In 1949, when Harry Truman was president, real GDP dipped into negative territory for three of the four quarters, going as low as -5.5 percent in the first quarter of that year.
But by the first quarter of 1950, real GDP was growing at an annualized rate of 17.2 percent. In the second quarter of that year, it grew by 12.7 percent. In the third quarter, it increased by 16.6 percent.
When Dwight Eisenhower was president, real GDP declined from the second quarter of 1957 through the first quarter of 1958 -- when it hit an annualized rate of -10.4 percent.
But in the five quarters after that, real GDP grew at annualized rates of 2.5 percent, 9.7 percent, 9.7 percent, 8.3 percent and 10.5 percent.
Real GDP was negative in four of Ronald Reagan's first seven quarters in the presidency -- hitting a low of -6.4 percent in the first quarter of 1982. But by the second quarter of 1983, the U.S. economy was humming again, with growth at 9.3 percent.
That 9.3 percent growth in real annualized GDP in the second quarter of 1983 was followed by successive quarters of 8.1 percent, 8.5 percent and 8 percent growth. In fact, the economy never stopped growing for the rest of Reagan's presidency.
Even George W. Bush, who saw real GDP decline by 1.3 percent and 1.1 percent in two out of his first three quarters in office -- including in the quarter that included 9/11 -- saw real GDP bounce back to 6.3 percent by the third quarter of 2003.
For Obama to match that, the economy would need to be growing at 6.3 percent right now.
So, why isn't it?
Perhaps it is simply because people who in other periods would be investing their money, taking risks, building businesses, creating jobs and making themselves and their neighbors wealthier people are holding back out of the reasonable fear that under President Obama, there could be escalating government taxation and regulation, which would make their hard work and investment not worth the risk.
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