Getting Along

06.29.12

Divided Government, Slower Growth

obama-boehner-debt-box
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Jed Graham notices how slow growth is often caused by a toxic combination of divided government and election-year politics:

It’s not quite like clockwork, but it’s predictable: The U.S. economy seems to be sputtering for the fourth time in the past five presidential election cycles that have featured divided government.

There was the jobless 1991-92 recovery, the leaking of the tech bubble in 2000, the financial crisis in 2008 and now a jobs rebound that has lost its spring.

Each of those shocks or delayed recoveries correlated to presidents disagreeing with Congresses of a different party. However, Republicans controlled both branches in 2004 and their synergy contributed to good returns in the economic indicators and at the polls:

The strongest evidence that sub-par growth — or worse — tends to coincide with divided government in presidential cycles comes from the one cycle in this span that featured unified government. With the recovery flagging in early 2003 and President George W. Bush determined to avoid the same one-term fate as his father, a GOP Congress helped him apply the fiscal accelerator.