Dear Mr. Berko: A very annoying co-worker insists that one political party is better for our economy than the other and is loud about it in our workplace. We've had some political arguments, which is causing some work problems with others in our large office. We've decided to let you tell us which party is better for the economy and bring peace to our office. So which party is better for the economy? Why are so many people angry about this? Tell us the truth and don't lie to us. — TS, Oklahoma City
Dear TS: Every day, readers garbage my email and stuff my P.O. box with articles favoring their candidates, hoping I'll be influenced to write something favorable about their candidate or party. There are unhinged zealots in both parties. In my 40 years of writing this column, I've gloomily discovered that politics has segued into a second religion among a growing number of Americans. They believe in the Papa-like infallibility of their leaders. Those millions of Americans are made obvious by a sour earnestness that makes even dogs and psychopaths cynical.
Americans are angry. They feel helpless, thinking things will become not better but worse. Thinking Americans recognize that our nation is too big to be cohesive, that our nation is too ethnically different to be unified, that our nation is too politically fragmented to reach a consensus, that our nation is too socially divided to bond and that our nation is too economically diverse to be trusting. I don't think this is fixable.
Candidly, I don't know which party is better for the economy. But if we agree to use the stock market as a barometer of economic performance, then the Democratic Party has been better for the economy — at least since 1945, when Harry "The Buck Stops Here" Truman was president.
According to S&P Capital IQ, during the past 70 years the average annual gain under a Democratic president has been 9.7 percent, while under a Republican, the average annual gain has been 6.7 percent. However, before one of you begins a celebratory lap, please note that when Republican Gerald Ford was president (August 1974 to January 1977), the S&P 500 had an average annual gain of 18.6 percent. Ford, for Americans under 40, became president when Richard Nixon resigned. The next-best president for the market was Bill Clinton. The average annual gain during his eight-year tenure was 14.9 percent. However, we must give a good portion of credit to the high-tech boom, or the "Age of Microsoft," during Clinton's reign.
I don't know why the stock market performs better under a Democratic president than under a Republican, though I have my personal opinion. But no matter how logical my explanation, readers from both camps would hotly criticize my answer, cast aspersions on my children and use unacceptable language if my thoughts didn't agree with theirs. So because there are a lot of sickos out there, I suggest that you glimpse this neutral website: http://politicsthatwork.com. You'll be regaled with a panoply of data focusing on the economic performances of the Republican and Democratic parties, and you can scream incantations at those conclusions rather than mine. The site presents an impressive menu of well-written articles, easy-to-read statistics and infographics gleaned from publicly available, reliable and objective sources.
For a democracy to work, voters must be informed. The problem is not Democrats or Republicans but the raw, shameless ignorance of most American voters. The American voter doesn't know how to think. His opinions derive from sound bites that become his inshallah mantra. He can't tell you the difference between the deficit and the national debt. He can't discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership or explain the difference between simple and compounded interest or recite the three branches of government. An ignorant electorate is the darkest enemy of democracy. And "the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter," according to Winston Churchill. How right he was.
Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at [email protected] To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.