Position Briefs

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Who does better with the economy?

The economy is something the right likes to harp about all the time but, just like everything else, really has no credibility on. I guess the thinking goes that since all the successful CEO’s are Republican (not true, but whatever), and they all know how to run COMPANIES (like, you know… Enron, General Motors and Citibank?) then the Republicans MUST be better at “running the economy.” Couple problems with that… First off all, the vast majority of Republican politicians, like most politicians in general, are LAWYERS, not businessmen. Second, a company is to the economy what today’s weather is to the climate – the two are related, but a thorough understanding of one or the other requires a completely different skill set. (Go figure that they aren’t on the right side of the global warming debate either!)

Now… it should be clear why these "successful" CEO’s "all" vote Republican: Republican generally don’t put as many regulations on industries and prefer the lesse-faire approach. That this approach has ALWAYS ended in disaster is apparently lost on them, but the CEO’s seem to think they’ll make more money under Republicans.

But will the economy do better?  (Will we keep our jobs? Will our investments grow?)

Let's take a look at how the economy has performed under Democrats and Republicans using two of the most common economic indicators: The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard and Poores 500 Index. Here’s how the experiment will work. We’ll hypotyhetically put $1000.00 on the market when one party takes the White House, sell it when they’re voted out, and put it all back in when the regain power. We’ll then calculate what you’d have today if you’d done this over the years. The two strategies will be called “Betting on the Dem’s” and “Betting on the Pub’s.”

I was able to find DIJA data going back to 1900. We’ll do the Pub’s first. The idea is that you’ll BUY udner McKinnley, SELL with Wilson, BUY with Harding, SELL with Roosevelt, BUY with Eisenhower, SELL with Kennedy, etc… through to the present day, when you would SELL when Obama took office. And I’m going to show 6 different scenarios, depending on which President you want to start with. Also, it should be noted that I’m using the Jan-1 closing data, rather than the day they actually took office. This is because that’s the only data I have. If I can find some more precise data, date-wise, I’ll re-calculate it. Here is the data I’m using:

Date:_____DJIA: _____Incoming (Incumbant) Presdient:
2/12/2010_10,099____(Obama-D)
1/1/2009__8,000_____Obama-D
1/1/2001__10,887____Bush-R
1/1/1993__3,310_____Clinton-D
1/1/1981__947_______Reagan-R
1/1/1977__954_______Carter-D
1/1/1969__945_______Nixon-R
1/1/1961__648_______Kennedy-D
1/1/1953__290_______Eisenhower-R
1/1/1933__51________Roosevelt-D
1/1/1921__72________Harding-R
1/1/1913__88________Wilson-D
1/1/1900__68________(McKinley-R)

Using this data, and calculating the number of shares and values you’d have at each stage, if you used the “Bet on the Pub’s” strategy, starting with McKinley, your $1000 would be worth $5311. today. If you started under Harding, your $1000 would be worth $4104 today. If you started under Eisenhower, your $1000 would be worth $5794 today. If you started under Nixon, your $1000 would be worth $2593 today. If you started under Regan, your $1000 would be worth $2568 today. And for the poor saps who thought they’d bet on George W. Bush, their $1000 would be now worth only $735. Now… these returns account ONLY for the growth under Republicans. If you figure out the number of year involved (starting date through 1/1/2009) and calculate the annual rate of return [ (Final value / Initial Value) ^ (1 / number of years) -1 ] you get the following, based on which President you start with:

McKinnley: 1.5%
Harding: 1.6%
Eisenhower: 3.2%
Nixon: 2.4%
Reagan: 3.4 %
Bush: -3.8%

Here’s how “Betting on the Dem’s” performed: Starting with Wilson, your $1000 would be worth $28,089 today. Starting with Roosevelt, your $1000 would be worth $34,341 today. Starting with Kennedy, your $1000 would be worth $6038 today. Starting with Carter, your $1000 would be worth $4140 today. Starting with Clinton, your $1000 would be worth $4171 today, and starting with Obama, your $1000 would be worth $1268 today.

Figuring the yields the same way, (only going through to the TODAY, rather than ending on 1/1/09) you get this for the Dem’s:

Wilson: 3.5%
Roosevelt: 4.7%
Kennedy: 3.7%
Carter: 4.4%
Clinton: 8.7%
Obama: 23.7%

That’s right – the WORST CASE scenario under the “Betting on the Dem’s,” (Wilson, 3.5%) still gives a better return than the BEST CASE scenario under “Betting on the Pub’s,” (Reagan, 3.4%) So according to the DJIA, the economy not only does better under Democrats, it does much, MUCH better!

But who knows… MAYBE the DJIA has a liberal bias or something. So how about the S&P 500? Now, the S&P only goes back to the 1950’s. So we’ll start with Eisenhower. Here’s the raw market-close data:

Date:_____S&P:___Incoming (Incumbant) President:
2/12/2010_1078___(Obama-D)
1/1/2008__826____Obama-D
1/1/2001__1366___Bush-R
1/1/1993__439____Clinton-D
1/1/1981__130____Reagan-R
1/1/1977__102____Cater-D
1/1/1969__103____Nixon-R
1/1/1961__62_____Kennedy-D
1/1/1953__26_____Eisenhower-R

And here we go again. If you started with Eisenhower, your $1000 would be worth $4822 today. If you’d started with Nixon, your $1000 would be worth $2022 today. IF you’d started with Reagan, your $1000 would be worth $2042 today. And the poor sap who bet on George W. Bush would only have $605 left of his initial $1000 investment. Using the same formula, here are the returns, starting with:

Eisenhower: 2.8%
Nixon: 1.8%
Reagan: 2.6%
Bush: -6.1%

Back to the Dems… If you’d started with Kennedy, your $1000 would be worth $8598 today. If you’d started with Carter, your $1000 would be worth $5176 today. If you’d started with Clinton, your $1000 would be worth $4061 today, And betting only on Obama, your $1000 would be worth $1305 today. So, again, using the same formula, here are the returns, starting with:

Kennedy: 4.5%
Carter: 5.1%
Clinton: 8.5%
Obama: 27.0%

AGAIN, the worst case scenario under the “Dem’s” strategy (Kennedy, 4.5%) is STILL better than the best case scenario under the “Pub’s” strategy (Eisenhower 2.8%).

Now... Obama's market is obviously still in play, and so the final Democratic returns can vary.  But as it stands right now… if you want to be better off financially, you’d better do what you can to help the Democrats WIN!


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BTW… there are some flaws with this whole exercise. I’m not going to point them out yet, since I’m not particularly motivated to go help the Right bolster their case here. (Plus I'm just curious to see what any of them come up with.) However, I have been challenged with several pretty clever arguments given to me by Conservatives, pointing some of these out in an attempt to undermine this, and the conclusion still stands. Maybe some conservative who knows what’s what will eventually shoot something my way that will stump me. But I’m not holding my breath!

Also, I’d be happy to explain how I calculated any of the above returns, if anyone does their own number-crunching and comes up with a different number. I’ve tried several different methodologies and they all give the same final answer: Dem’s rock, Pub’s are the suck. This is just the one that I felt was most defensible.

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