Presidents get too much credit and blame for an economy as if it turns on a dime the moment they are elected. The right want to credit Trump for the sharp rise since he was elected, but attributes no credit to Obama for the long rise during his tenure. In both cases there is more to the story.
Kevin Williamson writes in The National Review, Of Presidents and Economies:
Democrats plead on behalf of Barack Obama that he came into office during a terrible economic crisis, and that he and his policies should not be blamed for the weak growth and disappointing labor-market performance that marked his time in office. That’s not unfair. But the same could be said of, e.g., Gerald Ford, who had to deal with an OPEC-inflicted quadrupling of oil prices in 1973. Does anybody think Gerald Ford’s policies caused that? John Kennedy came into office at the tail end of a recession, which officially ended in February of his first year in office. Does any serious person believe that in the course of less than a month President Kennedy implemented policies that ended the recession? That would be a deeply silly contention. Even more juvenile is assuming that business cycles are inextricably linked to election cycles — without offering a lick of evidence or even a plausible mechanism for that being the case.
Recession-counting also ignores the fact that some recessions are the result of excellent public policy. The Reagan administration came into office with the country suffering from a serious inflation problem, and the tight monetary policy that the administration undertook to rein in that inflation produced a recession, as it was expected to. The recession was the price we paid for getting inflation under control. Inflation rose again toward the end of the Reagan-era boom, and once again, monetary tightening was used to control inflation at the cost of inflicting the mild recession that Bill Clinton rode to power.
The belief that GDP growth or this month’s jobs report provides a meaningful judgment on the performance of the president isn’t economics — it’s superstition. It is the modern version of the ancient belief that a crop failure means that the king has displeased the rain god or the wheat goddess. It is a primitive disposition from which we should liberate ourselves — and could, if we were willing to do the hard work of citizenship rather than take our ease in lazy partisanship.