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Que the lag idea that all the stuff the republicans did took years to show up during the democrats.

‘‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.’’

~ Mark Twain

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I am an idiot when it comes to academic research. Even I can tell…

  1. The authors are very biased.
  2. The authors asked the wrong question.

I guess that makes them grossly incompetent.

Economists! Grrr!

Again, where are the paired studies?