Category Archives: Commentary

Ironies of the 2000 Presidential Election

Two quotes from Larry Bartels and John Zaller’s paper(pdf) trying to assess whether the results of the 2000 election deviated from what models based on economic performance would’ve predicted.

Bush Defeats Gore in the 2000 Presidential Election
Bush and Gore pause briefly for a photo op during the 2000 Presidential Election.

Irony the first: A tax cut might’ve won the election for Al Gore, and it instead won the election for George W. Bush:

Why the unusually large discrepancy between (robust) output growth and (mediocre) income growth in 2000? That is a question perhaps best left to economists. We note, however, that the federal budget surplus for fiscal year 2000 was $217 billion – more than $750 for each man, woman, and child in America. If half that wealth had been added to disposable income (say, in the form of a middle-class tax cut) it would have increased election year income growth by about 1.6 percent, which would have made Clinton’s second-term economic performance notably strong in terms of income growth as well as output growth. Clinton may have displayed more fiscal discipline than political sense in spurning Republican proposals for a tax cut.

Irony the second: Bush was very lucky where his father was very unlucky:

Our best guess is that the slowdown was a major factor in Gore’s defeat. Had real income continued to grow through Election Day at even the moderate annual rate observed through the first half of the year (about two percent), our estimates suggest that Gore would have won an additional half percent of the popular vote. Thus, the long economic boom that arrived just a little too late to re-elect George Bush in 1992 seems to have ended just in time to elect his son in 2000.


Story Courtesy of Washington Post
Photo credit: Susan Biddle/The Washington Post