Summing up a yearly economy depends a lot on the media. The three most recent setbacks for the Republicans were perhaps the years 1992, 2006, and 2008. In 1992 — the dismal year of “It’s the Economy, Stupid,” the “worst recession since the Great Depression,” and the Bush I defeat, to take a few examples — the unemployment rate ended at 7.5 percent, the GDP growth rate was 3.4 percent, the budget deficit was $290 billion (unadjusted dollars), and gas averaged $1.13 a gallon (unadjusted dollars). In 2006, the year of the Republican “shellacking,” and general unhappiness over Iraq and the economy, the unemployment rate was 4.5 percent, the GDP growth rate was 3.5 percent, the federal budget deficit was $248 billion (unadjusted), and gas was $2.59 a gallon (unadjusted). In 2008, the last full year of the Bush presidency, marked by the Wall Street meltdown of mid-September, the unemployment rate for the year ended at 5.8 percent, the 2008 GDP growth rate, including the post-September months, was 1.1 percent, the budget deficit ended at $438 billion (unadjusted), and gas averaged for the year was $3.31 a gallon (unadjusted).
Now the quarterly unemployment rate is 8.1 percent, the GDP growth rate is at 1.7 percent, the deficit in 2011 was $1.3 trillion, and average gas prices last week, after a slide, were $3.83 per gallon. There are all sorts of bad months, recessions, meltdowns, etc. that warp these yearly figures, but my point is only one of perception: When the economy goes south, sometimes we hear the words “worst,” “Great Depression,” “jobless recovery,” and at other times of stagnation we don’t. If in 1992, 2006, and 2008 the issues were poor Republican stewardship of the economy, what will they be in 2012?