Summary of Presidents Have Less Power over the Economy Than You Might Think

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Presidents Have Less Power over the Economy Than You Might Think summary
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“It’s the economy, stupid!” As strategic leader of Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, James Carville coined this notorious slogan, which contains some truth about presidential politics that continues to hold: Americans care deeply about the economy and will likely choose the candidate who – they think – will create more jobs and prosperity. But how much power over the economy does a president actually have? Forces beyond the president’s control largely determine the economic trajectory during any four-year period, argues economics writer Neil Irwin in The New York Times. getAbstract recommends Irwin’s editorial to anybody interested in moving beyond political rhetoric and looking at the factors that actually make the economy tick.

About the Author

Neil Irwin is a senior economics correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire.



A well-performing economy positively affects a US president’s legacy – and vice versa. However, presidents have little control over short-term economic results. The business cycle has much more impact: Whether a president takes office at the peak or the bottom of the economic cycle may well determine whether he or she will stay for a second term. Lucky presidents take office at the low point; for them, the return to the norm looks like a great success. Bill Clinton’s presidency is a case in point.

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