Growing up in a conservative household in the 1980’s, I cannot tell you how badly President Jimmy Carter was mocked and demagogued. In conservative circles, it’s just accepted truth that Carter was the worst president ever. The mantra I heard over and over was essentially that no one had left the country in so much of a wreck as Carter, and took the heroic efforts of one washed-up B-movie actor turned career politician to right all of Carters’ wrongs.
Over and over again I heard about the “misery” index, run away inflation and the energy crisis. I wasn’t old enough then to have done my own research and figured out that a lot was pinned on Carter that just simply shouldn’t have been, nor could I have known then that Carter’s energy policy was precisely what we needed then, and still need now. Still, no matter what to this day you could ask conservatives and they’d tell you that Carter left the country in a shambles so bad that it proves no Democrat is worthy of holding the office.
So how come they are so damn quiet about the man who left the country in a worse economic rut and with virtually ally our international allies completely fed up with us?
I decided to just do a little basic research into the math, and I think you’ll find that Republicans are in desperate need of an education as to who was the worst president of the modern age, and it damn sure wasn’t the peanut farming pacifist from Georgia.
2. During his term in office, Carter averaged an annual job growth increase of 3.05%. George W. Bush’s two terms averaged a 0% growth rate for his first term, and just .21% in his second. Barack Obama, for reference, even as he fought through The Great Recession started under Bush actually beat that number just barely, with .23%. Ronald Reagan, by the way, the man who supposedly fixed what Carter broke? His two terms only averaged 1.43 and 2.69% respectively.
3. President Carter’s administration oversaw an average annual increase in our GDP of about 3.2%. Dubya’s GDP growth averaged just 1.6%. Reagan took two full terms to only better Carter’s performance by .3%.
4. President Carter oversaw a reduction in the national debt as a percentage of GDP of 3.3%. Under George W. Bush’s War Machine-A-Go-Go, the debt as a share of GDP increased by 7.1% in his first term, and 20.7% in his second term.
So if President Carter out-performed President George W. Bush on the four most important economic factors that presidential terms are judged on, then how in the hell does it work out that Carter is still getting pilloried by the right? Because they just refuse to acknowledge reality, that’s why. Because the president who came after Carter demagogued the hell out of him, that’s why. They simply cannot admit that they gave their own Jimmy Carter two terms, and that no matter how you slice it, Bush was far worse for the economy than Carter ever could have been.
Then there’s that whole “war monger” aspect to Bush II’s terms that Carter simply can never be accused of. Sure, the right will call Carter a pussy who couldn’t bring our hostages home, but that’s because they again refuse to acknowledge the historical truth that the Iranian government simply decided to screw Carter over on his way out of office, and that’s why it looked like Reagan was the great hostage negotiator, when it was just a matter of some d-bags wanting to make Carter out to look like the fool. As we came to see, Reagan was a disaster on foreign policy, waging his own illegal wars and then playing the role of the senile, doddering old bastard when the walls started caving in on his administration.
Truly in every way you could judge a presidential term, George W. Bush was far, far worse than Carter. While Reagan may have taken over during a pretty gnarly recession, the simple facts bear out that in no way, shape or form, was Reagan’s recession a worse one to handle because Carter straight up left the economy in a better position than Bush II did, full stop. Of course Republicans will never admit it, but they seem adverse to coming to grips with all kinds of realities these days, from the growing outcry for LGBT equality, immigration reform and the ending the War on Drugs, the country has moved on from so many of their core principles, but they stubbornly refuse to rethink and regroup. So of course they’ll never admit that Carter, for any faults he may or may not have had, still left the country in far better shape than Bush II did.
Of course, there’s another just as real reason they’ll never admit that Carter was better than Bush II was. Because that would mean they’d have to admit that Obama had a much harder road in front of him than their demigod, Saint Ronald Marvolo Reagan, and that would mean re-thinking nearly every tired, trite and frankly incorrect talking point about Obama’s performance, and that indeed Obama has done more work in five years to fix the economy than Reagan did in 8 years to destroy it…but at least we’ll always have those pesky facts to set the record straight.